||The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (February 2012) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)|
Family Nurse Practitioner Lt. Cmdr. Michael Service cares for a young girl at the U.S. Naval Hospital (USNH) Yokosuka.
|healthcare, advanced practice registered nurse|
|Master's degree or doctorate. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) recommends complete transition to the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) by 2015.|
|nurse midwife, nurse anesthetist, clinical nurse specialist|
Nurse practitioners are advanced registered nurses educated and trained to provide health promotion and maintenance through the diagnosis and treatment of acute illness and chronic condition. According to the International Council of Nurses, an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) is "a registered nurse who has acquired the expert knowledge base, complex decision-making skills and clinical competencies for expanded practice, the characteristics of which are shaped by the context and/or country in which s/he is credentialed to practice. A master's degree is recommended for entry level."
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Nurse practitioners (NPs) manage acute and chronic medical conditions, both physical and mental, through history and physical exam and the ordering of diagnostic tests and medical treatments. NPs are qualified to diagnose medical problems, order treatments, perform advanced procedures, prescribe medications, and make referrals for a wide range of acute and chronic medical conditions within their scope of practice. Nurse Practitioners have become such an integral part of the medical and health care system. This is all in part to the combination of experience and expertise they bring with them. The experience from working as a nurse gives them a unique approach in providing patient care, while their advanced studies give them the expertise and capability to carry on tasks otherwise assigned to physicians. NPs work in hospitals, private offices, clinics, and nursing homes/long term care facilities. Some nurse practitioners contract out their services for private duty.
In the United States, depending upon the state in which they work, nurse practitioners may or may not be required to practice under the supervision of a physician. In consideration of the shortage of primary care/internal medicine physicians, many states are eliminating "collaborative practice" agreements and nurse practitioners are able to function independently. NPs—particularly in the area of primary care/internal medicine—fulfill a vital need for patient healthcare services, and the nurse practitioner works with physicians, medical/surgical specialists, pharmacists, physical therapists, social workers, occupational therapists, and other healthcare professionals to achieve the best outcomes for patients.
NPs may serve as a patient's primary healthcare provider and they may treat patients of all ages depending upon their specialty. With commensurate education and experience, nurse practitioners may specialize in areas such as cardiology, dermatology, oncology, pain management, surgical services, orthopedics, women's health, and other specialties. Similar to all healthcare professions, the core philosophy of the nurse practitioner role is individualized care that focuses on a patient's medical issues as well as the effects of illness on the life of a patient and his or her family. NPs tend to concentrate on a holistic approach to patient care, and they emphasize health promotion, patient education/counseling, and disease prevention. The main classifications of nurse practitioners are: adult (ANP); acute care (ACNP); gerontological (GNP); family (FNP); pediatric (PNP); neonatal (NNP); and psychiatric-mental health (PMHNP). Adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner (AGPCNP) is a classification that has recently evolved.
In addition to providing a wide range of healthcare services, nurse practitioners may conduct research, teach, and are often active in patient advocacy and in the development of healthcare policy at the local, state, and national level.
The advanced practice nursing role began to take shape in the mid-20th century United States. Nurse anesthetists and nurse midwives were established in the 1940s, followed by psychiatric nursing in 1954. The present day concept of the APRN as a primary care provider was created in the mid-1960s, spurred on by a national shortage of medical doctors. The first formal graduate certificate program for nurse practitioners was created by Henry Silver, a physician, and Loretta Ford, a nurse, in 1965, with a vision to help balance rising healthcare costs, increase the number of healthcare providers, and correct the inefficient distribution of health resources. In 1971, The U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, Elliot Richardson, made a formal recommendation in expanding the scope of the nursing practice and qualifying them to be able to serve as primary care providers. During the mid 1970s to early 1980s, the completion of a master’s degree became required in order to become a certified nurse practitioner. In 2012, discussions have risen between accreditation agencies, national certifying bodies, and state boards of nursing about the possibility of making the DNP as the new minimum of education for NP certification and licensure by 2015.
Scope of practice
In the United States, because the profession is state-regulated, care provided by NPs varies and is limited to their education and credentials. Some NPs seek to work independently of physicians, while in some states a collaborative agreement with a physician is required for practice. The extent of this collaborative agreement, and the role, duties, responsibilities, nursing treatments, pharmacologic recommendations, etc. again varies widely amongst states of licensure/certification.
The "Pearson Report" provides a current state-by-state breakdown of the specific duties an NP may perform in the state. A nurse practitioner's role may include the following:
- Medical diagnosis, treatment, evaluation, and management of a wide range of acute and chronic diseases
- Obtaining patient histories and conducting physical examinations
- Requesting diagnostic imaging
- Performing some diagnostic studies (e.g., lab tests and EKGs)
- Requesting physical therapy, occupational therapy, and other rehabilitation treatments
- Prescribing drugs for acute and chronic illness (extent of prescriptive authority varies by state regulations)
- Providing prenatal care and family planning services
- Providing well-child care, including screening and immunizations
- Providing primary and specialty care services, health-maintenance care for adults, including annual physicals
- Providing care for patients in acute and critical care settings and long care facilities
- Performing or assisting in minor surgeries and procedures (e.g., dermatological biopsies/procedures, suturing, casting, etc.)
- Counseling and educating patients on health behaviors, self-care skills, and treatment options in coordination with occupational therapists and other healthcare providers.
In Canada, an NP is a registered nurse with a graduate degree in nursing. Canada recognizes them in the following specialties: primary healthcare NPs (PHCNP) and acute care NPs (ACNP). NP's diagnose illnesses, prescribe pharmaceuticals, order and interpret diagnostic tests, and perform procedures in their scope of practice. PHCNPs work in places like community healthcare centers, primary healthcare settings and long term care institutions. The main focus of PHCNPs includes health promotion, preventative care, treatment and diagnosis of acute illnesses and injuries, and overseeing and managing chronic diseases. ANCNPs are specialized NPs who serve a specific population of patients. They administer care to individuals who are acutely, critically or chronically ill patients. ANCNPs generally work in in-patient facilities that include neonatology, nephrology, and cardiology units.
Range of Practice
Nurse Practitioner's can examine patients, diagnose illnesses, prescribe medication, and provide treatments. These are all responsibilities that entail physicians but NP's do not have the authority of all physicians in all 50 states. Less than half of the country permits NP's the authority to practice on their own. In fact, only 20 states (including D.C.) give full practice authority to NP's. Nineteen states require NP's to have a written agreement with a physician in order to provide care. Even with the formal agreement between physican and NP's, their practice is restricted in at least one domain (e.g., prescribing, treatment). The remaining 12 states restrict NP's even more. In order for NP's to provide care to patients, they are required to be supervised or delegated by a physician. The states in the Pacific Northwest, the Mountain states, and in upper New England generally have fewer and limited primary care physicians so they permit more freedom to NP's. Many states in the South are the most restrictive states.
Education, licensing, and board certification
The path to becoming a nurse practitioner in the United States begins by earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or other undergraduate degree, and requires licensure as a registered nurse (RN) and experience in the generalist RN role. Then, one must graduate from an accredited graduate (MSN) or doctoral (DNP) program. The typical curriculum for a nurse practitioner program includes courses in epidemiology; health promotion; advanced pathophysiology; physical assessment and diagnostic reasoning; advanced pharmacology; laboratory/radiography diagnostics; statistics and research methods; health policy; role development and leadership; acute and chronic disease management (e.g., adults, children, women's health, geriatrics, etc.); and clinical rotations, which varies depending on the program and population focus. Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs include additional, advanced coursework in biostatistics; research methods; clinical outcome measures; care of special populations; organizational management; informatics; and healthcare policy and economics. DNP programs also require completion of a research project/residency. Some nurse practitioners, as well as other APRN roles, may choose to pursue the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) as a terminal degree. The PhD in nursing focuses on nursing research and nursing education, while the DNP focuses more on clinical practice.
There is an initiative to require the DNP as the entry level degree for all APRN roles, including the nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist, clinical nurse specialist, and nurse midwife. Those who have a MSN but are currently practicing in an APRN role would be grandfathered into this change. Many universities have started to phase out MSN programs in lieu of this expected change and have devised BSN-DNP programs. NPs may elect to complete a postgraduate residency or fellowship. The majority of such programs focus on primary care; however, specialized programs (e.g., acute care, emergency medicine, cardiology, general surgery, etc.) also exist.
After completing the required education, the NP must pass a national board certifying exam in a specific population focus: acute care, family practice, women's health, pediatrics, adult-gerontology, neonatal, or psychiatric-mental health, which coincides with the type of program from which he or she graduated. After achieving board certification, the nurse practitioners must apply for additional credentials (e.g., APRN license, prescriptive authority, DEA registration number, etc.) at the state and federal level. The nurse practitioner must achieve a certain amount of continuing medical education (CME) credits and clinical practice hours in order to maintain certification and licensure. NPs are licensed through state boards of nursing.
In Australia, NPs are required to be registered by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency. The Australian professional organisation is the Australian College of Nurse Practitioners. (ACNP) 
In Canada, the educational standard is a graduate degree in nursing. The Canadian Nursing Association (CNA) notes that advanced practice nurses must have a combination of a graduate level education and the clinical experience that prepare them to practice at an advanced level. Their education alone does not give them the ability to practice at an advanced level. Two national frameworks have been developed in order to provide further guidance for the development of educational courses and requirements, research concepts, and government position statements regarding APRNs: The CNA's Advanced Nursing Practice: A National Framework and the Canadian Nurse Practitioner Core Competency Framework. All educational programs for NPs must achieve formal approval by provincial and territorial regulating nurse agencies due to the fact that the NP is considered a legislated role in Canada. As such, it is common to see differences among approved educational programs between territories and provinces. Specifically, inconsistencies can be found in core graduate courses, clinical experiences, and length of programs. Canada does not have a national curriculum or consistent standards regarding advanced practice nurses so all APRNs must meet individual requirements set by the provincial or territorial regulatory nursing body where they are practicing. In conclusion, the completion of a graduate education, a passing of an exam through the CNA Nurse Practitioner Exam Program, and a successful registration within the appropriate territory or province is required in order to practice as a nurse practitioner in Canada. 
There are nurse practitioners in over fifty countries worldwide. Although credentials vary by country, most NPs hold at least a master's degree worldwide.
As of November 2013, NPs were recognized legally in Israel. The law passed on November 21, 2013. Although in the early stages, the Israeli Ministry of Health has already graduated two NP classes - in palliative care and geriatrics. The law was passed in response to a growing physician shortage in specific health care fields, similar to trends occurring worldwide.
Nurse Practitioner titles were in the past bestowed on some advanced practice registered nurses in the Netherlands. The title has now changed to that of Nursing Specialist. The idea is still the same: a master's-degree-level independently licensed nurse capable of setting indications for treatment independent of an MD.
The salary of a nurse practitioner depends on the area of specialization, location, years of experience, level of education, and size of company. In 2015 the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) conducted it's 4th annual nurse practitioner salary survey. The results revealed the salary range of a NP to be between $98,760 to $108,643 reported income among full-time NPs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurse practitioners in the top 10% earned an average salary of $135,800. The median salary was $98,190. According to a report published by Merritt Hawkins, starting salaries for NPs increased in dramatic fashion between 2015 and 2016. The highest average starting salary reached $197,000 in 2016. The primary factor in the dramatic increase in starting salaries is skyrocketing demand for NPs, recognizing them as the 5th most highly sought after advanced health professional in 2016.
Increasing need in US
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Employment of registered nurses and nurse practitioners is expected to increase immensely in the next ten years. Much of the growth is expected to come as a result of advances in technology, leading to better health care and a greater variety of solutions for health problems. Also, life expectancy is getting longer; therefore more patients are living longer and living more active lives. It is further anticipated that the need for NPs will increase because of the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).
Growth is also expected to be much faster in outpatient centers, where the patients do not stay overnight. Moreover, the increasing number of procedures that were once only able to happen in hospitals is now able to happen in physicians' offices. That is mainly because of the expansion and easy access to new and better technology, but the need for NPs is expected to be greatest in places where people have long-term illnesses such as dementia or head trauma patients that are in need of extensive rehabilitation.
"Nurse practitioners really are becoming a growing presence, particularly in primary care," said David I. Auerbach, PhD, the author and a health economist at RAND Corp. In addition, this site says that nurse practitioners are expected to double by 2025. Auerbach also told American Medical News, "There’s a lot of experimentation going on looking at different ways of working together, and there’s a lot of interest in collaborative team-based models. The new care models, such as the patient-centered medical home and accountable care organizations, really depend on nurse practitioners and physician assistants."
As a result of the PPACA, hospitals and medical care facilities are forced to rethink the demand for nurses and medical professionals. This is mainly because this new Act allows millions of people the opportunity at medical attention that did not have it before, and because there are so many new people in need of medical attention, the need for medical professionals also grows. With the combination of this new Act, and the aging Baby Boomer population, there is expected to be a large increase in the need for medical staff, especially nurse practitioners. According to a study published in American Medical News, Nurse Practitioners jobs are expected to grow up to 130 percent from 86,000 in 2008 to 198,000 in 2025. Though there is some skepticism to these vast figures, they are backed up by many studies and the opinions of very well known medical professionals. As a result of this extreme need for NPs, they are also expected to receive more autonomy, meaning that nurse practitioners would be able to fill the traditional primary care role like a physician would. For an example, a nurse practitioner would be able to prescribe medication without the oversight of a doctor. Many states are passing laws that allow for independent practice of nurse practitioners. "Currently there are 12 states with active legislation looking at utilizing nurse practitioners at the top of their education to meet patient care needs," says Tay Kopanos with the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. Many nurses and other leaders in healthcare are advocating for overturning laws that require physicians to look over the work of NPs.
- The Journal for Nurse Practitioners
- List of nursing credentials
- Clinical nurse specialist
- Nurse anesthetist
- Nurse midwife
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