Nurse practitioners (NPs) are licensed, autonomous clinicians focused on managing people’s health conditions and preventing disease. As advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), NPs often specialize by patient population, including pediatric, adult-gerontological, and women’s health. NPs may also subspecialize in areas such as dermatology, cardiovascular health, and oncology.
Created in 1965, the role of the NP has been steadily evolving. These professionals typically need at least a master’s degree to practice, and a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) is quickly becoming the preferred level of preparation in this field. According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCBSN), NPs are governed by the APRN consensus model—a set of regulations outlining the preparation, accredited education, licensure, and certification required prior to becoming independent practitioners. According to the consensus model, “all APRNs are educationally prepared to provide a scope of services across the health wellness-illness continuum to at least one population focus as defined by nationally recognized role and population-focused competencies.”
There’s abundant evidence that NPs provide high quality healthcare. In fact, AANP’s Quality of NP Practice article summarizes evidence that patients under NPs have higher satisfaction, fewer unnecessary ER visits, fewer hospital readmissions, and fewer preventable hospitalizations compared to patients under doctors. Furthermore, NPs may also be a more cost-effective alternative to doctors, due in large part to lower educational costs. The AANP estimates that NP schooling costs 20-25 percent of that to prepare a physician. Furthermore, in a recent survey of healthcare professionals, Science 2.0 (2015) found that 66 percent of physicians would encourage their students to become NPs rather than becoming doctors. In the same survey, an impressive 88 percent of responding NPs expressed satisfaction with their work.
Americans make over 916 million visits to NPs annually, and with record levels of people getting health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), opportunities in healthcare professions are on the rise. By illustration, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS Dec. 2015) predicts that openings for NPs are expected to swell 35 percent between 2014 and 2024, five times the growth projected for all occupations during that time period (7 percent). And the expected addition of 44,700 NPs nationwide is only part of the story. American NPs are also well-compensated for their work. The BLS (May 2015) found that NPs, nurse midwives, and nurse anesthetists across the country make an annual average salary of $101,260. For a detailed examination of how much nurse practitioners make, please visit the NP salary page.