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How to Become a Nurse Practitioner

Nursing students smiling at the camera

Nurses are the backbone of health institutions. If you desire to learn how to become a nurse practitioner, you will train in illness prevention, health promotion, diagnosing, and health management for individuals, families, and communities. 

Family nurse practitioners are in high demand. Job growth for nurse practitioners is over five times the national average.

The duties of a nurse include:

  • Monitoring patients
  • Recording patient health history
  • Maintaining patient records
  • Supervising and consulting
  • Assisting primary caregivers with examinations and treatments
  • Communicating with families and patients

What is the Difference Between a Nurse and a Nurse Practitioner?

To become a registered nurse (RN), students will need to earn at least an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN). A Licensed Practical Nursing certificate requires about two college semesters. 

These could be called “normal” nursing jobs.

However, these certificates only grant a student a license, not a degree. Job opportunities can be limited with only RN or ADN credentials. Nurse practitioners are paid much more and work directly with primary caregivers. Nurse practitioners may even prescribe medication.  

Most often, healthcare employers today expect the nurses they hire to have advanced degrees or experience. That is why the nursing curriculum at St. Thomas University includes the Bachelors as well as the Masters degrees. 

These are called Bachelors and Masters of Science in Nursing Degrees. (BSN and MSN)

How to Become a Nurse Practitioner: Classes

Nursing students studying for a test

Intro Classes

As you might expect, an education in nursing is hands-on. All students are required to perform clinical rotations and complete a total of 500 clinical hours for graduation.

Core classes such as Biology and Psychology are not always required for students with relevant degrees. To access more information about how you can become a nurse practitioner and how St. Thomas University’s program matches with your needs, visit our program page.

The job of a nurse is actually much more social than most people expect. Core courses in english and psychology prepare the students for the real world where they will have to educate families about how to care for their loved one, accurately explain life-sustaining treatments and procedures, and care for people in frail conditions.

Some of these classes are:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Psychology
  • College Math
  • English

Advanced Classes

The theory you learn while getting your degree is not everything, but it makes up a huge part of what distinguishes a professional nurse from a caretaker. Philosophy of Nursing is taught to sophomores and juniors as a means to maintain the legacy of the profession while facing the future. 

The most important philosophies that nurses must become familiar with are scientific method, the philosophy of care, and theory development.

St. Thomas University strives to provide students with an education that acts as a basis for professionalism, prudent care, and evidence-based decision-making. Nurse practitioners must apply this theory when they are caring for patients in unstable conditions or during what are called “med passes.” 

This is when a nurse practitioner goes through their patient list administering medications and helping those who require assistance for activities of daily living (ADL). 

These are a few of the classes students take when they are ready to start becoming nurses:

  • Philosophical & Theoretical, Evidence-Based Research Basis of Nursing
  • Advanced Pathophysiology
  • Advanced Health Assessment
  • Diversity in Advanced Health Practice
  • Advanced FNP: Children & Families
  • Advanced FNP: Women’s Health

A Day in the Life of a Nurse

There is no typical day for a nurse. While there are routine activities and tasks, each day is a different experience, since each patient has their own individual needs.

7 – 10 a.m. 

Mornings are a very busy time of the day for nurses.

A nurse’s workdays last between 8 and 12 hours. Most nurses are either night owls or early birds. In the case of morning shifters, a nurse is expected to arrive at the healthcare facility of choice around 7 a.m. to relieve the night shift. 

The first thing morning-shift nurses will do is discuss patients with their colleagues on night-shift duty. This conversation should cover any changes in admissions or health status. 

The reason why we often feel sicker at night is because that is when our immune systems are most active. This means inflammation increases at night and so do many disruptive symptoms. 

Because of this, the health condition of overnight inpatients can be unstable. One of the first things a nurse must do when he or she gets into work in the morning is re-evaluate the status of the patients. 

1 p.m.

By this time, there are many patients who arrived at night or in the morning and others who will have just arrived. This is prime time for charting and organizing hospital space. 

A huge part of the job of a nurse is to educate patients about their diagnosis. This begins in the morning but continues throughout the day. 

Since this is when family members can be expected to make a visit, the afternoon is the time of day nurses speak with friends and family of patients about the needs of their loved one.

6 p.m.

The last thing nurses must do during a shift is make sure their charts are up-to-date and neat.

Get Started on Your Career Path

A nurse writing on a clipboard

“Over 40% of Florida’s nurses are approaching retirement age within the next ten years, and they are not being replaced with an increase in young nurses. This is partly due to a lack of nursing programs to prepare new nurses; 46,000 applicants nationwide have been turned away from nursing schools because of lack of educational capacity. “

— Florida Center for Nursing, 2014

Nurse practitioners are a primary physician’s right arm. The nurse practitioner is called that because he or she is legally empowered to practice independently from the physician. 

To become a nurse practitioner, students will continue education after receiving their Bachelors to earn a master’s degree in nursing or Doctorate of Nursing Practice. There are many fields a nurse practitioner can take up. These include:

  • Cardiovascular Nursing
  • Community Health Nursing
  • Critical Care Nursing
  • Critical Care Pediatric Nursing
  • Emergency Nursing

Find out how you can get started on your journey to an exciting and rewarding career by learning more about our program and applying today.

Michelle Tulande

Author Michelle Tulande

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