A nurse practitioner (NP) is a nurse who has completed graduate school to specialize in a certain field; this equips him or her to work with patients on a more in-depth basis than registered nurses. To become a nurse practitioner, the candidate must complete a Master of Nursing or a Doctor of Nursing practice degree and apply for board certification in an area of specialization.
There is a wide variety of career opportunities and specialties for the qualified nurse practitioner. Some of the most common specializations are family health, pediatrics (including pediatric acute or chronic care), neonatology, gerontology, women’s health, psychiatry and mental health, oncology, emergency, and occupation health.
NP or PA—What’s the Difference?
Many people are confused about the difference between NP’s and PA’s (Physician’s Assistants). Both hold graduate or postgraduate degrees in their fields; both have 10-15 years of experience before obtaining their titles. Both NP’s and PA’s work with patients on a more in-depth level, than RN’s or CNA’s. The difference between the two lies in their educational background—and the focus of their degree plans.
While NP’s have both undergraduate and graduate degrees and are required to practice under and be trained by other nurse practitioners, PA’s attend medical school; their background is more like that of a general practice doctor. NPs tend to focus on health maintenance, disease prevention, and patient education.
PA’s are required to complete a residency and work under the supervision of MD’s, much like other physicians. They focus on diagnosis, preventative, and therapeutic issues, while working closely with a medical doctor.
Iowa: Nurse Practitioners At a Glance
Number of NPs: 1,329
NPs per 100,000 populations: 43
Who governs/grants licenses to NPs: Iowa Board of Nursing
Do you need to be an RN? Yes
Do you need a Master of Science in Nursing to become a NP?
Not necessarily, but a master’s degree in nursing or the equivalent—a formal advanced educational program approved by the Iowa Board of Nursing—is required.
Are there other requirements?
Clinical experience is also required.
How much can a Nurse Practitioner earn in Iowa?
On average, Iowa nurse practitioners earn $87,000/year. Salaries vary based on the employment setting, geographic location, educational background and years of experience.
Do NPs need a physician’s supervision for diagnosis and treatment?
No. NP’s in Iowa can have their own practice, independent of a medical physician.
Do NPs need a physician’s supervision to prescribe medication?
No. Iowa NP’s have the ability to independently prescribe medications.
Are there some drug classifications NPs cannot prescribe?
NP’s in Iowa must meet some additional state requirements in order to prescribe controlled substances.
Iowa: Nurse Practitioner Outlook
The outlook for NP’s looks promising. As more studies confirm the high quality of care that nurse practitioners provide, there has been a movement toward giving NP’s more autonomy and enabling them to set up their own practices in more and more states—without being required to work in conjunction with a physician. Studies show that a visit to a NP costs as much as 35% less than a visit to an actual doctor, and NP’s are increasingly important in rural areas with a low concentration of primary-care providers.
As states review the arguments for and against providing NP’s with more independence and autonomy to open their own practices, certification boards will be forced to consider the critically low numbers of medical doctors in certain regions.
The Health Resources and Services Administration have pointed out around 5,700 areas they call “Health Professional Shortage Areas”—parts of the United States with 55 million residents that fall short of the target of 1 health care professional per 2,000 residents. By enabling NP’s more autonomy to practice and diagnose conditions, the target could be met much more quickly.