Nurse practitioners help manage and improve patient health, observe patients and determine how to implement health promotion strategies into a patient's day-to-day life, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nurse practitioners may also have patient specialties, such as pediatric health, mental health and geriatric health.
Nurse practitioners work alongside health professionals, such as doctors, and suggest prescriptions and tests, explains the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Additional duties can be determined by state, and nurse practitioners are often able to work alone. While nurse practitioners generally work in physician offices, they are also employed in hospitals, outpatient care centers and colleges. Practitioners might also be required to travel, if there is a location that is understaffed.
As healthcare providers, nurse practitioners give consultations to patients and families on how to maintain good health and cope with medical problems. Nurse practitioners have areas of specialization in which they have extensive knowledge, enabling them to impart this knowledge to specific groups of patients. For instance, nurse practitioners who specialize in cardiology can provide counseling to patients with heart disorders, whereas nurse practitioners with pediatric accreditation can offer medical advice for children. Other common specialty roles of nurse practitioners are geriatrics, gynecology, oncology and psychiatry.
To become a nurse practitioner, a person first has to become a registered nurse before attaining a master's degree, notes ExploreHealthCareers.org. Practitioners often focus their academic studies on occupational health, pediatrics, gerontology and women's primary care. Students also have the option of selecting a subspecialty. While earning a degree, students usually study health sciences and the clinical management of health and illness. Depending on when a person chooses to become a nurse practitioner, she may be required to attain a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree, which can take as many as four years to earn.