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How to Become a Private Practice Nurse Practitioner


Nurse practitioners (NPs) provide vital care to patients across the country. Their ability to coordinate care can help facilities mitigate the effects of the ongoing physician shortage. This is particularly important in states that grant nurse practitioners full practice authority, where they can make diagnoses and prescribe medications without physician supervision.


Nurse practitioners in these states are legally permitted to open their own private practices. NPs in private practice can provide patients with the same essential care they would provide in a traditional clinical or hospital setting, but they have the autonomy to work where they choose, including in underserved areas. They also get to experience both the advantages and the challenges that come with running a business.


The journey to becoming a private practice nurse practitioner involves earning an advanced degree, such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). It also requires gaining clinical experience and an understanding of the business of healthcare. Following these steps can help position an NP to provide the best patient care possible.

What Does a Private Practice Nurse Practitioner Do?

From a clinical standpoint, the duties of a private practice nurse practitioner are the same as those of NPs in other outpatient or hospital settings. These duties can include recording patient symptoms, performing diagnostic tests, operating medical equipment, developing treatment strategies, and prescribing medications.


In states that allow NPs full practice authority, NPs can practice without physician supervision, which naturally encourages many NPs to set up independent practices. However, some states only allow NPs to work independently in a reduced capacity, where they cannot prescribe medications. Prospective private practice nurse practitioners should fully understand the laws in their intended state of practice prior to looking into opening their own practice.


Private practice nurse practitioners can choose to specialize in a particular area of patient care. NP specializations include:


  • Adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner (AGACNP)
  • Adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner (AGPCNP)
  • Family nurse practitioner (FNP)
  • Pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP)
  • Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP)


In addition to providing care to patients, private practice nurse practitioners often supervise the day-to-day business operations of their practices. This can involve managing the practice’s finances and workforce and overseeing strategies designed to attract patients, such as effective marketing plans. Hiring a professional health manager to help run the practice is one way for private practice nurse practitioners to ensure their practice is being managed by someone with the appropriate business skills.

Steps to Become a Private Practice Nurse Practitioner

Becoming a private practice nurse practitioner is a little more complex than becoming a nurse practitioner in a traditional setting.

Educational Steps

Currently, the minimum educational requirement for becoming a nurse practitioner is an MSN degree. However, taking the steps to become a DNP-credentialed nurse can help NPs refine the skills and knowledge they need for success at the highest level. Students may choose to skip the MSN stage and go from earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) to a DNP through a BSN to DNP degree program. Students interested in a specific element of practice can typically specialize as part of an MSN, DNP, or BSN to DNP degree, or take post-master’s NP certificate courses.

Licensing and Certification

All NPs should be licensed in their respective state of practice. While the requirements to obtain licensure vary by state, they typically involve holding an advanced degree, completing a set level of clinical experience hours, having an existing registered nurse (RN) license, and passing the NCLEX-RN national certification exam.


Additionally, most states require NPs to be certified as nurse practitioners. These certifications can often correlate to an NP specialization.

Setting Up a Private Practice

Those interested in how to start a nurse practitioner private practice will want to know about the steps required to set up and run a practice. These steps pertain to the development, growth, and stability of the practice. Key elements include:


  • Creating a business plan
  • Securing and furnishing an office space
  • Obtaining business and malpractice insurance
  • Hiring staff
  • Developing and executing marketing strategies
  • Developing and refining an appropriate billing system


Private practice nurse practitioners also need to ensure their business is legally compliant with state practice laws. This includes determining what practices are permitted, what type of health professionals they can partner with, and whether physician supervision is required for any aspects of their practice. Hiring an attorney who specializes in medical practice can potentially help individuals further ensure they are compliant and fully prepared to deliver care to patients.

Private Practice Nurse Practitioner Salary

Becoming a nurse practitioner can be financially rewarding. The median annual salary for nurse practitioners as of May 2021 was $120,680, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). If private practice NPs are employed by a practice owner or manager, they are likely to receive a standard salary and benefits, as if they worked for a hospital.


However, the income of NPs who run their own practices does not come in the form of a salary. The income the practice receives in the form of payments from patients and reimbursements from health insurance companies and programs like Medicaid is offset by salaries for RNs and support staff, facility and equipment costs, malpractice insurance payments, and a host of other expenses. While it can be difficult for private practice nurse practitioners to predict their income from year to year, successful practices with loyal patient bases can be very profitable.

Employment Outlook for Private Practice Nurse Practitioners

Advanced practice nurses like nurse practitioners are in high demand, thanks in part to ongoing nurse and physician shortages fueled by an aging population, nurse retirements, and provider burnout. An astonishing 46% job growth is projected for nurse practitioners between 2021 and 2031, according to the BLS. This is more than nine times the 5% average job growth projected for all professions.

Find Autonomy in Your Patient Care

Becoming a private practice nurse practitioner can be a challenging but deeply rewarding experience. It can allow you to deliver care to patients the way you want, where you want — including being able to provide care to people in communities that matter to you and that are the most in need of providers.


Maryville University’s online BSN to DNP program can help you prepare for this big, brave step. The program teaches students how to deliver the highest-quality patient care, and imparts the leadership skills required to succeed at running your own practice. Learn how Maryville can help you take control of your future.


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