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Nurse Practitioners Jobs: What are the Most Common Careers?

Career News September 23, 2013

Nurse practitioners jobs are found in most of the medical specialties now. Nurse practitioners provide a needed resource where there is a shortage of other advanced health care professionals, such as physicians. With training and experience, the nurse practitioner is able to work under minimum supervision in most specialties. The following are typical areas in which nurse practitioners find their career path.

Family Nurse Practitioner

The family practice nurse practitioner is where many of the graduates begin their careers. It is a good way to gain experience with many of the patient conditions that can be seen. It will also introduce the practitioner to more advanced health care needs and how to handle them.

This role can be found in hospitals, clinics and physician’s offices. Patients of all ages may be seen. This role is found supporting many diverse populations. The family practice nurse practitioner is a true multi-purpose career path. Many nurses enjoy the variation in this role and stay with it for many years. Others take the skills they have learned treating certain conditions and move into a specialty practice.

The level of responsibility and independence the nurse practitioner has depended on the practice and location. A large urban family practice with many physicians on staff may employ nurse practitioners for certain tasks with a lot of oversight. A small rural clinic may rely on the nurse practitioner to make most of the decisions with minimum supervision from a physician who may support many clinics and be on site only once a week.

Some of the responsibilities of the nurse practitioner in the family practice role may include:

Patient intake – They may gather information from the patient upon arrival and perhaps do an initial physical examination.
Ordering tests – The nurse practitioner may order specific diagnostic tests as outlined by the clinic policies.
Assessment – They may examine the patient and test results and make an initial assessment as to the patient’s condition. They may also recommend treatment options. These would be reviewed by a physician who would make the final decision as how to proceed.
Treatment and Care Plan – Once the final diagnosis and treatment plan has been decided, the nurse practitioner may create an overall care plan for the patient and family to follow. This may include medications, additional tests needed, follow-up appointments and any changes to lifestyle needed to support the patient’s recovery.
Education – The nurse practitioner will be expected to take on a primary role of educating the patient and their family about the patient’s condition and treatment.

Depending on the size and demographics of the setting, there will be many other responsibilities for the nurse practitioner as a family practice nurse practitioner.

Emergency Room (Acute Care) Nurse Practitioner

Since emergency rooms across the US are being used more and more for a walk in acute care, they frequently have a staff shortage. The nurse practitioner in the emergency room can fill many roles, especially when there is a lack of physician coverage. The nurse practitioner may see patients of all ages and with various conditions. They may perform many of the same duties as the family practice nurse practitioner, but they will also learn how to triage and when to refer patients to a specialist.

In the emergency room, the assessment is most critical. It could mean the difference between life and death for some patients. The nurse practitioner will need to be able to take information in from various tests and monitoring equipment and quickly make a recommendation. Is the shortness of breath related to an acute cardiac event or a pulmonary embolism? When staffing is low, the nurse practitioner may be called on to make treatment decisions.

The nurse practitioner may provide care for common injuries such as cuts, lacerations, burns, bites. They may stabilize bone fractures before transferring the patient to orthopedic specialists. They may evaluate women in labor before transporting them to labor and delivery.

They will also be responsible for patient and family education and counseling. The nurse practitioner will usually be one person in the emergency room with which the patient and family spend the most time.

Oncology Nurse Practitioner

The nurse practitioner may work with Oncologists in a cancer treatment center. They will have training on the various diagnostic tools and how to interpret the test results, the treatment options, and long-term care strategies. They will need to become very familiar with chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

The nurse practitioner will see patients of different ages and need to be able to discuss the life impact the condition may have on the patient. This is certainly a different discussion with a 16 year old patient versus an 80 year old.

This role can also include directing cancer survivor groups and programs. They will be involved in all forms of post-remission treatment and education.

Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner

In this field, the nurse practitioner will work with patients of all ages. They will assess and treat fractures due to accidents, but will also see patients with:

•Spinal curvature in need of surgery or braces
•Degenerated joints from arthritis in need of joint replacement
•Osteoporosis in need of dietary and medical treatment
•Damage to the growth plates requiring help for the bone(s) to grow correctly

The nurse practitioner may be involved in the actual surgeries, application of braces and casts, ordering of physical therapy and patient follow up. They may also do the orthopedic work in association with oncology, sports medicine, on the job injuries, and in the emergency room or trauma center.

The Outlook of Nurse Practitioner Careers

According to the US Department of Labor – Bureau of Labor Statistics, the nursing demand is growing faster than other roles. Contributing to this is a number of things:

•Advances in diagnostics and tests
•Advances in treatment options
•Advances in patient awareness, a national job site, states that the average annual salary for a nurse practitioner is now $95,000. This can vary depending on the specialty and location.

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