4 reasons to become a nurse practitioner
Considering a career as a nurse practitioner (NP)? The future is bright in this field for advanced practice nurses who perform many of the tasks usually handled by physicians.
Here, two nurse practitioners describe why the vocation is rewarding and how NPs can make a difference in people’s lives:
The job outlook for nurse practitioners is rosy, with positions expected to nearly double between 2008 and 2025, according to RAND Corp.
“The new health care law [Affordable Care Act] is going to demand more nurse practitioners in every area of the country,” says Judith Latner, MS, an instructor in the family nurse practitioner program at the Southern California Campus, who also works in private practice.
She notes that nurse practitioners who want to work in underserved areas — rural and inner cities — are in especially high demand. “We don’t have enough [primary care] providers to fulfill current needs,” she says, “let alone the expanded patient base that is coming.”
This is a job with a high level of responsibility, says Cynthia Sanchez, MS, a women’s health nurse practitioner who teaches in the University’s nursing program. “I was originally attracted by the autonomy,” she notes. “I think that nurses who want to take a more [independent] role and who enjoy decision-making … would enjoy being an NP.”
Latner says she was inspired to become a nurse practitioner after seeing so many overwhelmed parents and physicians in training when she worked in a pediatric intensive care unit.
“As a mentor and experienced nurse on the unit, I asked myself, ‘Why am I explaining [how] to do this to a [medical] resident? Why don’t I just earn the right to do it myself?’” She says she draws on her years of nursing experience and her NP training when making treatment decisions for her patients, instead of having to rely on physicians.
Accordingly, nurse practitioners’ higher level of education and responsibility also command higher pay, with a median salary of more than $90,000 annually, compared with about $60,000 for registered nurses.
As an NP, Sanchez says, patients view her as their clinician and treat her much the same way as they would a doctor. She notes that she finds it satisfying to diagnose and treat patients.
Latner agrees. “Nurse practitioners don’t need supervising physicians [in most states],’’ she says, adding that she currently works for Medicare as a transitional nurse practitioner treating patients in their homes, as well as in hospitals and skilled nursing facilities.
“As part of the transitional team,” she explains, “I may be called upon to see patients of any age, any diagnosis and anywhere in our area of service.”
Latner provides preventive care and wellness screenings to improve the overall health of the elderly in her community, which helps lower health care costs, she notes. Nurse practitioners, she says, are an ideal fit for this sort of program because they are trained in patient education and communication.
“I call my current position a triple win,” Latner says. “My hospital wins since I help reduce costs, the patients win by being healthier and having their questions answered, and I win by having a job I absolutely love.”