Nurse Practitioners, or NPs, are playing a larger role than ever as the state of health care in the United States becomes more expansive and evolves from time to time, adjusting to government policies. This is especially true, now that the Affordable Care Act (or “Obamacare” in less formal terms) has made health insurance available to a much larger number of Americans. Recent statistics show that over 6 million Americans signed up for health insurance as of the start of the year – this means more individuals will be seeking primary care when they hadn’t had the means to access it in the past. Adding to this backdrop is the forecasted shortage of doctors over the coming 20 years – it is expected that America will lack anywhere between 50,000 to 150,000 doctors during this timeframe. That makes Nurse Practitioners more essential in the evolving health care landscape. And if you are seeking to become an NP, this would allow you to be at the frontline, providing affordable, yet reliable primary care to individuals who need it. Now that we’ve gotten the backdrop out of the way, you may want to learn about the primary care areas of study available to Nurse Practitioners. There are five to choose from, namely Adult Nurse Practitioner, Family Nurse Practitioner, Gerontological Nurse Practitioner, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, and Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner. You may also choose from different specialty tracks, such as Acute Care, Cardiology, Psychiatric, Neonatal, Emergency, Diabetes Education, and Oncology. It is possible to combine one of the five primary care areas with one of the specialty tracks, which could create some interesting hybrids, such as Adult Psychiatric NP, Pediatric Diabetes Education NP, etc. But which program would be most advisable for you, as a student? That would all depend on you, though it is also imperative that you do your homework – research, in other words – as this all-important process of gathering data, comparing schools and their programs, and asking yourself which institution has the best balance of cost and quality while offering your desired area of specialization, is the one thing that would ensure you get the most out of your Nurse Practitioner education. Make sure to read about clinical and course requirements, and find out all the documents you need to furnish, and the admissions procedures of each school that has caught your fancy. We would also advise visiting the www.aanp.org (American Association of Nurse Practitioners) website, which contains a rich library of support literature for would-be and current NPs. Once you have become an NP, you should also check if your state’s legislation would allow you to do independent practice. For example, certain states, such as California, Florida, Massachusetts, and Texas would require Nurse Practitioners to have physician oversight, and maybe a collaborative agreement as well, so that they can practice their field and prescribe medication.