Nurse practitioners are highly trained health care professionals with substantial responsibilities in delivering patient care, managing teams of other health care workers and developing policy for private and governmental organizations. A nurse practitioner has a graduate degree in nursing and can perform tasks such as diagnosing illnesses, writing prescriptions, performing physical examinations and taking patient tissue samples. Even though a nurse practitioner is a graduate-level qualification, students in high school can begin laying a foundation for this career through their choice of courses.
Nurse Practitioner Programs
Entry to a nurse practitioner program at a university requires a bachelor’s degree in nursing and, for some programs, the completion of the Graduate Record Examination. Nurse practitioner programs build upon the foundation of nursing knowledge built in the bachelor’s program and allow students to specialize in areas such as cardiology, family care, geriatrics, oncology and pediatrics. While these programs allow students to specialize, the fundamentals of nursing education are common to all practice areas, and students can begin building these foundations in their high school education.
One of the biggest differences between a nurse practitioner program and nursing programs at the bachelor’s or associate level is that students are exposed to more scientific research studies that require them to have a strong knowledge of statistical methods. Some programs require advanced courses in statistical analysis or incorporate research methods into the nursing classes. To prepare for this coursework, high school students should take courses such as pre-algebra, algebra 1, algebra 2 and statistics, if available. These courses will give them a strong foundation in mathematics and expose them to the vocabulary and methods of statistical analysis.
Chemistry and Biology
Two important prerequisites for nearly all nursing classes in bachelor’s and master’s programs are chemistry and biology. These classes expose students to cellular biology, biological systems and chemical reactions while also developing their skills in good laboratory practice. These courses are prerequisites for courses such as physiology, biochemistry and pharmacology, which are typical requirements for bachelor's and master's nursing programs. Most high schools offer classes in biology and chemistry with a laboratory component that students can take in preparation for the courses in a nursing program.
Nurse practitioners have substantial responsibilities outside of directly delivering patient care, such as personnel management and policy development, which require high levels of judgment and analytical thinking. Master’s level nursing courses that help prepare students for this require a strong background in writing and critical thinking. To start building this foundation and preparing for this coursework in high school, students should take classes in the social sciences, such as history, sociology or psychology.
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