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Nurse Practitioner

colleges offer programs related to this career near Ashburn, VA

Career Overview

Nursing is one of the most popular careers in the country, and for good reason. You get to help people and it even pays pretty well. But for many people who are passionate about the job, being a registered nurse just isn't enough. That's why some nurses decide to pursue their master's degree and become a nurse practitioner, an advanced nursing role that lets them take on more responsibilities and do more for their patients.It might be easier to think of nurse practitioners as a step up from registered nurses than as an entirely separate position. In fact, nurse practitioners are often called advanced practice registered nurses, or APRNs. If you chose this role, you would be treating patients, assisting doctors, and learning about a patient's condition the same way a registered nurse would, just with a few more advanced responsibilities. You'll also be able to do many of the things that physicians do, such as ordering lab tests, diagnosing illnesses, using complicated medical equipment, prescribing medication, and even providing primary care for patients.Though they are incredibly similar, there are a few differences between a physician and a nurse practitioner. For starters, you need at least a master's degree to be a nurse practitioner, while physicians need their Doctor of Medicine (MD). This just means that physicians have spent more time studying health conditions and treatments, so you can expect to consult their expertise on several occasions. Another big difference is that physicians focus on curing diseases, while your primary focus would be to cure people. This means that you have to address each patient's needs and adjust their treatment accordingly to make sure that they are as comfortable as possible.On the surface, it might seem that nurse practitioners are just registered nurses with advanced education and responsibilities. But when you take a closer look, there's actually a lot more to it than that. For one thing, you'll play a much larger role in your patient's treatment, and that could make a big impact on their recovery. In some cases, you might be a patient's primary care provider, making you solely responsible for their well-being. Having someone's life in your hands is a huge responsibility, but it's also a rewarding one when you're able to come through for them. And nothing can beat how great that feels.

Salaries and Job Outlook*

2013 Median Annual Pay
Number of Jobs in 2013
Projected Growth Rate
National
$103,880
166,280
36 %
Virginia
$99,180
4,500
 

Education and Training

Degrees Required:
Master's Degree in Nursing (M.S.N.) or related fields

If you're looking to become a nurse practitioner, there are a few routes you could take. Regardless of which path you end up choosing, you'll have to start by becoming a registered nurse, or RN. It's pretty easy to find a school with an RN program, since it's one of the basic roles in the field. Once you become an RN, you have a few choices of how you want to continue. Many MSN programs prefer people with a bachelor's degree, as opposed to the diploma or associate's degree that's typically required to become an RN. It's technically not a requirement, but it does increase your chances, especially if you want to enroll in a prestigious or high-ranked program. If you decide not to earn your bachelor's, there are several schools that offer RN to MSN program to bridge the gap and help you get there faster. If you wanted to go even further as a nurse practitioner, you could even pursue a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or Ph.D. in nursing, but it isn't required to be a nurse practitioner.You'll also have to pass a national certification exam, as well as earn a state license. The requirements vary according to your specialization and your location, respectively.

 
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Valued Traits & Abilities

Patience
Communication Skills
Analytical Skills
Leadership Skills
Detail Oriented

Career Opportunities

The field of nursing is as big as it is popular. There are many specialization options and opportunities for registered nurses, and there are even more options for nurse practitioners. If general nursing and patient care isn't your thing, then don't worry too much. There are other paths you could take in your career if you're looking for something more.

Nurse Anesthetist

As the name suggests, nurse anesthetists give anesthesia to patients for surgical, therapeutic, diagnostic, or obstetrical procedures. The anesthesia will either put the patient to sleep or numb a part of their body, and they provide care to the patient before, during, and after their procedure.

Nurse Midwife

Though it may sound like something out of Shakespeare, nurse midwives are modern medical professionals who provide care for women, specifically during pregnancy and childbirth. They help with family planning, gynecology exams, prenatal care, and also help with the labor and delivery.

Clinical Nurse Specialist

Nurse practitioners often provide general care, but clinical nurse specialists focus on a specific group of people and treat people within that group. It could be a specific population, such as kids (pediatrics) or the elderly (geriatrics), or people with a specific condition, such as patients with cancer (oncology) or muscles and the skeleton (orthopedics).

Work Environment

Though nurse practitioners usually work normal business hours, there are a lot of irregularities and unexpected schedule changes that could happen. For example, you might have to work a lot of nights, weekends, and even holidays. You might also have to be available on call when you're off work, or stay overnight to provide patient care.Work can get very stressful, very fast. First off, you'll spend most of the time on your feet, moving constantly between your patients' rooms. Secondly, you'll also be lifting and carrying patients, which could put an even bigger strain on your body. Thirdly, you constantly have to make critical decisions, often very quickly due to time constraints. You might have to make a hard decision very fast, and that isn't easy to do. Lastly, this line of work puts you in direct contact with contagious diseases and harmful drugs, putting you at risk of contracting any harmful health conditions from your patients. But if you can look past all of that and still want to be a nurse practitioner, then you'll be just fine.

* Source: BLS Data - 2013