Nursing is highly regarded as one of the most meaningful and rewarding career options in the world, allowing you to spend your working day looking after people who are in need of your help and support, making a real difference to the lives of the patients that you treat and their families. Nursing is a career option that offers a lot of opportunities for career and progression, and if you are a registered nurse who wants to progress in your career but don’t want to move away from being on the front line of healthcare, a career as a nurse practitioner could be ideal for you.
Nurse practitioners are advanced nurses who are given more authority and autonomy compared to a registered nurse. In many US states, they are awarded full practice authority which allows them to treat, diagnose, and prescribe medication to patients without the need to be signed off by a physician. Many nurse practitioners run their own clinics or are stepping in to fill the gap in healthcare clinics that has been caused by the shortage of primary care physicians in the US right now. Here are some of the top reasons to consider a career as a nurse practitioner, and how to achieve the qualifications that you need to get there.
Nurse practitioners are experiencing high demand right now, making it an ideal time to consider getting into this profession. With more and more healthcare employers looking for nurse practitioners to employ to fill the gap left by the shortage of primary care doctors, you might be able to get employer support as a registered nurse if you plan to continue working as a nurse practitioner with your current employer in the future. Online MSN programs that are designed to help you pursue this career are readily available, and many employers might be willing to cover all or some of your tuition fees or put special measures in place for you at work to make it easier for you to study and get qualified.
Enjoy More Independence and Autonomy
In many US states, nurse practitioners will get to enjoy more autonomy and independence in their work compared to that of a registered nurse. Nurse practitioners in these states can run their own independent clinics and do not need to work under the supervision of a primary care physician to diagnose, prescribe medication, and refer patients for treatment. This allows them to find work where they might be the primary care provider for many patients. Family nurse practitioners will often work in roles where they are replacing a general practitioner, in a situation that is becoming more and more commonplace today.
Find More Work Opportunities
Compared to registered nurses, nurse practitioners will often be able to find more work opportunities. And another great thing about this career is that although you may be qualified as an advanced nurse, you will still be able to continue working as a registered nurse, allowing you to find even more opportunities for work. With an advanced degree, nurse practitioners are not only able to find work in the nurse practitioner role, but may also be suitable for other advanced roles in this healthcare career, such as nurse management and leadership.
As a nurse practitioner, you can choose different areas where you might like to work. There are several specialty areas that are available as a nurse practitioner, whether you want to work with babies and children as a pediatric or neonatal nurse practitioner, or prefer to treat older adults as an adult-gerontology nurse practitioner. If you are interested in working in the mental health area of healthcare, you may want to consider the option of working as a psychiatric nurse practitioner. Family nurse practitioners can also choose different areas of specialty that they may prefer to work with, such as women’s health.
Working as a nurse practitioner gives you a chance to significantly increase your salary compared to working as a registered nurse. The nursing career is highly competitive today in terms of salaries, and nurse practitioner roles are often some of the most highly-paid in the country, with many states offering salaries upwards of $100k per year for nurse practitioner roles. You may even be able to earn more than the average depending on your area of specialization, education levels, experience, and the demand for nurse practitioners in the area.
Further Career Opportunities
While working as a nurse practitioner is one of the main goals for nurses looking for progression, there are several further opportunities for advancement after this if you want to continue climbing the career ladder further. Nurse practitioners who are looking to develop their careers further might consider going on to become a nurse manager, leader or executive, while those who want to influence the next generation of nurses might consider studying further to get a doctor of nursing practice degree and become a nurse educator or mentor.
Interesting and Fast-Paced Work
Finally, a career as a nurse practitioner is often interesting and fast-paced. You will be working with a range of different patients on a daily basis depending on the healthcare setting where your role is based. The role is filled with various different experiences and you will be able to work with a wide range of different people on a daily basis. No two days are likely to be the same as a nurse practitioner, especially when you are working in a busy healthcare setting like a hospital or an urgent care clinic. The career will never get boring, with something new to learn always around the corner, whether it’s getting to grips with new diseases like COVID-19 or learning about the latest medical techniques, equipment and new medications.
How to Become a Nurse Practitioner
The first requirement to becoming a nurse practitioner is a bachelor’s of science in nursing. If you currently have an associate’s degree in nursing, you will need to get a bridging program or accelerated BSN in nursing in order to get this degree. This is now mandatory in New York State, where nurses without a BSN are required to get this qualification within ten years of entering the workforce.
Getting Work Experience
If you are a newly qualified registered nurse, you will need to gain some experience in the field before you will be able to enroll in a nurse practitioner training program. Most nurse practitioner degrees will expect you to have some years of experience in the nursing field before considering you as a potential student, and getting experience as a registered nurse will make it easier for you to determine which area of specialty you might want to get into as a nurse practitioner. Getting as much experience as possible in various different areas of nursing is essential before pursuing on a nurse practitioner pathway, and will help you prepare for this advanced, important career.
Getting an Advanced Degree
Once you have enough experience behind you, there are several advanced degree options that you may consider taking in order to qualify you as a nurse practitioner. You can find specially-designed nurse practitioner programs that might be tailored towards a certain nurse practitioner career pathway. On the other hand, there is also the option of getting a general master’s degree in nursing which will provide you with the qualification that you need to not only enter the profession as a nurse practitioner, but get into various other advanced nursing roles such as a nurse manager. If you are planning to study for a doctor of nursing practice degree in the future, a master of science in nursing degree might be the best option to consider since this is often a prerequisite for the doctorate.
Get Licensed as a Nurse Practitioner
Once you have gained an advanced nursing degree, you will need to pass an exam to gain your license as a nurse practitioner in your chosen state, which will allow you to start working in this role. There are various licensing bodies that provide these exams and licenses, and the one that you will take may depend on the state that you are going to sit the exam in.
Where Can You Work as a Nurse Practitioner?
Nurse practitioners work in a variety of different healthcare settings including hospitals, private clinics, retail clinics, and more. Family nurse practitioners are often found in doctor’s offices and healthcare clinics where they are stepping in to fill the gap that has been created by the shortage of primary care physicians that the country is currently experiencing. Since they are given full practice authority in many US states, nurse practitioners might work in a clinic alongside primary care physicians or run their own independent clinics. They also play a key role in various departments of hospitals including in the ER, on the hospital wards, and in the ICU.
Nurse practitioners are currently in higher demand than ever before; it’s a great career role to consider if you want to advance your nursing career further.