Duties and Responsibilities of Nurse Practitioners

When asked to name a type of frontline healthcare professional, most people will say doctor. The rest will probably say nurse. While doctors and nurses are the most commonly known types of frontline healthcare professionals, they aren’t the only ones. Others include physician assistants, pharmacists, and nurse practitioners.

Generally speaking, nurse practitioners are part-doctor and part-nurse. In fact, virtually every nurse practitioner was once a registered nurse. Due to the relatively fast turnaround time from school to certification compared to doctors and the resulting affordability from the point of view of healthcare facilities, nurse practitioners are in high demand.

For those interested in entering the healthcare profession, pursuing a career as a nurse practitioner could be the right decision. The academic process is not nearly as long and strenuous as medical school, nor is it as expensive. All the while, the high demand for licensed NPs means employment opportunities are plentiful. It all adds up to being a rewarding as well as a lucrative career.

But what do nurse practitioners do, exactly? To provide a sufficient explanation, we must first look at what it takes to become a licensed NP:


Those looking to become nurse practitioners must first earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and become registered nurses. While it’s theoretically possible to transition directly to NP certification, it’s considered ideal for aspiring NPs to work as RNs for at least two years.

The next step is to go to graduate school and earn a master’s in an NP-related program. The most common is the doctoral nursing program. Upon graduation, you’ll need to pass a national nurse practitioner certification exam.

By then, you should be thinking about which specialization you prefer. That’s because you’ll want to go for specialized certification rather than go back and retake the test at a later date. For instance, if you want to become a family nurse practitioner (FNP), you’ll want to take an FNP review course before your exam. That way, you gain specialized certification right out of the gate.

Employment outlook

Demand for nurse practitioners is expected to grow dramatically over the next decade. It’s estimated there will be 29,400 job openings each year for the next ten years. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for NPs in the United States is $123,780 per year. That breaks down to $59.51 per hour.

Now that we have that out of the way, it’s time to dive into the duties and responsibilities of nurse practitioners:

Physical examinations

Many nurse practitioners handle the physical exam tasks once performed by doctors. Once the nurse checks your vitals and asks a series of basic questions, the NP will come in and probe further. If they’re unsure of what’s wrong, they consult the doctor on duty. But chances are the NP will get to the bottom of the problem via physical examination. While the doctor will make the official diagnosis, that decision will be mostly based on the assessment of the NP.

Write prescriptions

While it varies from state to state, most NPs have the authority to prescribe medication to patients. This is perhaps the greatest distinction between registered nurses and nurse practitioners. RNs cannot prescribe medicine, but most NPs can. This effectively gives doctors more time to work on more pressing issues than writing prescriptions for patients.

Diagnostic testing

When an NP is stumped, they often consult the doctor on duty. However, they may decide to authorize or conduct diagnostic testing in order to get a better sense of what’s wrong. In theory, a patient may only see the doctor once for a few minutes while the NP handles the bulk of the responsibility in diagnosing and treating patients.

Care plan development

Nurse practitioners have the power to devise and authorize various treatment plans for patients. They also have the authority to make medical recommendations to patients regarding lifestyle in an effort to help them achieve better health and wellness. Again, the doctor will always have the final say, but the doctor will typically allow their NPs to call the shots unless the situation is life-threatening or especially complex.

When it comes to frontline medical workers, MDs and RNs get most of the credit. While that credit is deserved, it fails to consider the other healthcare professionals working to help patients, like nurse practitioners. They’re one of the unsung heroes of modern medicine. But in due time, they’ll get the recognition they deserve.

4 In-Demand Jobs in the Healthcare Industry

When it comes to job growth, health care is one of the industries that are expected to grow like crazy over the next few years. The growth comes from the increase in population and a greater emphasis on wellness and health.  

With a growing industry, the need for professionals also increases. Whether you’re unsure of what career to pursue or are looking at what you should specialize in, there are a lot of opportunities out there. Here are some health care professions that you can get into. 

If any of these careers interest you, you can utilize tools such as those offered by Proactive Healthcare Recruiters to quickly find a job in your desired specialization. 

1. Registered Nurse

There is a huge demand for compassionate, competent, and qualified nurses in the health care field. Registered nurses, commonly known as RNs, coordinate and provide patient care, record their medical data, perform diagnostic tests, assess patient condition, operate and monitor medical equipment, and educate patients on proper follow-up care. RNs are needed in virtually every medical facility. These places include home health care services, schools, nursing homes, doctors’ offices, clinics, health-focused government agencies, and hospitals. 

To become a registered nurse, you usually need to get either a certificate from an accredited nursing program, an associate degree in nursing, or a bachelor’s degree in nursing. No matter which state you live in, you’ll need to get the proper license; although, the requirements vary by state. If you pursue nursing, you can expect to make a median salary of $68,450. 

2. Nurse Practitioner

A step up from an RN is becoming a nurse practitioner. This profession is midway between being a physician and a registered nurse. As a nurse practitioner, you’ll perform all of the standard nursing duties as well as have the ability to coordinate primary patient care, order tests, develop treatment plans for patients, and prescribe medications. 

To become a nurse practitioner, you have to obtain a master’s degree or higher in an advanced nursing program. You’ll also need to pass a national exam. Be sure to check the requirements and policies on nurse practitioners as they vary from state to state. You can expect to make a median salary of $107,460. 

3. Home Health Aide

Home health aides travel to patients’ homes to take care of their daily living and medical needs. These patients typically suffer from a chronic illness or are elderly who are not living in assisted living facilities. If you pursue a career as an aide, your duties will include checking vitals, helping with walking, dressing, using the bathroom, leaving the house, and dressing, and administering treatments or medications. This job, in particular, is growing quickly as older adults seek to stay in their own home as they age. 

To become a home health aide, you have to have a high school diploma or a certificate of equivalent value. Most home health agencies provide their employees with on-the-job training for their aides, though having a background in health care or medical terminology may be helpful in further advancing your career. You can expect to make a median salary of $22,170 in this career. 

4. Dental Hygienist

The position of a dental hygienist is often overlooked in the medical field. They’re the ones who are doing the hard work during your dental appointments. Dental hygienists clean your teeth, evaluate signs of dental disease, assist dentists with procedures, take x-rays, apply treatments, and educate patients on proper dental care.  

To become a dental hygienist, you need to have an associate degree from an accredited dental program. As with all the other medical professions listed, you do need to be licensed, so check your state’s requirements. The median salary for this career is $72,910. 

The Bottom Line

If you’re looking to get into a field that is unlikely to face a downturn anytime soon, consider a career in health care. While it may be a scary journey, an opportunity in the health care industry might just be the right path for you.