08 Mar What Are The Benefits Of Becoming A Nurse Practitioner?
If you are a registered nurse, or you are thinking about nursing as a career option, then becoming a nurse practitioner is a great way to prove your experience and expertise.
It allows you more agency when working with patients, as the advanced level of qualification that nurse practitioners have means that they are allowed to make treatment decisions without the supervision of a physician.
Becoming a nurse practitioner also gives you access to higher remuneration, and to specialize in an area of medicine which can be incredibly fulfilling.
What is a nurse practitioner?
Nurse Practitioners are registered nurses who have carried out extra training, which means that they have more authority than registered nurses and share a similar responsibility level to doctors.
They are able to prescribe medications, order diagnostic tests and provide treatments much as a physician would. Also like a physician, they will have undertaken their training to specialize in a particular area of medicine.
Nurse Practitioners begin their careers as registered nurses, which means that they are used to approaching medicine in a patient-centric way. They will often work with an idea of patient comfort at the forefront of their minds, whereas a doctor can operate with an idea of medical treatment at the forefront of theirs. This means that a combination of doctors and Nurse Practitioners within a healthcare facility can lead to a more rounded care experience.
In some states, Nurse Practitioners are able to operate without the supervision of a doctor. However, in others, they do need to get a sign off for any treatments that they provide. There is a general movement towards allowing Nurse Practitioners more agency as this is helping to relieve strain on the healthcare system.
How do you become a nurse practitioner?
To become a Nurse Practitioner you must first be a Registered Nurse.
Ideally, your qualification should be a BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing). If you have an ADN (Associate Degree in Nursing), then you may need to enroll in an ADN to BSN conversion program.
Once you have your BSN, you will need to get your MSN (Masters of Science in Nursing). Some people like to gain a little experience working as a registered nurse before embarking on their masters, whereas others like to go straight into their masters. It is also possible to gain a DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice) to become a Nurse Practitioner.
When you choose your MSN or DNP course you will usually choose your specialization, which is why some people like to gain some experience in a few areas of medicine first – to help them make the decision.
Once you have your qualification you will be able to apply for licensure as a Nurse Practitioner. Requirements for the license vary from state to state, but, in general, you will need your qualifications plus a certain number of hours of supervised clinical practice.
To find out more about how to become a nurse practitioner, click here.
Nurse practitioner salaries
Nurse practitioner salaries vary depending on where in the country you are working, and in which type of institution. Generally, nurse practitioners working in cities will receive a higher salary, as will those who are working in large research hospitals. That being said, the cost of living in cities is often higher too so it can even out!
According to the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics), the average salary for a Nurse Practitioner is $115,800. There is also expected to be a 45% increase in demand for Nurse Practitioners between 2019 and 2029, with an additional 117,700 Nurse Practitioners being needed.
This increase is due in part to the ageing population, and the increase in chronic illnesses such as diabetes and obesity. However, it is also because Nurse Practitioners are gradually being given more responsibility and a more leading role in the medical profession.
Nurse practitioner specializations
When you embark on your postgraduate study to become a nurse practitioner, you will choose a specialization. This is the area of medicine in which you would most like to work.
Some of the areas of specialization for nurse practitioners are:
- Acute care. This area of medicine involves working with adults who have chronic or acute medical conditions. You will generally work as part of a team of medical professionals, in an emergency department or other short term care facility. Acute care professionals must make quick decisions on a daily basis which have a huge impact on the outcome for their patient.
- Family care. Family nurse practitioners work closely with families throughout their lives, providing healthcare and advice. Their role is similar to that of a family physician, and they often work in close collaboration with them.
- Cardiac nurse practitioners specialize in the heart. They will work closely with physicians and carry out assessments, order tests and make recommendations for patients. They will also work with patients to help them take the best care of their heart.
- Psychiatric and Mental Health. Nurse practitioners working in this area might work in a number of facilities, including inpatient psychiatric facilities, schools, prisons or in the home. They work to diagnose and treat mental health disorders and because of their level of qualification, they are able to dispense medication and other psychiatric treatments.
What is it like being a Nurse Practitioner?
There is not really such a thing as an average day as a nurse practitioner, given the wide range of specializations and the different facilities that Nurse Practitioners can work in!
One family nurse practitioner explained that her role involves seeing patients as their primary care provider, assessing and diagnosing them based on the symptoms that they bring to her. She is supervised by a physician, who looks after a total of four nurse practitioners. She explains that she generally works independently unless the patient is presenting unusual symptoms that she has not seen before. In those cases, she will go to her supervising physician for a second opinion.
She gets a lot of satisfaction from providing an excellent level of care in a community that is sometimes overlooked, and from educating her patients so that they can look after themselves as well as possible.
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