Nurse practitioners are professionals who are in high demand in the healthcare industry today. Not only do they earn a higher salary compared to registered nurses and other nursing professionals, but they also have more autonomy and authority in their line of work, with many states allowing nurse practitioners to diagnose conditions in patients, prescribe medication, and refer patients for treatment without the need for supervision from a medical doctor. Read on to find out more about becoming a nurse practitioner and what you can expect from the process.
What is a Nurse Practitioner?
First of all, what exactly is a nurse practitioner? A nurse practitioner is an advanced practice nurse that has earned an advanced nursing degree such as a master of science in nursing or a doctor of nursing practice along with an additional nurse practitioner certificate. Nurse practitioners are required to undertake advanced training, which is one of the reasons why they tend to have more authority compared to registered nurses and can enjoy similar responsibilities to physicians in the states where they hold full practice authority. There are various nurse practitioner roles to consider, including family nurse practitioner, adult-gerontology nurse practitioner, pediatric nurse practitioner, and psychiatric nurse practitioner.
Nurse Practitioner Role and Responsibilities
A nurse practitioner is a professional who will usually have more responsibilities compared to registered nurses. In many states, nurse practitioners are able to run their own clinics without the need for supervision from a medical doctor, which can ultimately mean that nurse practitioners are free to start and run their own clinics along with working in a range of other healthcare settings. In other states, nurse practitioners still hold a lot more responsibility; however, they are required to have a physician sign off on their patient care decisions.
How Much Do Nurse Practitioners Earn?
The salary for a nurse practitioner is often much higher compared to that of a registered nurse, at a national average of around $115,000, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you are interested in a career as a nurse practitioner, there are several steps to follow before you will be able to get into this role.
1. Qualifying as a Registered Nurse
The first step to take in the journey towards becoming a nurse practitioner is to become a registered nurse. You can do this with an associate’s degree in nursing, but bear in mind that to be eligible for the majority of advanced nursing programs that are necessary for becoming a nurse practitioner, you will usually be required to hold a BSN. However, if you want to get into the nursing career as quickly as possible, you can do this with an associate degree in less time compared to getting a BSN and there are several options to consider to improve your qualifications as you work in the future.
2. Getting a Bachelor’s Degree
There are several different options to consider if you want to get a BSN depending on where you currently are in your nursing career. If you do not have a previous degree qualification and are not trained as a registered nurse, you can get a BSN by taking the traditional route, which will typically take around four years. If you already have a bachelor’s degree in a different subject, the accelerated BSN program might be a good option for you. This online nursing degree for non nurses from Marymount University allows you to build on the knowledge and skills that you already have to get your bachelor’s degree in nursing in around half the time compared to the traditional route. Finally, if you are already trained as a registered nurse with an associate degree in nursing, you can find bridge programs such as the ADN-BSN that will enable you to build on your nursing knowledge and skills to become BSN-qualified.
3. Getting Nursing Experience
In most cases, you will only be eligible to apply to advanced nursing degree programs that are designed to get you into the role of a nurse practitioner when you have a few years’ experience in nursing. This is because working as a nurse practitioner is such an advanced role, that only nurses who have had the time to gain real-life experience in a wide range of different situations will be eligible. However, if you want to continue learning while getting nursing experience, there are several opportunities to do this on the job, that will not only help you improve your nursing skills, but will also put you in with a better chance of getting accepted onto a family nurse practitioner program. You can get a master’s degree in nursing online while you study, or sign up for a variety of training programs designed to improve your nursing specialty.
4. Getting a Graduate Degree
To become a nurse practitioner, you will usually be required to have a minimum of a master’s degree in nursing. If you already have a master’s degree in nursing or a doctorate, you can find family nurse practitioner programs that are specifically designed to get you into this role including bridge programs that will allow you to build on the knowledge that you already have. Some master’s degrees are designed specifically to qualify you for the role as a family nurse practitioner, and are meant for nurses who are applying with a BSN.
Read next: Ideas to Become a Mobile-Ready Doctor
5. Getting Licensed as a Nurse Practitioner
Once you are qualified academically to work as a family nurse practitioner, you will need to take another licensing exam to permit you to work as an advanced practice nurse in your state. Since each state has its own requirements for nurse practitioner licensing, it’s important to become familiar with the requirements for the state that you are planning to work in. Once you have gained this license, you will be able to start working as a nurse practitioner in your state.
Whether you’re already working as a nurse or considering nursing for your future career, nurse practitioners are some of the most in-demand, well-paid, and well-respected professionals in the healthcare industry today.