What Does a Nurse Practitioner Do?
Nurse Practitioner (NP) and Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRNs) are job titles that earn their capitalization.
It's also an extremely rewarding career, one in which helping others is a huge benefit. NPs serve as primary or secondary care providers for patients and their families, assessing patients’ health, ordering lab tests, prescribing medications and much more. To be more direct: Every NP is a registered nurse who holds a masters or other specialized graduate degree. Although the scope of an NP’s practice varies from state to state, many work independently, and all have more autonomy than RNs, who must be overseen by doctors.
Types of Nurse Practitioners
There is an association for seemingly every single profession within the profession. Here are some of the more mainstream options, with data coming from the BLS.
|Certified Nurse midwives (CNMs)||Perform gynecological exams, order lab tests, prescribe medication, perform prenatal, postpartum and newborn care, deliver babies and provide emergency care during labor. They advise on family planning and educate patients on nutrition, disease prevention, and sexual and reproductive health issues.|
|Nurse anesthetists (CRNAs)||Work with surgeons, dentists, podiatrists and anesthesiologists to provide anesthesia and related care before, during and after surgical procedures. This is one of the best paid NP professions.|
|Family nurse practitioners (FNPs)||Work as primary care nurses throughout a patient’s life, conducting exams, diagnosing illness and prescribing medication. FNPs represent the largest group of NPs in the nation.|
|Clinical nurse specialists (CNSs)||Focus on different nursing areas, i.e., treating specific age groups, illnesses or conditions, such as diabetes, pain, wound care, critical care or cardiac disease.|
|Pediatric nurse practitioners (PNPs)||Treat children’s diseases and injuries.|
|Neonatal nurse practitioners (NNPs)||Work with newborns with health problems.|
|Acute care nurse practitioners (ACNPs)||Help patients with immediate, severe, and short-term illnesses, injuries or trauma.|
|Adult-gerontology nurse practitioners (AGNPs)||Provide health care for adults from adolescence through old age across settings that include hospitals and community clinics.|
|Women's health nurse practitioners (WHNPs)||Manage women's illnesses, reproductive health and age-specific treatments—from adolescence through old age.|
|Psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNPs)||Examine, diagnose and treat patients with mental illnesses.|
|Emergency nurse practitioners (ENPs)||Assess, stabilize and treat patients in hospital ERs and urgent care centers.|
"Choose your nursing specialty wisely. For example, if you are pursuing a role as a family nurse practitioner, go into areas like ER, ambulatory care, home health or urgent care as an RN. I believe these areas prepare you more realistically for the role as an outpatient provider. If you are interested in acute care as a nurse practitioner, then ICU is a great experience to have under your belt. Last but not least, make sure you have a network of providers willing to assist you with preceptorship, because I believe your clinical experience is what really prepares you for the role of provider. So you need to choose sites that foster learning and development."
Shamika Brooks, RN-BSN, MSN-FNP-C
Maryville University, 2014
What Does an NP Do?
A day in the life of a nurse practitioner can vary widely, depending on his or her specialty and workplace. NPs—or DNPs—work in private offices, hospitals, for home healthcare services and at nursing and residential care facilities.
Generally speaking, here are O Net Online's common work activities that most of them—no matter their title or environs—take on during an average day at the office.
Tools of the Trade
How do you know if you're right for a job? More to the point: Does your mind work the way a nurse practitioner's should? To find out, see which mental skills are integral to their common work activities, at least according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
|Communication||Communicate with patients and other healthcare professionals to ensure that the appropriate course of action is understood.|
|Critical-thinking||Assess changes in a patient’s health, quickly determine the most appropriate course of action and decide if a consultation with another healthcare professional is needed.|
|Compassion||Be caring and sympathetic when treating patients who are in pain or who are experiencing emotional distress.|
|Attention to detail||Responsible and detail-oriented because they provide various treatments and medications that affect the health of their patients.|
|Interpersonal||Work with patients and families as well as with other healthcare providers and staff within the organizations where they provide care; work as part of a team to determine and execute the best possible healthcare options for patients.|
|Leadership||Lead and sometimes manage other nurses on staff when providing patient care.|
|Resourcefulness||Know where to find the answers that they need in a timely fashion.|
"The perks include being able to form long-lasting relationships with my patients and knowing that I have played a part in their healthcare experience. Other perks include having many professional opportunities, excellent compensation and benefits, an opportunity for lifelong learning and knowing that I have provided high-quality, cost-effective care."
Nancy Brook, MSN, RN, CFNP
Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, 1992
Day in a Nurse Practitioner's Life
The best way to learn about a profession is to shadow a professional for a day, even a week. To save you some time for now, here is a snapshot of the days of two working nurse practitioners.
|Shamika Brooks (RN-BSN, MSN-FNP-C) works as a family nurse practitioner in Dallas, Texas.)|
|About||"I have a unique role in my outpatient clinic, which provides primary and urgent care to those living with HIV/AIDS. My workday varies from time to time. We typically work four 10-hour shifts a week and have every weekend off. No on-call. I can see up to 16 patients in a day, depending on the scheduling. We also have a transitional care grant and the other nurse practitioners and PAs rotate on a monthly basis on the inpatient consult service for HIV."|
|8 a.m.||First patient.|
|1:30 p.m.||First afternoon patient.|
|5 p.m.||Last patient.|
|6:30 p.m.||Done for the day.|
|9 a.m.||Divide up patients on the team.|
|1 p.m.||Round with attending physician.|
|2 p.m.||Case-management conference.|
|3 p.m.||Finish up rounds and complete charting.|
|4:30 p.m.||Done for the day.|
|Nancy Brook (MSN, RN, CFNP) works as a nurse practitioner at Stanford Hospital and Clinics in Palo Alto, Calif.|
|About||"My position is fast-paced and every day is different. I see new patients for consultation as well as patients returning for follow-up care. Because I work in a surgical practice, I see pre-op and post-operative patients after surgery, manage wounds (remove staples, sutures, manage wound vacuums), and do a lot of teaching and collaborating with other medical specialists. One big piece of my job is pain management, because pain is often undertreated. I also do a lot of counseling and education for patients and their families who are in need. My hours are variable, and I always have a cell phone/pager in my pocket. All that said, here is an example of a 'typical' day."|
|9 a.m.||Returning calls, electronic messages and paperwork.|
|10 a.m.||Quick meeting with colleagues, support staff about patient issues, coming day.|
|11 a.m.||Clinic: a combination of new and return patients, procedures and teaching alongside resident physicians and attending physician, as well as two other nurse practitioners.|
|1 p.m.||We don't stop for lunch. I bring some snacks for my team or bring a healthy lunch that I may or may not eat. When I worked in different clinical settings, we did in fact take a lunch, so this is not representative across the board.|
|4:30 p.m.||Mini-meeting with support staff, surgery scheduler, medical assistant.|
|5 p.m.||Discuss surgical cases for the next day (OR).|
|5:30 p.m.||Patient calls, prescription refills.|