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Nurse Practitioner Career Profile

Nurse Practitioners expand the horizons of the nursing profession by providing a unique blend of nursing and medicine into their scope of practice. Initially, the University of Colorado answered a much needed call to more accessible health care for children by developing a Nurse Practitioner program in 1965. Since that first program first began, doors have opened with opportunities for today's Nurse Practitioner that include unprecedented autonomy, authority, income, and job satisfaction. The demand for more Nurse Practitioners continues to grow as they present a viable solution to the growing trend of fewer physicians entering the field of family practice.

Registered nurses seeking a career that offers challenge as well as autonomy find that the efforts in becoming a nurse practitioner are well worth the end results. A nurse practitioner’s duties and responsibilities include tasks which were at one time only a physician’s prerogative. Nurse Practitioners regularly provide such services as physical examinations, acquiring medical histories, diagnosing and treating chronic infections and injuries, ordering and assessing diagnostic tests, and writing prescriptions, but let’s take a closer look at some of the things a nurse practitioner routinely does throughout the day.

Encouraging and educating communities in regards to healthy lifestyles are just two of the prime duties of nurse practitioners. The ability to communicate with compassion and understanding in regards to health care problems and solutions bridges the gap between professional and patient. Through a number of tasks and duties the universal need for health care is met. These duties include:

Assessing:
1. Obtain health and medical histories of patients.
2. Execute age based physical examinations.
3. Perform preventative screening tests such as hearing, vision, and cancer tests.
4. Identify any risks the patient may have and outline needs of the patient.

Diagnosing:
1. Order diagnostic tests appropriate to patient’s needs
2. Evaluate patient health, medical history, and diagnostic tests

Managing Patient Care Plan:
1. Discern needs of family or community based on pertinent information collected.
2. Implement a care plan that may include prescribing medications (the legalities of nurse practitioners granted written prescriptions rights differs from state to state at this point in time)
3. Provide and promote health care education
4. When warranted, make referrals to health care agencies or the appropriate health care professional.
5. Continually reassess and make adjustments to plan of care in order to accomplish health care goals.

Beyond the scope of professional skills and duties character attributes play a part in choosing to take the plunge into advancing your career from registered nurse to nurse practitioner. If you display good judgment, a level of maturity, compassion and understanding, you’re an excellent candidate. If you also have the ability to inspire both those you care for, as well as other health care providers and you remain calm in the face of emergencies, you’re just what your patient needs. A great opportunity for independence and professional autonomy exists for nurse practitioners. Nurse Practitioners commonly specialize in practice areas that include:

1. Pediatrics Nurse Practitioners deal with infants, children, and young adults encouraging valuable positive health behaviors, as well as addressing childhood illness.

2. Neonatal Nurse Practitioners, in cooperation with other health care professionals, are responsible for assessing, diagnosing and managing the care of newborns with significant health problems.

3. Family Nurse Practitioners offer primary health care for all ages from infants to the elderly in terms of wellness and chronic and acute illnesses.

4. The Nurse Mid-Wife or OB/GYN Nurse Practitioner focuses on issues that face women and on pre-natal care and delivery of newborns.

5. Nurse Anesthetists administer 65% of the 27 million anesthetics given to patients each year.

6. The Gerontologic Nurse Practitioners specialize in caring for and treating the elderly. As more baby boomers age, this is a field that will be in much demand.

7. Other specializations worth looking into include neurology, nephrology, endocrinology, gastroenterology, cardiology, and pulmonology.

The rewards of advancing your nursing career to a higher level of education and practice are many and varied. While Nurse Practitioners can readily find employment as colleagues practicing in collaboration with physicians in their offices, positions are abundant in hospitals, government agencies, HMOs, long term care facilities, and all sorts of healthcare delivery providers.

Unlike Physician Assistants who must work under the supervision of a physician, Nurse Practitioners practice independently under the statutes of Nurse Practice Acts and can open their own practice or practice in groups just like physicians. They can be the sole authority and shoulder the entire responsibility of whatever kind of clinic they wish to open and how it will be run. As the demand for health care increases and fewer physicians become general practitioners and family care doctors, the need for nurse practitioners to provide primary care services will continue to increase.

Being satisfied with a career choice brings a feeling of accomplishment that goes well beyond salary. By acquiring control over your own destiny the future looks brighter than ever. The gratification of putting all your knowledge to work and seeing the differences it makes in the lives of people, brings a feeling of empowerment and goodwill to both community and the nurse practitioner. Having the capacity to make independent decisions, to be in authoritative positions, and even be completely autonomous, if desired, greatly enhances the career satisfaction you’ll enjoy as a nurse practitioner.

An outstanding future awaits registered nurses who seek to advance their careers by continuing their education, choosing to specialize, and becoming a nurse practitioner. As baby boomers age, the need for more nurse practitioners to fill the void will be paramount. A feeling of satisfaction along with monetary and human reward eases the way toward a decision of growing possibilities and outstanding opportunity.

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