Nurse practitioners are advanced practice registered nurses who provide health care services similar to those of a doctor. These health care professionals perform a wide range of medical tasks, such as diagnosing illnesses, ordering diagnostic tests, prescribing medications and educating patients. Nurse practitioners work in hospitals, doctors’ offices and outpatient care facilities. Some even work as traveling nurses.
How to Become a Nurse Practitioner
A master’s degree in nursing is required to become a nurse practitioner. Aspiring nurse practitioners can start their education by attaining an associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing. Completing these programs prepares students for entry-level positions in clinical settings, meets the requirements for state licensure as a registered nurse and puts students on the educational path for becoming a nurse practitioner. There are also accelerated programs for associate degree holders. Common courses include pharmacology, community health and anatomy and physiology.
A Graduate Degree in Nursing
Registered nurses with a bachelor’s degree who wish to become nurse practitioners qualify by attaining a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing. Often, nurses specialize in a specific area of medicine in graduate programs, such as neonatal, geriatrics or family medicine. These graduate programs typically take two to three years to complete and include a thesis, seminars and clinical residency. Common courses include advanced pharmacology, pathophysiology and health care management. Students can opt for traditional schools or online schools to become nurse practitioners. Online education is convenient for working nurses, and online nursing schools have agreements with local medical facilities to place students in order to complete clinical work requirements.
Licensure and Certification in Maine
In order to attain licensure in the state of Maine to practice as a nurse practitioner, nurses must pass a national exam and hold a master’s degree in nursing from an accredited institution. In addition, nurses must have a minimum of 24 months experience working under the supervision of a licensed physician or another licensed nurse practitioner. Students are then permitted to sit for certification exams through the American Nurses Credentialing Center or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. Continuing education courses are required, and certification must be renewed every five years.
Career Outlook and Salary for Nurse Practitioners
The career outlook for nurse practitioners is very positive. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the demand for these health care professionals to grow by 31 percent throughout 2022. The strong demand for nurse practitioners is being fueled by a large baby-boom population, health care reform and a strong focus on improving health care. Many people who were previously without health insurance now have access to it through Obamacare. Nurse practitioners will be needed in physician offices, nursing homes, outpatient medical centers and both private and public hospitals.
The salary for nurse practitioners is also above average. According to the BLS, nurse practitioners earned an average of $95,000 in 2012. The top 10 percent earn more than $165,000, and the lower 10 percent earn more than $65,000. With many job opportunities and a good salary, pursuing the career of a nurse practitioner is a smart choice.