Nurse practitioners are highly trained, highly skilled advance practice nurses who have more responsibilities and autonomy compared to registered nurses. There is currently a high and growing demand for nurse practitioners across the country for a wide range of reasons. One of the main factors behind this demand is the shortage of primary care physicians as fewer medical students choose to study primary care. Instead of causing a shortage that would have a negative impact on patients around the country, healthcare employers are hiring family nurse practitioners, who have authority to diagnose and prescribe patients without supervision in over twenty US states, to fill this gap and make sure that high standards of patient care are upheld.
Since nurse practitioner are standing in for primary care physicians, the healthcare industry has come to realize that they are a great choice for this role. Nursing often takes a much more person-centered and holistic role to healthcare and putting experienced advanced practice nurses in primary care roles has led to higher rates of patient satisfaction and fewer repeat visits. Keep reading to find out more about the nurse practitioner role.
Types of Nurse Practitioner
Family nurse practitioners may be the most in-demand nurse practitioner role in the US; however, they are not the only type of nurse practitioner working in the healthcare industry today. Nurse practitioners can work in a wide variety of different areas with various specialties available for nurses who are interested in one area of healthcare more than others. Similar to primary care physicians, family nurse practitioners work with everybody in the general population who requires healthcare including adults and children. They deal with a wide range of illnesses and health complaints and make referrals, prescribe medication, and offer advice for countless problems that their patients might be facing.
On the other hand, some nurse practitioners decide to take a more specialist approach to their work and get into a role that allows them to work with their preferred patient population or with patients who require treatment for a condition that they may have a particular professional interest in such as cancer or mental health. There are specialist educational programs available for nurses who want to become a specialized nurse practitioner, such as the AGACNP programs from Baylor University available for nurses who want to move into a role of a nurse practitioner specializing in acute adult-gerontology care.
Nurse Practitioner Average Salary
Nurse practitioners can earn a significantly higher salary in comparison with registered nurses. On average, nurse practitioners earn around $30k more per year compared to what they were paid while working as a registered nurse. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurse practitioners earn an average salary of $115k annually. However, this salary can vary depending on many different factors including the area in which they work, the state where they are licensed to work, whether or not they run their own practice, and if they work in a highly specialist role such as a neonatal nurse practitioner or surgical nurse practitioner, which require more advanced training.
Steps to Becoming a Nurse Practitioner
Right now, the high demand for nurse practitioners means that there has never been a better time for registered nurses who are interested in working in this role to take the plunge. If you have been working as a registered nurse for a while and want to take your career further, becoming a nurse practitioner gives you the opportunity to improve your earning potential, become an expert in your chosen specialty area or stand in for primary care physicians with much the same level of responsibility and autonomy in your career. The steps to take to become a nurse practitioner include:
Become a Registered Nurse
If you are not already a registered nurse, you will need to become one and gain some experience in this field before moving into the role of a nurse practitioner. If you are currently working as a registered nurse, you will need to get a BSN before you will be eligible for the MSN that is usually a minimum requirement to move into advanced practice. If you’re a registered nurse with an associate degree in nursing, then you can find bridge programs available that will allow you to work on the knowledge and skills you already have as a nurse to get your BSN faster and be eligible to apply for MSN programs and master’s programs in advanced practice nursing.
Improve Your Nursing Experience
If you are fairly new to the field of nursing, then it’s worth spending some more time improving your nursing experience before you take the next step to becoming a nurse practitioner. Many nurse practitioner training programs and job opportunities will have minimum experience requirements that they are looking for in applicants. Along with this, taking advantage of opportunities to work in a wide variety of different areas as a nurse gives you the chance to figure out which areas of healthcare you are interested in the most and which patient populations you prefer working with, which can make it easier for you to determine if there’s a certain specialty area you’d like to get into as a nurse practitioner in the future.
Get an Advanced Degree
A graduate degree in nursing like the MSN is the minimum requirement to become a nurse practitioner. There are various degree programs now available to help you prepare for this position including programs that are tailored towards preparing students for a role as a family nurse practitioner and other nurse practitioner positions. These are either integrated master’s degree programs or add-on programs that you can take after graduating with a general master’s degree in nursing. Many of these programs are now available to study online, which can make it easier for busy, full-time registered nurses to get the credentials that they need to get into a nurse practitioner role.
Nurse practitioners are some of the most in-demand healthcare professionals in the US today. Earning significantly more than registered nurses and enjoying more autonomy in the workplace are just two of the top reasons why this role is a popular choice for nurses.