A nurse practitioner is a registered nurse who
has advanced education and clinical training at the master's level
in a health care specialty area.
Nurse practitioners often serve as the primary health care provider
for people during health and illness. They obtain health histories,
perform physical examinations, monitor patients with chronic diseases,
order and interpret lab tests and x-rays as needed, and provide health
maintenance, health education and prevention for children and adults.
Nurse practitioners also provide prenatal care and family planning.
They recommend medications and areas of treatment, and in many states
they are allowed to prescribe medications.
Nurse practitioners collaborate with physicians
and other health professionals to achieve complete health care for
the patient. While they refer patients to physicians when indicated,
nurse practitioners also may practice independently through a written
protocol or document established with their collaborative physician.
Nurse practitioners are also educators, researchers, case managers,
and patient advocates.
Areas of Specialization
Through advanced education and clinical experience, nurses may specialize
in a number of areas including: adult health, family health, geriatric/elder
health, pediatrics/child health, psychiatric/mental health, school/college
health, women and newborn infants' health, nurse midwifery, and
Nurse practitioners work in rural and urban settings such as public
health departments, community health centers, hospitals, physicians'
offices, nursing homes, HMOs, student health clinics, and home health
agencies. Where state law permits, nurse practitioners may establish
their own offices for independent practice. Work hours for these
professionals often exceed the usual eight-hour day as they are
the primary provider of patient care and may be required to be on
call to manage patient problems.
The number of health diagnosing and treating practitioners employed
in Florida in 2004 was 7,049. It is projected that in 2012 there
will be 8,343. This represents an annual average growth rate of
2.2 percent, faster than the 1.9 percent growth rate for all occupations
Length of Training/Requirements
Nurse practitioner programs usually require two years of advanced
study (part-time) beyond the basic degree. Registered nurses who
plan to become nurse practitioners are advised to have 3-5 years
clinical experience before continuing their education.
There is no state examination required for nurse practitioner status
in Florida, but applicants for Florida state certification must
have a current license to practice professional nursing (RN) and
meet one or more or the following: 1) satisfactory completion of
a formal post-basic educational program of at least one academic
year, 2) certification by an appropriate specialty board, or 3)
graduation from a program leading to a master's degree in a nursing
clinical specialty area with preparation in specialized practitioner
skills. The American Nurses Credentialing Center of the American
Nurses Association and other professional organizations certify
registered nurses with master's degrees based on predetermined standards,
including passing a written examination and practice time in a specified
area. This voluntary national certification provides tangible recognition
of professional achievement in a defined functional or clinical
area of nursing.