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Nurse practitioners are medical professionals who are registered nurses and also have specialized advanced education in the treatment of a range of medical conditions. Nurse practitioners generally have a master's degree in their area of expertise. A nurse practitioner may have many roles in medical care, including health evaluation, diagnoses, prescribing medications, and giving individualized medical advice. Nurse practitioners' duties may include the following:

* Collaboration with physicians or other health professionals
* Counseling and educating patients.
* Managing diagnostic studies (e.g. x-rays, EKGs)
* Prescribing physical therapy and other rehabilitation treatments
* Prescribing medications
* Child health care
* Minor surgeries and/or procedures
* Treatment of non-life-threatening acute and chronic illness (e.g. diabetes)

Two common types of nurse practitioners are family nurse practitioners and psychiatric nurse practitioners. Family nurse practitioner programs are becoming increasingly popular as the need for available and affordable medical professionals rises. Many families have a family nurse practitioner who provides health maintenance, such as annual physicals, screening for illness, and child health care. Child health care often includes screening and immunizations.

Psychiatric nurse practitioners, sometimes referred to as mental health nurse practitioners, are often involved in the treatment of depression, anxiety and addiction. They may offer therapy, referrals to treatment programs, medications and other health services. They may counsel those who suffer from behavioral problems, offering them guidance, life skills and treatment options.


In 23 states, nurse practitioners are autonomous and can open their own practice. In all fifty states, nurse practitioners may work in the following institutions:

* Hospitals
* Public health clinics
* Home health care agencies
* Health maintenance organizations (HMOs)
* Nursing Homes
* Nursing schools
* Hospice clinics
* School clinics
* Walk-in clinics
* Veterans Administration

Nurse practitioners must be licensed in order to practice. First, they must complete the education and training required to be a registered nurse. This requires the completion of a diploma program, an Associate's Degree in nursing or a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing. These programs may range from 2 to 4 years. In most states a master degree is required to become a nurse practitioner. After obtaining the required degree, the candidate must complete a state-approved advanced nursing education program. Then the candidate applies for a license through The State Board of Nursing. The criteria for a license vary from state to state but generally include a master's degree and certification by an organization such as the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners or the American Nurses Credentialing Center. After receiving state licensing, a nurse practitioner may apply for national certification from one of the following organizations:

* American Association of Critical-Care Nurses
* American Psychiatric Nursing Association
* Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing
* National Certification Board of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners and Nurses
* Nation Certification Corporation for the Obstetric, gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing Specialties
* Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation
* American Holistic Nurses Association

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