Jobs at Sharp
Nurse Practitioner and Physician Assistant Career Paths
What is a nurse practitioner?
Nurse practitioners (NPs) are registered nurses who are prepared, through advanced education and clinical training, to provide a wide range of preventive and acute health care services to individuals of all ages. NPs complete graduate-level education preparation that leads to a master's degree. NPs take health histories and provide complete physical examinations; diagnose and treat many common acute and chronic problems; interpret laboratory results and X-rays; prescribe and manage medications and other therapies; provide health teaching and supportive counseling with an emphasis on prevention of illness and health maintenance; and refer patients to other health professionals as needed. NPs are authorized to practice across the nation and have prescriptive privileges, of varying degrees, in 49 states.
How do I become a nurse practitioner?
NPs complete a master's or doctoral degree program. This means that NPs earn a bachelor's degree in nursing, then their graduate NP degree (MSN or DNP). An NP program provides the knowledge and clinical skills needed by NPs to perform as independent health care providers. Didactic and clinical courses prepare nurses with specialized knowledge and clinical competency to practice in primary care, acute care and long-term care. Self-directed continued learning and professional development beyond the formal advanced education are essential to maintain clinical competency.
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Nurse practitioner programs and requirements.
Typical requirements include a BSN from an accredited nursing school, an RN license, minimum GPA and GRE scores, and some period of clinical work experience. Each school has its specific requirements, so contact the nursing program directly before applying.
What is a direct entry MSN program?
Direct entry MSN programs, also called "graduate entry" or "master's entry" programs, are designed for non-nurses who hold bachelors' degrees in non-nursing fields. These programs give students credit for having completed their liberal arts requirements and allow them to complete an abbreviated schedule of undergraduate nursing course work before moving directly into graduate nursing course work — combining preparation for RN-licensure with advanced training in a master's specialty area. Direct entry MSN programs typically require three years to complete, with the first year being devoted to entry-level nursing course work and the last two years to master's-level study. A variation of the direct entry MSN is the accelerated MSN. Although the terms "direct entry MSN" and "accelerated MSN" are sometimes used interchangeably, some accelerated MSN programs may be completed in two academic years, rather than three.
What is a physician assistant?
Physician assistants (PAs) are licensed to practice medicine with the supervision of a physician. PAs are trained in intensive accredited education programs that use the medical model. Upon graduation, physician assistants take a national certification examination; graduation from an accredited physician assistant program and passage of the national certifying exam are required for state licensure. As part of their comprehensive responsibilities, PAs conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, counsel on preventive health care, assist in surgery and write prescriptions. Within the physician-PA relationship, physician assistants exercise autonomy in medical decision making and provide a broad range of diagnostic and therapeutic services. A PAs practice may also include education, research and administrative services.
What is the difference between an NP and a PA?
While NPs and PAs often perform similar functions, there are important distinctions between these health care professionals. NPs may work independently or in collaboration with a physician and must have an RN license before being accepted into an NP educational program. Almost all NPs are educationally prepared at the master's level. NPs are authorized to practice as advanced practice nurses by individual state regulating boards. NPs assess patients, make diagnoses and determine treatment plans. Aspects of the role may include autonomous practice, collaboration with physicians and prescriptive authority.