What You Need to Know About Becoming a Nurse Practitioner
Aside from enjoying more career freedom and autonomy in many states, nurse practitioners can also earn higher salaries, take on more responsibilities, and can be more influential in facilitating positive changes on behalf of their patients compared to registered nurses. If you are already working as a registered nurse and want to progress into this high-demand, high-respect, and important area of healthcare, understanding your options for becoming a nurse practitioner is the first important step. As nurse practitioners become more instrumental in reducing the gap that has been left by the shortage of primary care physicians, educational opportunities for nurses who want to get into this role have risen, with several opportunities for you to choose from.
What is a Nurse Practitioner?
It might have been recommended to you as an advanced role to aim for or you might work with some nurse practitioners, but what exactly is this role? A nurse practitioner is an advanced practice registered nurse. To become a nurse practitioner, you will need to earn a master’s of science in nursing or a doctor of nursing practice degree, along with additional training and certificates, usually taken in the form of a post masters FNP online from TWU or similar. Since nurse practitioners need to undergo a lot of additional advanced training to prepare them for this role, they are typically given more responsibilities compared to registered nurses, including full practice authority in several states, where they do not require the supervision of a primary care physician to diagnose, prescribe medication, and treat their patients. For this reason, nurse practitioners are becoming increasingly important primary caregivers in many areas around the US.
Nurse practitioners work in a variety of different healthcare areas and can serve as either primary caregivers or specialist care providers. There are various types of nurse practitioner role to choose from, including family nurse practitioners who will normally offer general care, pediatric nurse practitioners who work predominantly with children, adult-gerontology nurse practitioners, neonatal nurse practitioners, and psychiatric nurse practitioners.
What Do Nurse Practitioners Do?
Nurse practitioners tend to have more responsibilities in the workplace compared to registered nurses, particularly in states where they are given full practice authority. Nurse practitioners can examine, diagnose, and prescribe treatments and medications to their patients, either with or without the supervision of a doctor depending on the state that they practice in. In states where full practice authority is not provided, nurse practitioners still enjoy a high level of autonomy and responsibility in their roles but will need to get a physician to sign certain decisions.
Nurse practitioners are becoming increasingly more essential in the healthcare industry as more and more clinics and doctors’ offices rely on them to provide primary care to patients as a result of the primary care physician shortage in the country. Nurse practitioners are a unique role since their previous experience as nurses provides them with a different patient-centered approach that has led to an improvement in the delivery of care. In fact, studies found that patients whose primary caregiver is a nurse practitioner tended to have fewer readmissions, reported better standards of care, and improved health.
How Much Do Nurse Practitioners Earn?
If you are a registered nurse looking for career advancement opportunities with more earning potential, becoming a nurse practitioner could be ideal for you. Data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that nurse practitioners earn an average of over $111k annually throughout the country, which is around $30,000 more than the average salary of a registered nurse. The salary that you can expect to earn as a nurse practitioner can vary on the location and demand, the type of nurse practitioner role that you do, and your previous experience in the healthcare industry. You can also further your earnings even more by specializing further in this role.
What are the Steps Involved in Becoming a Nurse Practitioner?
If you’ve decided to aim for a career as a nurse practitioner, the following steps will be required for you to achieve your goals.
1. Become a Registered Nurse:
If you are not already working in this career, the first step towards working as a nurse practitioner is becoming a registered nurse. You can do this by enrolling in a nursing degree program such as a bachelor of science in nursing or associate’s degree in nursing. Some nurses today are entering the profession through a nursing apprenticeship, which can be an ideal choice for those who prefer to learn on the job rather than in a classroom.
2. Get a BSN:
No matter how you started your career as a registered nurse, a BSN or bachelor’s degree in nursing is often the minimum required qualification for nurses who want to progress into almost any area of the field. And, even if you don’t have any plans to progress just yet, getting a BSN as a registered nurse can benefit you in several different ways including better career opportunities as a number of employers looking to hire nurses with higher qualification levels. In New York State, all nurses are now required to gain a BSN within their first ten years of entering the field.
If you want to get your BSN as quickly as possible, an accelerated BSN could be the ideal choice for you. In comparison to the traditional BSN degree program that will take you around four years to complete, the ABSN allows you to get the qualification within half the time. However, this program is only usually available to students who already hold a bachelors’ degree in another subject, making it a worthwhile option to consider for those who want to change their current professional career to nursing.
3. Get Experience as a Nurse:
Due to the advanced nature of a role as a nurse practitioner, it’s not a role that you can get into without gaining some experience in the field first. If you are newly qualified as a nurse, you will usually need to spend some years working as a registered nurse to build up your experience, knowledge, and skills before you can apply to enroll in a nurse practitioner training program. This is not only your opportunity to advance your nursing abilities through experience, but it also gives you a chance to try different types of nursing and ultimately makes it easier for you to decide which nurse practitioner role you are more likely to want to get into.
4. Get a Master’s Degree:
You will need to have a nursing master’s degree in order to work as a nurse practitioner. You can complete an MSN program before taking additional training to become a nurse practitioner, or you can find master’s programs that are specifically designed to prepare you for the nurse practitioner role. You will need to have a BSN before you will be able to enroll in the majority of master’s degrees in nursing. If you don’t have a BSN already, there are bridge programs that you might want to consider that are designed to help you get to where you want to be in your career faster.
If you are already working full-time as a nurse and need to get a master’s degree to become a nurse practitioner, the good news is that there are now more programs available that will make it easier for you to juggle the two. You can work full-time as a nurse while taking an online master’s in nursing program that has been designed mainly for nurses who need a flexible study option that they will be able to fit around their lives while continuing to work as normal. With fewer nurses now in a position to quit work while they study full-time to advance their careers, online learning is becoming a popular alternative option and is often encouraged and supported by healthcare employers.
5. Learning Through Your Employer:
If you are already working as a registered nurse and want to move up the career ladder into the role of nurse practitioner, it’s worth speaking with your employer to find out more about the type of support that they may be able to offer you. Since becoming a qualified nurse practitioner might be beneficial for both you and your place of work, your employer might have support options in place where they can pay for all or some of your tuition, for example, or simply arrange your shifts so that it’s easier for you to fit studying around your work.
6. Passing the Advanced Nursing Exam:
Once you have graduated with a master’s degree in nursing and completed any necessary certifications and training to become a nurse practitioner, you will need to pass the licensing exam for your state in order to practice. Different states use different exam boards for this exam, so familiarize yourself with the requirements in your specific area. The nurse practitioner role is an ideal choice for any registered nurse looking to progress into a career with higher earning potential, more autonomy and workplace responsibility, and a greater chance to make a difference.