Are you feeling unfulfilled? Do you want to do something more meaningful and noble with your time? Are you ready to give up your day job and help people and provide care and support to your community? If so, then becoming a nurse practitioner may be the type of rewarding career you are looking for.

Whether you have nursing experience or not, if you have the minimum requirements to get into the program, then you could be on your way to getting an advanced degree as a nurse practitioner. When you help people for a living, you open yourself up to a feeling of fulfillment and confidence that you are spending your life in the service of others.

Becoming a nurse practitioner requires a high level of commitment, dedication and ability, so there are a few questions you should ask yourself before making the commitment to pursue a nurse practitioner degree:

  • Do I enjoy helping people?
  • Do I want to work in the healthcare field?
  • Can I see myself being responsible for a patient’s care?
  • Do I have a Bachelor of Arts?
  • Can I commit the time needed to learn this rewarding career?

If you answer yes to these questions, then read the following to help you get started on your dynamic new career.

What is a nurse practitioner?

A nurse practitioner is a registered nurse with a higher degree of education and training who can prescribe medication, diagnose illness, and order additional testing if required. A nurse practitioner is at a much higher level than a registered nurse. A nurse practitioner can earn more a year because of the level of education and certification it requires. In some cases, the organization that hires you will also pay for you to upgrade your certification or pay for previous courses. Nurse practitioners are leaders in their industry and well-respected members of the healthcare community.

Steps to becoming a nurse practitioner

When looking at how to become a nurse practitioner, there are several steps, starting with becoming a registered nurse.

Become a registered nurse

Before you become a nurse practitioner, you will need to get your nursing degree. There are levels of nursing degrees that you can pursue, but the bare minimum requirement is a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). If you don’t have a BSN but you have a bachelor’s degree in another field, then you can apply for an accelerated BSN program or enter the Master’s Entry in Nursing Practice (MENP).

Both are available as accelerated programs with Elmhurst University. The benefit of this program is that you can take it online and do the coursework at your own pace at times of the day that suit your schedule. This is the first step towards your goal of becoming a nurse practitioner, so the faster you can achieve it, the quicker you can move on to the next step.

There are two avenues to take when looking to get your BSN.

Online accelerated BSN

  • Earn your degree in 16 months – when you do the accelerated program with Elmhurst University, you will have the opportunity to take a caseload that allows you to earn your degree in a little over a year.
  • Support of online academic advisors from the time you apply to the time you graduate – these advisors are available to you until the moment you graduate to help you with any questions about the program.
  • Learn with an accredited program – accreditation by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) ranked as a leading university in the Midwest by US News and World Report.
  • Simulated residency experience – experience what it is like in a real healthcare environment with simulated scenarios performed by experienced faculty.

Program requirements

You need to:

  • Have a BA in any field from an accredited educational institution.
  • Have a GPA of 2.8 or above.
  • Complete the requisite courses necessary for the Bachelor of Science with a minimum C average.
  • Meet the health requirements set out by the educational institution.
  • Meet the functional abilities as set out by the educational institution.
  • Demonstrate skills to engage in essential practices deemed necessary for the function of being a nurse.
  • Demonstrate cognitive, motor, affective, physical and social abilities as set out by the institution and any other skills deemed necessary to performing the role of nurse.

Online Master’s Entry in Nursing Practice (MENP)

This program is a little more intense than the accelerated BSN and takes 20 months to complete. It is strongly suggested that you focus on your studies 100% and not work full-time or part-time. The course is entirely online, and you will be able to get help from your professors and advisors whenever you need it. You don’t need to have any previous nursing experience, but there are some prerequisites to getting in. Requirements to be accepted into the MENP program include:

  • Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution.
  • GPA of 3.2 or higher.
  • Any courses that come as a prerequisite.
  • You must reside in a state that is approved for this program.

Much the same as the BSN, students need to:

  • Meet the health requirements set out by the educational institution.
  • Meet the functional abilities as set out by the educational institution.
  • Demonstrate skills to engage in essential practices deemed necessary for the function of being a nurse.
  • Demonstrate cognitive, motor, affective, physical and social abilities as set out by the institution and any other skills deemed necessary to performing the role of nurse.

This program does require some prerequisite courses to move forward, and you will be able to speak to an academic advisor who can guide you through the process of getting these credits. Prerequisites include:

  • Anatomy and Physiology I & II
  • General Chemistry
  • Microbiology
  • Intro to Psychology or Sociology
  • Statistics

These credits are important to have before starting the program as you will need to have demonstrated knowledge in these areas to proceed with the MENP. These credits must have been acquired within the last five years prior to registering for the program.

Clinical placement

A clinical placement is part of the MENP program and consists of going out into the field where you will use what you have been taught on real patients under the supervision of a professional. The placement is chosen for you by the faculty so that you can concentrate on your studies. The clinical placement is under the guidance of a registered nurse (RN) and can require students to work a shift of 12 hours or less. This placement gives you the real-world experience of what it is like to be an RN in the healthcare industry. There are some background checks and skills assessments done before a placement is put in place.

Take the NCLEX-RN exam to get your license

Once you have acquired your MENP, you must then pass the examination to get your license to start working as an RN. The National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) is a national board exam that graduates with BSNs or MSNs must pass in order to be employed as an RN.

There are sites that will help you study for your exams and offer other interesting information. The most useful pointers come from actual RNs who have passed the test and can give an accurate account of what to expect. There are courses much like MCAT preparatory courses that will offer simulated tests to get you ready for writing the actual exam.

The NCLEX-RN exam focuses on four client needs categories.

1. Safe, effective care environment

This category is split into two sections:

  • Management of client care that is integrated and cost-effective while collaborating with all the members of the healthcare team. Special areas of knowledge include case management, ethical practices and client rights.
  • Safety and infection control – protecting all participants, patients and the healthcare team from environmental hazards, infectious materials, biohazards, virus and other dangers. This includes the use of precautions such as isolation techniques and restraints.

2. Health promotion and maintenance

This section deals with helping patients in every aspect of normal human evolution from conception to old age. Areas include aging, pre- and post-partum, maintenance of health, and preventative medicine. This section deals with preventing disease, promoting good health, offering programs that promote health and wellness, screening, vaccines, and offering advice on lifestyle to improve health.

3. Psychosocial integrity

This section promotes helping clients to cope with health situations as they come up and providing techniques to help deal with stressors. Specific areas include counseling techniques, mental health coping mechanisms, body image distortion, and other mental health issues. Knowledge in crisis intervention, and types of abuse such as elder, domestic violence, sexual and substance are key in this area.

4. Physiological integrity

This area contains several sub-categories:

  • Basic care and comfort – providing care and comfort in performing daily life activities. Knowledge in devices that assist in improving quality of life, such as those for mobility, waste, nutrition, hygiene and sleep. This is where the compassion and care that brought you to this vocation come into play.
  • Pharmacological and parenteral therapies – knowledge in managing and administering medications properly, such as blood, chemotherapy, intravenous medications and other fluids.
  • Reduction of risk potential – reducing the danger of complications from procedures or medications. Knowledge in diagnostics, labs, complications and procedures.
  • Physiological adaptation – this category deals with illness management, unexpected effects of treatments, fluid imbalances, and other effects that medication and environment have on physiology.

Get experience

Once you have received your license to be an RN, you are ready to get out in the field and experience what it is like. This is an important step because it will help you figure out what you might want to specialize in as a nurse practitioner and where your passions lie. Once you have completed the MENP, you have several options available of where you would like to work. You can start thinking about your career path as a nurse practitioner at this point. You may have already got a taste of what real-world experience is like from your placement.

Earn your post-graduate certificate in a nurse practitioner program

Once you have narrowed down the area you would like to practice in, you will need a degree in a nurse practitioner program in that area.

Some areas you can practice in include:

  • Women’s health nurse practitioner
  • Mental health nurse practitioner
  • Family health nurse practitioner
  • Acute care nurse practitioner

Pass the Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Certification Exam

Now that you have earned the post-graduate degree needed, you must pass the exam that will officially make you a nurse practitioner. The Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Certification Exam (APRN) is the last step in a long and rewarding journey to becoming a leader in the healthcare industry.

What are the benefits of being a nurse practitioner?


Nurse practitioners play vital roles in all areas of the healthcare industry. They don’t just treat patients and assist doctors, but also have the independence to make decisions that positively affect the health of their patients. When you embark on this journey as a nurse practitioner, you can feel secure knowing that you are an important part of your community, and that your role is crucial. With the problems facing the world especially in public health, nurse practitioners are invaluable members of the healthcare system.


A nurse practitioner is different from a nurse in that there is a lot of autonomy to the job. The role requires a nursing degree as a foundation to get advanced degrees and certificates to be able to provide a much wider range of health services than a nurse. This means that the nurse practitioner does not need to be always under direct supervision of a doctor and can make decisions regarding diagnostics and care. Nurse practitioners can prescribe medications and diagnostic tests on their own, and they treat more than 1 billion patients a year in the US.


Nurse practitioners are poised for leadership roles within the healthcare system – so much so that there is an advanced degree called Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) that teaches fundamentals of the roles, such as:

  • Coordinating care
  • Measuring outcomes
  • Transition care
  • Assessing risk
  • Implementation of best practices
  • Improving quality of care

Job diversity

  • Surgery centers – a surgical nurse practitioner has many important duties such as answering patients’ questions about the surgical procedure, assisting in the operating room, monitoring vitals in all stages of surgery from pre-op to post-op, and giving medication.
  • Hospitals – nurse practitioners collaborate with the rest of the medical staff in matters of patient care, prescribe medications, and order and interpret diagnostic tests.
  • Private clinics – nurse practitioners can prescribe medication and other patient treatments as needed, diagnose illness and order tests.
  • Long-term care facilities – nurse practitioners update residents’ families on their plans of care and keep them apprised of how their loved one is doing. They are involved in collaborating with the rest of the care staff in finding new and innovative ways to enhance care, such as virtual visits.
  • Substance abuse centers – nurse practitioners identify substance abuse issues and address patients’ needs. They are responsible for screenings, providing services effective for curbing substance abuse, and arranging interventions.
  • Correctional facilities – collaborate and assist medical staff when there are inmates in distress. They are also trained to recognize inmate aggression and alert other medical staff when they believe that there will be an escalation in behavior.
  • Schools – nurse practitioners perform routine wellness checks on students and can prescribe medications as needed. They can order tests and treat conditions such as mental health, allergies and asthma.
  • Public health departments – nurse practitioners can diagnose illness, prescribe medications, and order tests and treatments as needed.
  • Hospice – nurse practitioners’ high level of medical knowledge allows them to act as a representative for their patients and update their care as needed. They bring a level of compassion to their dealings with patients and their families.
  • Psychiatric facilities – this role is called a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) and requires great compassion and medical knowledge in mental health. These nurse practitioners provide therapy to patients with mental health issues, as well as prescribing medications and other treatments.

It is suggested that we are going to reach a crisis point in our healthcare system where nurses are going to be in high demand and short supply. Becoming a nurse practitioner means that you are entering the dynamic field of healthcare as a highly knowledgeable, autonomous individual, who has the capabilities to diagnose illness and prescribe appropriate treatments.

When you embark on an exciting new chapter of your life and decide to become a nurse practitioner, you are committing to a process of higher education that is fulfilling and rewarding. Starting with getting your Bachelor’s in Science and ending with passing your certification to be a nurse practitioner, every step along the way increases your knowledge and compassion. With programs available from schools such as Elmhurst University, you can progress through some of these steps faster with online courses and accelerated programs.