In modern healthcare, nurse practitioners are advanced healthcare professionals in very high demand. With fewer medical students now deciding on a pathway into primary care, it has become more and more commonplace for this to be delivered by nurse practitioners. Nurse-led primary care is becoming the new normal in many healthcare settings across the US, and patient surveys suggest that it’s having a positive impact, with many patients reporting that they receive a satisfactory standard of care. Nurse practitioners earn a higher salary compared to registered nurses and enjoy more responsibility and autonomy in their roles, with twenty states awarding full practice authority to these professionals, allowing them to work without the need for supervision to diagnose, treat, and prescribe medication to patients.
What is the Nurse Practitioner Role?
A nurse practitioner is an advanced nursing professional. To qualify to work in this role, you will need to gain an advanced nursing degree; usually the minimum requirement is a master’s of science in nursing. Depending on the specialty role that you wish to get into as a nurse practitioner, you may also be required to get a postgraduate certificate to prepare you for working with a certain patient population. As the role of the nurse practitioner becomes more popular and the demand for these professionals increases, there has been an increase in master’s degree programs that have a specific focus on getting nurses prepared to work in a certain nurse practitioner role, such as the pediatric nurse practitioner program available at Baylor University.
Nurse Practitioner Responsibilities
Compared to a registered nurse, working as a nurse practitioner will involve more responsibilities. In twenty states, nurse practitioners have full practice authority, which allows them to run their own practice without a requirement for their decisions to be authorized by a primary care physician. This means that unlike registered nurses, nurse practitioners can enjoy more autonomy when it comes to the work that they do, including starting and running their own practice with a focus on what they are most interested in or what there is a demand for in the area. Some examples of this would be working as a family nurse practitioner, where you can start a clinic that focuses on primary care and family health, or training as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner to open a clinic that focuses on treating patients with mental health conditions.
What Do Nurse Practitioners Earn?
Nurse practitioners will typically earn significantly more than registered nurses. If you are currently working as a registered nurse, training and getting your license to work as a nurse practitioner in your state could see your salary increase by an average of around $30,000 per year. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the average annual salary for nurse practitioners as around $115k, although this can vary depending on the state that you work in. Some nurse practitioner specialty areas, such as the role of a neonatal nurse practitioner, will also pay more due to higher demand and a greater skill requirement.
Becoming a Nurse Practitioner
If you want to get into this exciting and high-demand career path with a chance to make a real difference to the lives of others, these are the steps that you will need to take in order to work as a nurse practitioner.
1. Become a Registered Nurse
To work as a nurse practitioner, you will first need to gain experience working as a registered nurse. To become a registered nurse, you will need a minimum of an associate’s degree in nursing, along with passing the NCLEX.
2. Get a BSN
If you did not enter the nursing career with a BSN, you will need to study for and achieve this degree before you can take your career further and become a nurse practitioner. Generally, the BSN is the minimum requirement for nurses who want to enroll on an advanced degree program such as an MSN. If you already have an associate’s degree in nursing, there are bridge programs available that allow you to get your BSN in a shorter time period by building on the knowledge and experience that you already have. If you are new to nursing, a traditional BSN program will take you around four years. However, if you have a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing subject, you may want to consider an accelerated BSN program, which is designed to apply the knowledge you already have to nursing, and help you develop the specific knowledge and skills you need to get a BSN in around two years.
3. Get Nursing Experience
Most of the time, nurse practitioner roles will advertise for nurses who not only have the appropriate advanced qualifications, but will also require you to have a certain amount of nursing experience. You will usually be required to gain at least a few years of experience working as a registered nurse before you will be considered for nurse practitioner roles, since the position is so advanced. Along with this, getting as much experience as possible before training to become a nurse practitioner will make it easier for you to choose your best specialty area and determine the healthcare settings where you’d prefer to work, which can influence your choice of advanced degree.
4. Get an Advanced Degree
You will typically be required to have a graduate degree in nursing such as an MSN in order to work as a nurse practitioner. These programs will usually require you to have a BSN, a current active nursing license and a certain amount of nursing experience. You can become a nurse practitioner with a general MSN or enroll on a specialist MSN program that has a specific focus on training you to work in a specialty area of your choosing. Once you have gained your advanced degree, you’ll then need to pass an exam to earn a license to practice as an advanced registered nurse in your state.
Whether you’re considering a future nursing career or already working as a nurse, a career as a nurse practitioner is one where you can advocate for patients, help others, and make a difference to healthcare in general.