The number of nurse practitioners in the US is currently at an all-time high. A major increase in demand for these professionals over the last decade has led to around a quarter of a million nurse practitioners currently licensed to practice. Nurse practitioners are reducing the impact of the shortage of primary care physicians right now, as highly-trained practitioners with advanced qualifications that are well-positioned to fill the gap and ensure that the aging population and thousands of newly-insured patients are able to get the medical care that they need.
Nurse practitioners are professionals that have been growing substantially across the US since the concept of this role was first introduced back in 1965 as a way to make up for a dwindling number of primary care physicians. Nurse practitioners are licensed clinicians with advanced training who prevent disease, provide treatment and manage patient health. They are advanced practice registered nurses who may specialize in one of a wide number of areas including family or general health, adult-gerontology, pediatric, neonatal, oncology, cardiovascular health, dermatology, retail health, surgical procedures and more. In general, a nurse practitioner will typically be somebody with at least a master’s degree in nursing along with specific training to work as a nurse practitioner in their chosen field.
What’s Required of Nurses Who Want to Become a Nurse Practitioner?
If you are considering a future career as a nurse practitioner, you will usually need to begin your career as an RN. The best way to do this is through getting a BSN or bachelor of science in nursing degree, since this is usually the minimum requirement to enroll on master’s degree programs designed to prepare for a role as a nurse practitioner, such as those available from Marymount University. When getting your bachelor’s degree in nursing, look for a program that is offered from an accredited college or nursing school. You can find options that allow you to earn your nursing degree online, while some nurses prefer to take an alternative route such as an apprenticeship as a way to get their BSN while learning on the job. If you already have a degree in a non-nursing subject and want to change your career to work as a nurse practitioner in future, an accelerated BSN might be the best option for you. This program is designed to build on your current knowledge and skills, allowing you to gain your BSN in half the time compared to the traditional program.
While getting a bachelor’s degree in nursing is the most direct route towards eventually working as a nurse practitioner, some nurses get into the field as quickly as possible with an associate’s degree in nursing. However, bear in mind that while this will allow you to start working as a nurse sooner, it’s unlikely to be enough to qualify you to study for a master’s degree, and you may need to get a BSN while you work. You can now do this with ADN-BSN bridge programs, designed for registered nurses who want to improve their credentials.
No matter what pathway you choose to become a registered nurse, you’ll need to pass the NCLEX, a standardized national exam, and gain your state license before you can begin to practice as a registered nurse. Once you have done this, you can start your journey toward becoming a nurse practitioner by gaining a master’s degree in nursing. A general master’s degree will suffice when it comes to qualifying for this role, but you may be interested in looking for a master’s degree that is tailored for students who have the main goal of working as a nurse practitioner, with courses that are highly relevant to your future role.
Graduate School Requirements for Nurse Practitioner Programs
To become a nurse practitioner, you will need to achieve a graduate degree in nursing. It’s important to consider where you might want to study and the programs that you are interested in the most, to work towards being the ideal candidate for these programs. While a general master’s degree in nursing may only require that you have a BSN, if you want to enroll on a master’s degree that is designed to prepare you for working in the role of a nurse practitioner such as an FNP degree, then you’ll probably be required to demonstrate a certain amount of experience working as a nurse. As well as this, you’ll need a keen interest in the field that you want to specialize in for the future, and letters of recommendation from professionals in your field, such as a manager, physician, advanced practice registered nurse, or previous professor. These will likely be required if you want to pursue a DNP degree as well. What does DNP stand for? A Doctor of Nursing Practice degree certifies you to work as a Nurse Practitioner as well as train new NPs and lead health education or nursing policy advocacy efforts.
Online Education for Nurse Practitioner Students
With almost six million American students currently enrolled in distance learning programs, it’s no surprise that there are more online nursing degree programs becoming available. The ever-growing demand for nurses means that the healthcare and education industries have had to think outside of the box to provide new options for education to those who want to get into a career in nursing but may struggle to go down the traditional, campus-based route. While there’s no getting away from the requirement for clinical, hands-on experience while you are getting your BSN or MSN, online degree programs are more flexible and allow you to get the classroom-based learning online from the comfort of home, making them an ideal choice for many people who want to eventually become a nurse practitioner.
For registered nurses looking to advance their career, studying online is a great way to get the credentials that you need to become a nurse practitioner. Online MSN and FNP degrees tend to be designed with registered nurses in mind, providing the flexibility that is needed to manage your studies in a way that fits well around your job and other commitments. Nurses can also save money on getting their advanced degree online, with reduced travel commitment and costs and the option to fit classroom work around their career, resulting in a reduced need to take time off work or reduced hours while studying.
Why Become a Nurse Practitioner?
No matter what specialty area you choose or how you decide to get your master’s degree to become a nurse practitioner, there is no denying that preparing yourself to work in this role can take a big investment of your time, effort and money. However, most nurse practitioners would agree that it is definitely worth the hard work to get into this role. Whether you are already working as a registered nurse or are considering a career in nursing in the future, some of the main reasons to consider becoming a nurse practitioner include:
Working as a nurse practitioner offers several varied career path options to choose from. Nurse practitioners can work in a wide range of different healthcare settings and in a variety of specialty areas. While you may choose to study further into a certain specialty to prepare you for the role, once you have the base qualifications such as an MSN it’s easier to get a postgraduate certificate if you want to change your specialty in the future. Along with this, simply getting your MSN will open up even further career opportunities to you. With this degree qualification, a nurse practitioner role is not the only one available to you. You may also consider working as a nurse educator, nurse manager, nurse leader or in many other high-responsibility roles.
A Diverse and Interesting Career
Nurse practitioners are often designated to a range of different areas and work with people from all walks of life on a day-to-day basis. Nurse practitioners can work in hospital settings, such as in the ICU, operating room, ER and many other departments, or they can work in doctor’s offices, retail clinics, outpatient clinics, residential programs, or running their own practice. If you enjoy diversity in your career and want a line of work that allows you to do something different and interact with different people on a daily basis, working as a nurse practitioner may be ideal for you.
A High-Profile Role
Nurse practitioners fit into a high profile, distinguished role between primary care physicians and registered nurses. The role of a nurse practitioner will often be treated as equal to that of a primary care physician, particularly in the twenty states where nurse practitioners have full practice authority, which permits them to diagnose patients, provide treatment, and prescribe medication to patients without the need to have their decisions authorized by a physician. Getting a master’s degree in nursing and becoming a nurse practitioner gives professionals the chance to work in a role that is very similar to that of a primary care physician without the need for them to undertake the expensive, lengthy medical degree and internship requirements.
The high demand for nurse practitioners due to an aging population and a shortage of primary care physicians means that this has become an increasingly competitive role, with salaries to match. According to the US Bureau of Labor statistics, a nurse practitioner will earn an average of $30k more per year compared to what they were earning while working as a registered nurse. Some nurse practitioners earn in excess of $100k per year, with higher salaries for the more highly specialist roles such as neonatal nurse practitioner or surgical nurse practitioner.
High Job Security
The population in the US is only getting older, with almost half of the population expected to be in older age brackets within the next decade. This, coupled with fewer medical students deciding to go into primary care, has led to a massive increase in demand for nurse practitioners, ultimately providing a higher level of job security for those who are working in these roles. Choosing to become a nurse practitioner is a safe, stable career choice where you can enjoy a high level of security.
Advocate for Patients
If as a nurse, you want to improve things for your patients as much as possible and act as an advocate for them, pursuing a career as a nurse practitioner can be one of the best ways to do this. Nurse practitioners spend their working days helping patients and patients’ loved ones understand their diagnoses and provide assistance, advice and support when it comes to evaluating and choosing treatment options. Nurse practitioners are often listened to, trusted and consulted with by the people who are in charge of healthcare policy and guidelines, giving those who work in this role the chance to use their unique experience working directly with patients to make direct changes to the healthcare industry, improving patient care and bettering patient outcomes.
Greater Career Autonomy
Compared to a role as a registered nurse, working as a nurse practitioner is a role where professionals are able to take charge of medical situations, are trusted to make high-level decisions, and are put in charge of patient care without the need to wait for a more advanced healthcare professional to give the OK. In twenty US states, nurse practitioners have full practice authority, which gives them the ability to start their own clinics and practices, where they can work to provide healthcare treatment and advice to their patients without the need for supervision.
Make a Difference
The main reason for many people who decide to get into a nursing career is that they want to find a job that allows them to make a difference to others. Working as a nurse practitioner is a career choice that allows you to be the difference that you want to see in the healthcare industry. In this role you will be working directly with patients to make a difference to the lives of individuals, along with working as an advocate and influencing policy and other important decisions to make a difference to the healthcare industry as a whole.
With the demand for nurse practitioners growing, this is one of the best roles to consider if you are a registered nurse interested in career progression, or are considering a nursing career in the future.