Nurse practitioners, also known as advanced practice nurses, are required to have a Master of Science in Nursing, or MSN, degree to work in the field. Prior to earning the master’s degree, the nurse practitioner must have a bachelor’s degree, typically in nursing. However, the master’s degree can be completed with a bachelor’s degree in another field. The time it takes to complete the master’s degree is doubled if that is the case. Either way, nurse practitioners must have extensive science background but must also be well-rounded in other areas.
Life Science Courses
Nurse practitioners must have a solid understanding of the life sciences and are required to take many courses in this area while in their undergraduate and graduate training. High school students with an interest in this career field should take as many courses in the life sciences as possible. The most common life science courses found at the high school level include biology, microbiology, anatomy, genetics, physiology, nutrition and health sciences.
Physical Science Courses
Physical sciences are also beneficial to would-be nurse practitioners. Chemistry in particular is helpful since these courses are also usually required at the college level. Nurse practitioners also prescribe medication, so a strong understanding of chemical processes in the body is necessary. Physics is sometimes required in nursing programs, so a physics course could prove to be helpful as well.
Social Science Courses
Social sciences, such as law, education, sociology and history, may not seem like typical nursing courses, but courses in social sciences help nurses gain a broader world view, which is increasingly important in today’s diverse society. Nurses are expected to be compassionate and understanding to people from all walks of life, all demographics and all education levels and income levels. Courses in the social sciences help the nurse understand humans and human nature.
Behavioral Science Courses
Psychology, sometimes classified as a social science, is also one of the behavioral sciences that future nurse practitioners may find useful. Psychology is the study of behavior. Behavior often shapes our overall health, either directly or indirectly. Nurse practitioners who understand this can develop a more holistic approach to treating their patients. Most high schools offer basic psychology courses.
The National Associate of Nurse Practitioner Faculties published a list of core competencies that all nurse practitioners should have. A few of those non-science-related competencies included leadership, ethics, and technology. Strong verbal and written communications skills are also essential. Courses in computer science, business, and communications can provide the skills needed to achieve these competencies at an early age.
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