With around a quarter of a million nurse practitioners currently registered to practice in the US, the advanced practice registered nursing role is growing very quickly. Over the past decade, the number of nurse practitioners and the demand for nurse practitioners in the country has grown very rapidly. Despite the nationwide shortage of both primary care physicians and registered nurses, these highly trained, advanced nurses have managed to help things run smoothly. Much of the time, family nurse practitioners are hired to fill the gap that has been left by a shortage of primary care doctors, with fewer medical students seeking out medical care leading to concerns for the aging population. Both patients and the healthcare industry have found that nurse practitioners provide satisfactory and more patient-centered care, which has started to have a lot of significant benefits for patients.
What is a Nurse Practitioner?
If you are currently working as a registered nurse, you probably know a few people who work as a nurse practitioner, and it might be a role that you have heard discussed quite a lot. Nurse practitioners are advanced practice registered nurses that have been steadily growing in numbers across the US healthcare industry since the concept of the role was first introduced back in 1965. The idea of training and hiring nurse practitioners came about as a way to deal with a reduction in the number of primary care physicians at the time.
Nurse practitioners are licensed clinicians with the main aims of preventing disease and managing patient health. They can provide primary care or specialize in a certain healthcare specialty such as women’s health, pediatric care, psychiatric care, adult-gerontology and more. Nurse practitioners are usually required to have gained either a master’s degree in nursing and some may complete specialist family nurse practitioner training programs or degree programs to prepare for the role.
So far, studies show that patients are very satisfied with the level of care that they receive from nurse practitioners – in some cases, even more so compared to the care that they receive from a primary care physician. Statistics so far show that under the care of a nurse practitioner, patients have fewer ER visits, fewer hospital readmissions, and fewer preventable hospital stays.
What Qualifications Do Nurse Practitioners Need?
If you are considering working in a career as a nurse practitioner, then generally, you will need to start out as a registered nurse. There are several different options that you can consider when it comes to getting into this career, but a bachelor’s of science in nursing or BSN is typically the most recommended option if you want to work as a nurse practitioner in the future, since you will usually be required to have this degree plus some years of experience working as a registered nurse before you can enroll on a master’s degree or other degree program designed to prepare you for working as a nurse practitioner. Those who are new to nursing may also want to consider apprenticeships that are designed for you to get your nursing degree in a more on-the-job, hands-on environment along with online degree programs, that offer more flexibility for getting into nursing and tend to be ideal for people who need to continue working full-time while they are studying at nursing school.
No matter which pathway you decide to choose to get into nursing, becoming a registered nurse means passing the NCLEX, which is a standardized national nursing exam. Once you have passed this, you can then get a state license to start practicing nursing. After gaining some experience in the field, you can then go on to get an MSN to start your career as a nurse practitioner by getting the advanced knowledge and skills that you need. Click here to find out more about choosing the right MSN degree program for your needs.
Most of the time, any MSN will require you to have completed a bachelor’s degree in nursing, which will usually include a clinical component along with various programs, modules and classes that are designed to help you develop a range of important skills in communication, community health management, supervision, and research.
If you are currently working as a registered nurse but do not have a BSN, there are various options to consider. Nurses who have an associate degree may want to consider a bridge program. These programs are usually shorter in length compared to the typical BSN and allow you to build on your current skills and knowledge to get this qualification.
Graduate Degree Requirements for Nurse Practitioners
Most of the time, the minimum qualification that you will need to get into a role as a nurse practitioner is an MSN. However, this can vary depending on the nurse practitioner role that you are interested in. You may also need to get a few years of experience as a registered nurse before you can enroll on the MSN depending on the school that you want to study at.
Nurse practitioners can also go on to advance their careers even further by gaining additional qualifications such as an DNP or a PhD in nursing or another healthcare field. Getting a further advanced degree can be ideal if you are interested in further, in-depth education and study into various subjects that are going to be a huge part of your role as a nurse practitioner such as anatomy, diagnosis, or medical ethics.
MSN curriculums are generally designed to help registered nurses become advanced practice registered nurses. However, you can also find programs that have the role of a nurse practitioner as the end goal. Some programs focus on a specialist area of the nurse practitioner role such as pediatrics or psychiatric metal health to prepare you to hit the ground running in one of these roles. On the other hand, after completing your MSN, there is also the option to get further nurse practitioner preparatory training to make sure that you are fully ready to get started in this role.
Getting Your Education Online
With around six million American students currently enrolled in distance learning and online learning education programs, it’s no surprise that studying nursing online has become increasingly popular. Nursing is the second-most popular major for online students today, and online nursing degree programs are incredibly popular among registered nurses who are getting an advanced degree such as the MSN and want the option to have the flexibility that they need to continue working as a nurse full-time while they study. If this sounds similar to your situation, getting your MSN or nurse practitioner degree online can offer a wide range of benefits. Studying online means that you can do the majority of learning from the comfort of your own home and at times that suit you best. They offer flexible schedules, reduced travel time, and reduced costs, including the opportunity cost of becoming a nurse practitioner.
Top Reasons to Consider Working as a Nurse Practitioner
No matter what area you would like to specialize in as a nurse practitioner or how you end up deciding to study for the qualifications that you are going to need to get into this role, becoming a nurse practitioner does take a lot of time, effort, dedication, and hard work. However, getting into this career role is definitely worth it for any registered nurse who is looking to get to the next level in his or her career. If the idea of becoming a nurse practitioner is something that has crossed your mind, here are some of the top reasons why it might be an excellent career idea.
Career Path Opportunities
Qualifying as an advanced practice registered nurse will offer even more career paths than were available to you as a registered nurse. Once you have an MSN, there are even more career options that you can consider, and with this qualification, changing to your desired career path is even easier. Along with working as a family nurse practitioner or in various other nurse practitioner roles, getting this advanced degree will also qualify you to work in various other areas of nursing including nurse midwifery, nursing research, trauma and acute care nursing, nurse management and more.
Continue Working with Patients
In nursing, it’s not uncommon to see the most highly qualified professionals in this field move away from the bedside and start working in managerial and leadership roles instead. If you want to advance in your career but still want the chance to stay by the bedside and continue working directly with your patients, then working as a nurse practitioner gives you a great opportunity to do this. Nurse practitioners don’t work from a manager’s office – they are on the front line of healthcare along with registered nurses, primary care physicians and other healthcare professionals.
Full Practice Authority
Another great reason why more and more nurses are deciding to get into the role of a nurse practitioner is that this role offers full practice authority in the majority of US states. Full practice authority refers to permissions given to nurse practitioners to have more autonomy and control when it comes to their work. Just like primary care physicians, nurse practitioners are trusted to diagnose patients, refer for the appropriate treatment options, and prescribe necessary medications to patients. They do not need the supervision or approval of a primary care physician in order to do this in states where full practice authority is given. As a result, this gives nurse practitioners more career freedom. They can find work in doctor’s offices where there doesn’t always have to be a doctor on-site to sign off their decisions, or even start their own practices if they are entrepreneurial and have seen a gap in the healthcare market in their area.
Diverse Career Path
Working as a nurse practitioner can put you in an interesting and diverse work environment where just like registered nursing, you are going to be interacting with a range of different colleagues and patients from all walks of life on a daily basis. Nurse practitioners can also choose from a wide range of options when it comes to where they work. They can set up their own practices in states where they have full practice authority, work in hospitals in the emergency room, ICU, different departments, delivery room and more, or work in research, education, and various other settings. Throughout your career as a nurse practitioner, chances are that you will have plenty of opportunities to work in various different settings and environments.
Great Job Security
With fewer medical students deciding to choose primary care as their major while at medical school, nurse practitioners are enjoying an increasingly higher level of job security. With an aging population meaning that there are now more older patients than ever before, bringing with them a higher rate of health issues, nurse practitioner roles have never been more important, making sure that all patients are able to get the level of care that they expect and deserve, even when there is a shortage of doctors. The number of nurse practitioners in the profession is on the rise, and it is only expected to rise even more into the future.
Finally, the high demand for nurse practitioners has led to very competitive salaries to incentivize registered nurses to train and get into this advanced role. Nursing in general has become a more competitive field over the past few years thanks to the nursing shortage and aging population combined. With the US also dealing with a shortage of primary care physicians, more money has been budgeted to not only train nurses to become nurse practitioners but also pay them a competitive salary. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, it’s not unusual for nurse practitioners to earn more than $100k per year. Typically, you can expect a salary increase of around $30k when you move up from being a registered nurse to working as a nurse practitioner.
For registered nurses who are interested in career advancement, there are plenty of excellent reasons to become a nurse practitioner.