You’ve done your homework and know that the Nurse Practitioner career path is exactly what you want to do. But what happens once you pursue that MSN Nurse Practitioner degree? How do you actually start working as a Nurse Practitioner (NP)?
- A master’s or doctoral degree is required. As you know already, to become a Nurse Practitioner, you must earn a master’s degree or a doctoral degree. That generally means you need to hold a BSN, but a bridge program for Registered Nurses who only hold associate degrees might be an option.
- Certification and education requirements vary by state. While the master’s degree is a requirement for NPs, each medical setting and state has different certification and education requirements. Because NPs specialize in patient population focus areas: family/individual across the lifespan, pediatric (acute or primary), adult-geriatric (acute or primary), neonatal, women’s health, or psychiatric/mental health, you’ll need to check with your state regulatory agency on what is required.
- NPs need state APRN licensure. Licensure is different than certification, and you’ll need to become licensed as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse. The licensing process is handled by your state, so check with the state board of nursing for more information.
- All NPs need national certification. To practice as an NP, you’ll need certification from an accredited certifying body. There are several to choose from, which certify for different population foci:
- American Academy of Nurse Practitioners National Certification Board
- American Nurses Credentialing Center
- American Association of Critical-Care Nurses
- Pediatric Nursing Certification Board
- National Certification Corporation
- Practice environment allowed varies by state. State practice and licensure laws dictate that NPs can have a full practice, reduced practice or restricted practice environment. You can view a full U.S. map on the American Association of Nurse Practitioners to see what your state allows, but here are the definitions:
- Full practice states permit all NPs to evaluate patients; diagnose, order and interpret diagnostic tests; and initiate and manage treatments, including prescribing medications and controlled substances, under the exclusive licensure authority of the state board of nursing.
- Reduced practice states require a career-long regulated collaborative agreement with another health provider in order for the NP to provide patient care. Or, state law limits the setting of one or more elements of NP practice.
- Restricted practice states require career-long supervision, delegation or team management by another health provider in order for the NP to provide patient care.
Bottom line: it’s always best to check with the state regulatory agency for the most up-to-date information.
When it comes to a Nurse Practitioner’s responsibility, it’s important to recognize that as an NP, you are responsible to the public. As the American Association of Nurse Practitioners explains, “the NP role requires a career-long commitment to meet the evolving needs of society and advances in health care science.”
Your future role as an NP is to guide, treat, advocate and educate. It’s a job with great responsibility and deep meaning. The journey to practice might feel long, but once you’re there, you’ll know every step of the way was worth it.
American Sentinel University offers two Nurse Practitioner specialty tracks, Adult Gerontology Primary Care NP and Family NP. We are currently developing a Psychiatric NP program. Browse these programs online and join us for our upcoming Nurse Practitioner Open House! We’d love to share more about the many career options available to NPs and how we can help you get your NP career off on the right foot.