Medical Review By: Dr. Ted Schiff
Many dermatology practices are staffed with multiple types of providers, including board-certified dermatologists, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners. What exactly is a nurse practitioner, and what are they qualified to do?
Unlike a registered nurse (RN), a nurse practitioner can diagnose and manage health conditions. RNs have an associate degree or bachelor’s degree in nursing, but NPs complete additional training and get an advanced degree — either a Master of Science in Nursing or a Doctor of Nursing Practice. They can prescribe medication and, depending on the state, work without a doctor’s supervision.
A nurse practitioner is a type of advanced practice registered nurse, or APRN. Water’s Edge Dermatology is proud to have many APRNs who specialize in dermatology on staff. They play an invaluable role in treating and educating patients.
Types of nurse practitioners
Nurse practitioners get one of several specialty certifications. Most NPs are family nurse practitioners, who care for patients of all ages. Other specialties include acute care, adult health, geriatric health, neonatal health, pediatric/child health, psychiatric/mental health, and women’s health.
Once they are licensed, NPs can pursue extra training in a sub-specialty if they want to focus on a particular area of medicine, such as dermatology, endocrinology, orthopedics, gastroenterology, or cardiovascular health.
Services nurse practitioners provide
Nurse practitioners can diagnose and treat acute and chronic medical conditions. For dermatology nurse practitioners, these might include severe sunburns, boils, acne, rosacea, eczema, psoriasis, cysts, warts, atypical moles, and skin cancer. They can order, perform and interpret tests. A dermatology nurse practitioner might order skin biopsies, for example, as well as screen patients for skin cancer.
NPs can also perform treatments. A nurse practitioner in a dermatology practice might perform minor skin excisions (for mole removal, for example), extractions and cryotherapy, and/or administer cosmetic treatments such as Botox injections, dermal fillers, laser treatments, and peels.
Finally, nurse practitioners teach patients healthy lifestyle practices, such as proper skincare, and educate them about disease prevention.
How to become a nurse practitioner
In most cases, candidates must have a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) and then complete a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program to become an NP. People who have an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) but not a bachelor’s degree can enroll in an accelerated RN-BSN program or an ADN-to-MSN program.
Advanced nursing degree students take classes in subjects such as advanced health evaluation, ethics, and pharmacology, and they participate in clinical rotations to gain hundreds of hours of patient care experience. Candidates then take an exam administered by an accredited certifying body such as the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board to become a nationally certified NP.
Nurse practitioners who want to specialize in dermatology can pursue a certified nurse practitioner (DCNP) credential. There are a few ways to do this — by entering a post-master’s-degree program, taking continuing education courses, or training on the job under a board-certified dermatologist or a highly skilled dermatology NP. To take the Dermatology Nurse Practitioner Certification Exam and earn a DCNP, nurses must have at least 3,000 hours of general dermatology practice. DCNPs must earn continuing education credits and be recertified every three years.
Article Written By: Jessica Brown, a health and science writer/editor based in Nanuet, New York. She has written for Prevention magazine, jnj.com, BCRF.org, and many other outlets