Nurse practitioners are an important asset to the healthcare system. They are crucial for providing timely and accurate patient care services in various capacities. Nurse practitioners are associated with direct patient care along with specialty care. Owing to their higher skill set and educational qualifications, they can even rival the authority of a physician. In some states, they are permitted to diagnose, prescribe medication, order physical tests, and much more— all this without direct oversight of a doctor.
Demand for NPs in the coming years
Demand for nurse practitioners is growing very rapidly. According to BLS, the employment of nurse practitioners is expected to grow by 52% by 2030. However, more alarming is that nursing schools cannot produce enough skilled nurses at this rate, which means that there are expected to be more job opportunities than skilled nurses available to fill these positions. The demand for skilled nurse practitioners is also increasing at an alarming rate. Some aspects contributing to this demand include the retirement of skilled nurses, an increase in the number of baby boomers, and the heightened complexity of patient care needs. More hospitals want their nurses to get higher education. Hence, diploma holder nurses often find themselves underqualified to work in the technology-driven environment of healthcare.
Due to more demand by the healthcare sector, schools and professional organizations offer many nurse practitioner scholarships to aspiring students. These scholarships can be a big relief for nurses who want to pursue higher education, but degree cost is the barrier. So, whether you just entered healthcare or working as a registered nurse, becoming a nurse practitioner is in your best interests. Here is a list of all the steps to becoming a nurse practitioner.
- Become a registered nurse
If you are an RN, you can skip this part. But for others seeking to work in the nursing profession, becoming a registered nurse is the first step. So, to become a registered nurse, you must pass an accredited nursing program from a good nursing institution. While it is possible to start working as a nurse with a diploma in nursing only, it is the most basic nursing education. You don’t get to learn about advanced nursing practices or skills. Therefore, some states and hospitals may make it mandatory for nurses to have a BSN degree to gain employment. Therefore, if you don’t have immediate financial needs, it is better to have a BSN degree and then give the state nursing exam to get the license for the practice. Besides, if you aspire to become a nurse practitioner in the future, a bachelor’s degree is in any way needed. A nurse with a prior diploma in nursing can enroll in RN to BSN or fast-track programs that make it faster to get an MSN or a BSN degree. At the end of all these accredited qualifications, you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination and get the license in the state where you wish to practice.
- Gain experience
The next step is gaining ample experience in a hospital or other healthcare setting. Some nurses become an RN with a diploma and start their clinical practice. But simultaneously, they enroll in a BSN degree. So you can do the same too with an online BSN degree program. This way you can start earning and gain the relevant experience too. On the contrary, some nurses join healthcare with a BSN degree and practice full-time before returning to school.
This route is also good because a full-time job with no educational responsibilities helps you learn more about the field. This way, you can develop your clinical skills and apply the knowledge received during your studying years. Having a mentor is a big opportunity and a blessing. They can help choose the right educational program and explore new career opportunities. At the same, they assist you in understanding the healthcare systems and make fewer mistakes while you are still working.
- Explore specialties
While you are still practicing, you might want to explore various specialties and see where your interest lies the most. The common nursing specialties that you may wish to explore consist of the following:
Family: A family nurse practitioner can treat patients of all ages, including elders and kids. You have a wider scope of practice.
Pediatrics: In this specialization, you care about children regarding their mental, behavioral and physical aspects of health.
Women’s health: This is one of the very popular specializations in nursing. Here you are concerned about all aspects of women’s health, including pregnancy, general wellness, and family planning.
As an RN, you can earn many certifications and work in various areas of healthcare. These certifications indicate your experience to your prospective employer.
- Get an MSN degree
Once you have gained clinical experience for some years, you will need to complete your graduate-level degree to be a nurse practitioner. Nurses have two graduate-level degree options: MSN and DNP. MSN is a master’s level degree, while the latter is a terminal degree in nursing. Some states allow you to work as an NP with an MSN, but more states prefer their nurses have a DNP to practice.
Being a nurse practitioner means having a promising career ahead. With a graduate-level education, you can go into educational and leadership roles. Being an NP also means more job opportunities and a higher earning potential. You get recognition among your peers and a chance to improve your professional and social standing.