Nurse practitioners, or NPs, are registered nurses who have earned an advanced degree and received additional clinical training. Nurse practitioners can handle primary and acute health-care needs of patients of all ages. Illinois NPs often work independently and can prescribe medication as long as they have delegated prescriptive authority from the collaborating MD. Becoming a nurse practitioner is a challenging endeavor, but it is a job in great demand and vital to the health-care industry. NPs help save on health-care costs by reducing patients contact with physicians. If you want to become a nurse practitioner in Illinois, follow these guidelines:

1. Specialize in a specific field of nursing. Nurse practitioners must focus on a particular area of care. Most choose a field based on personal interest, but also mull job security and promotion potential when making their decisions. Specialties cover all areas of medicine, but some of the common fields NPs choose are:

  • Acute: Nursing that focuses on treating illnesses that are serious, but often are brief episodes.
  • Adult: Care for people who cannot be left alone because of health or emotional needs. Adult care is usually administered in a protective environment, like a nursing facility.
  • Emergency: Nurses who choose emergency care as their field of specialization often deal with victims of violence and people injured in accidents. Many of the patients they treat are suffering from injuries that are life-threatening.
  • Family practice: This is comprehensive care for people of all ages.
  • Geriatric: The focus of geriatric care is on older adults. It often is administered in long-term care facilities, like nursing homes, but can be provided at patients' homes. This field requires advanced study of geriatric diseases, like Alzheimer's.
  • Neonatal: Nurses who select neonatal medicine as their specialty provide care for newborns and infants that are facing health problems, often as a result of premature birth.
  • Occupational: People who suffer a traumatic event, whether physical or emotional, need specialized care. Occupational therapy strive to help patients regain their ability to function.
  • Oncology: Oncology nurses are trained to provide care for cancer patients, including emotional aspects of combating the disease.
  • Pediatric: This field focuses on supporting the physical and emotional development of children.
  • Women's health: This field of nursing aims to provide comprehensive care to women of all ages.

2. Earn a Master of Science in Nursing, or MSN, degree. Aspiring NPs must attend an accredited university and complete postgraduate nursing studies. Most programs require clinical training in a specialized field and at least 2 years of advanced study. The goal of the intensive program is to prepare nurses to provide comprehensive primary and specialty care. It also expands employment opportunities beyond that of nurse practitioner. MSN degree-holders can get managerial positions in health-care facilities and also can teach nursing. 

3. Become a certified Illinois nurse practitioner. NPs must be certified in their specialty by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, which is advised by the Illinois Board of Nursing. To become credentialed, nurses must take a licensing exam in their specialty offered by the American Nursing Association. After passing the exam, nurses earn the status of NP-C, or nurse practitioner-certified. This credential authorizes the holder to practice as an NP. In order to qualify for certification, candidates must:

  • Be an RN licensed in Illinois.
  • Have completed the required clinical training and postgraduate nursing-degree program.
  • Hold national certification in the field of nursing they have applied for.

4. Understand the requirements and responsibilities in becoming a nurse practitioner. Illinois nurse practitioners work in all types of health-care facilities, including doctor's office, hospitals, clinics and public-health agencies. NPs perform the full range of nursing functions, but also provide care that transcends the authority of RNs. Some of these techniques include:

  • Ordering medication: NPs in Illinois can prescribe medication as long as they have delegated prescriptive authority via the collaborative practice agreement with their collaborating MD.
  • Risk-evaluation: Highly trained NPs are able to evaluate health risks to patients and suggest a course of treatment.
  • Psychological support: All nurse practitioners have in-depth clinical training in addressing patients' psychological needs.
  • Family planning: Because of their advanced training, NPs can provide targeted care on a wide range of family health-care issues. Many NPs who specialize in family-practice nursing have expertise in neonatal or pediatric care.
  • Diagnostics: Nurse practitioners are able to provide expanded care because they are trained to order and interpret lab results. Based on those findings, NPs can provide an effective treatment regimen.