Advanced-Practice Nurses

Last updated December 31, 2014

You wake up one morning with awful flu symptoms and call your doctor. Unfortunately, she’s out of town, but the nurse practitioner (NP) is available instead. The NP examines you, cultures your throat, writes a prescription, and sends you on your way to recovery.

Today’s advanced-practice nurses (including NPs) perform tasks once reserved for medical doctors. They assist other medical professionals and manage patient care. And some specialize in fields such as pediatrics (working with children and teens) and oncology (working with cancer patients).

Advanced-practice nurses diagnose and treat illnesses and provide health care. Most are also certified to prescribe medication.

“I can't call the doctors at the hospital for every decision I need to make. I was hired to make these decisions by myself.” Joan, Nurse Practitioner

Are You Ready To...?

  • Take an extra two or three years of postgraduate study to specialize
  • Pass a specialty test in addition to the National Council Licensure Exam
  • Examine and counsel patients
  • Diagnose health problems
  • Write prescriptions
  • Observe rigid guidelines to protect yourself and others against disease and work-related dangers
  • Possibly start your own practice

It Helps To Be...

Caring, sympathetic, detail oriented, and able to make quick, logical decisions. You must be able to cope with emergencies, stress, and suffering -- and remain levelheaded all the while. You'll encourage patients to get well and, sometimes, help them to let go.

Make High School Count

  • Take plenty of challenging math and science courses all through high school.
  • Enhance your communication skills through English composition, drama, and speech classes.
  • Study a foreign language so you’ll be able to reach out and communicate with different communities and patients.
  • Volunteer at a health clinic, a hospital, a women’s clinic, or an eldercare facility.

Did You Know?

Certified registered nurse anesthetists are advanced-practice nurses who give anesthesia to patients, ensuring that they feel no pain or discomfort during surgery.