Nurse Practitioners – Caring for the Future

by Tony Wendel

January 16, 2019

Being a nurse means you have a versatile career that offers many avenues for advancement. One such path is becoming a nurse practitioner. Because it’s an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) position, working as a nurse practitioner means more responsibility, additional education requirements, and a higher salary.

What Does a Nurse Practitioner Do?

Autonomously and in collaboration with health care professionals and other individuals, nurse practitioners provide a full range of primary, acute, and specialty health care services, including:

  • Ordering, performing, and interpreting diagnostic tests such as lab work and x-rays.
  • Diagnosing and treating acute and chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, infections, and injuries.
  • Prescribing medications and other treatments.
  • Managing patients' overall care.
  • Counseling.
  • Educating patients on disease prevention and positive health and lifestyle choices.
Nurse practitioners are licensed in all states and the District of Columbia, and they practice under the rules and regulations of the state in which they are licensed. They provide high-quality care in rural, urban, and suburban communities, and work in many types of settings including clinics, hospitals, emergency rooms, urgent care sites, private physician or nurse practitioner practices, nursing homes, schools, colleges, and public health departments.

Nurse practitioners have what’s referred to as “full practice authority” in 22 states (including Oregon) and the District of Columbia, meaning that they do not have to work under the supervision of a doctor. In the remaining states, however, while nurse practitioners still have more authority than registered nurses, they must have a medical doctor sign on certain patient care decisions.

Nevertheless, nurse practitioners are increasingly becoming integral to medical teams as more and more hospitals and healthcare facilities utilize their expertise. Their experience as working nurses gives them a unique approach to patient care, while their advanced studies qualify them to take on additional duties that are usually left to physicians. As clinicians that blend clinical expertise in diagnosing and treating health conditions with an added emphasis on disease prevention and health management, nurse practitioners bring a comprehensive perspective and personal touch to health care.

Requirements for Nurse Practitioners

In order to work as a nurse practitioner, you must first become a practicing registered nurse. All nurse practitioners must complete a master's or doctoral degree program, and have advanced clinical training beyond their initial professional registered nurse preparation.

Prerequisites for licensure in Oregon for nurse practitioners are:
  1. Current registered nurse license in Oregon.
  2. Master’s Degree in Nursing.
  3. Completion of a Nurse Practitioner program specific to the specialty role/category.
  4. Meet practice and continuing education requirements for renewal.
Oregon recognizes the following classifications and scopes of practice:
  • Adult Nurse Practitioner
  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Nurse Midwife Nurse Practitioner
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Geriatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner
Employment and Wages for Nurse Practitioners in Oregon

In 2017, there were 1,762 Oregonians employed as nurse practitioners with about half working in the Portland Tri-County area (Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas counties). About 57 percent of nurse practitioners worked in the ambulatory health care services subsector, which includes doctor’s offices and other practices providing mainly outpatient services. Another 23 percent were employed in hospitals.

The 2018 annual average wage for nurse practitioners in Oregon was $114,624, which was nearly $24,500 above the annual average wage for registered nurses. However, wages vary significantly depending on where a nurse practitioner practices. The annual average wage for nurse practitioners ranges from a high of $128,202 in Lane County to a low of $82,646 in the Eastern Six area (Baker, Grant, Harney, Malheur, Union, and Wallowa counties). The table below includes wage ranges for different areas of the state for which we have publishable wage information for nurse practitioners.
Outlook for Nurse Practitioners

The Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the employment of nurse practitioners is projected to grow 36 percent nationally from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations. Growth will occur because of an increase in demand for healthcare services. Several factors will contribute to this demand, including an increased emphasis on preventive care and demand for healthcare services from the aging population.

According to the Oregon Employment Department’s 2017 to 2027 Occupational Employment Projections, employment for nurse practitioners in Oregon is expected to grow at a rate of 35 percent, far faster than the 12 percent growth for all occupations in Oregon. About half of that growth is expected in the Portland Tri-County area, mirroring the current employment situation mentioned earlier in this article.

Overall, job opportunities for nurse practitioners are likely to be excellent. Nurse practitioners will be in high demand, especially in medically underserved areas such as inner cities and rural areas.

 


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