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What does it take to be a nursing practitioner?

A guide to what a nursing practitioner does and the skills and qualifications needed to progress to this level.
Written on 8/20/13

What does it take to be a nursing practitioner?

Becoming a nurse practitioner involves dedication and an aptitude for patient care beyond the standard level of nursing. Prospective candidates for nurse practitioner jobs should hold an undergraduate degree in nursing and be a registered nurse - but are also required to complete a period of advanced or postgraduate study. Nursing practitioners are in high demand throughout the healthcare industry and cover a wide variety of administrative and technical duties on and off the ward - from Accident and Emergency, to Out-Patient care.

Why become a practitioner?

Advanced nurse practitioners deliver an extra degree of care to patients over and above that of a normal registered nurse. Practitioners offer specific treatment expertise for physical and mental conditions and an ability to provide a diagnosis or recommendation in certain circumstances. As a career, nursing stands out from other professions as an intense, demanding role with a high-level of job satisfaction.


Nursing practitioners must be registered nurses with up to date licenses - which means having academic training from a higher education institution. Nursing degrees are available in a large number of colleges and universities - which offer thousands of nurses a start in the healthcare industry each year. A typical course will last from four to five years and incorporate classroom theory with practical, hands-on training. While there is no minimum requirement for students applying for a nursing degree, students can bolster their application with volunteer work in local hospital wards.

Given the need for nurses in the UK, many hospitals and medical institutions provide places on academic courses to employees looking to make the transition into a patient care role.

Practitioner Training

Nursing practitioners will need to complete advanced studies in nursing before taking positions in the industry. Advanced study programmes are designed to prepare registered nurses for the demanding practical and administrative pressures of the practitioner role. As a practitioner, nurses will be expected to carry out conventional nursing duties, but also be able to co-ordinate with doctors, orient other staff members, handle wider patient needs and oversee the general nursing standards of the department in which they are working.

Nursing practitioners can specialise in certain areas as their career progresses - building on skills attained as registered nurses in areas like paediatrics, neonatology, cancer care or ophthalmology. Since practitioners are trained comprehensively in physical and mental treatments, they can work in every level of medical care - serving as a patient's primary healthcare provider and in secondary and tertiary capacities.

The time taken to qualify as a nurse practitioner varies: some courses may only take two to three years - but it is important to remember working nurses may need to study part time. In some medical institutions, nurses may be sponsored to go through advanced practitioner training by their employer.

Once qualified, nurse practitioners earn an average of £33,000 per year - while certain positions at the upper end of the scale reach £45,000. Like all nursing roles, practitioners may be expected to work long and demanding hours, dealing with a spectrum of patients and situations. Extensive travel may also be a requirement.