What Are the Best Career Paths for Nurses?

A nursing practitioner (NP) is a highly specialized registered nurse (commonly coined RNs). These specialties range from Family (FNP), psychiatric and mental health (PMHNP), geriatric (GNP) to neonatal (NNP)and pediatric (PNP) care. NPs can be responsible for the patient’s diagnosis, testing, treatment, and management in the USA. They occupy a mid-level position between an RN and a doctor, which is reflected in the salary average of $110,000 per year. They belong to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, or AANP, who license and regulate their practice.

The nurse practitioner progression route

The United States Bureau for Labor Statistics predicts that nurse practitioners’ openings (commonly called NPs) will increase 36% between 2016 and 2026. More than 290,000 Nurse Practitioners are practicing in the United States – and the demand is growing fast. On average, nurse practitioners see three or four patients per hour, and when working full time, write approximately 20 prescriptions per day. Over 80% of practicing nurse practitioners accept Medicare and Medicaid patients.

Individual practice can vary by state: full-practice, autonomous; reduced-practice, meaning limited autonomy; and restricted-practice, requiring some supervision. However, over 95% of advanced nurse practitioners prescribe regularly, and all advanced nurse practitioners hold prescriptive privileges in all 50 states.

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What is the history of the nurse practitioner position?

The NP’s role was originally appointed in 1965 and has evolved to become an invaluable part of the wider healthcare team. Created to deal with physicians’ increased demand, nurse practitioners were introduced shortly after Medicare and Medicaid were. It continued to become a master’s degree program, compared to the original simplistic certification. They were first appointed to deal with patients under 21 years old, but by the 1970s, several adult subspecialties had emerged. Over the next 50 years, over 200,000 nurses would successfully go on to become nurse practitioners.

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How can you differentiate between the types of nurse practitioners?

  • Family Nurse Practitioner – FNPs Provide care to all family members across their lifespan and educate patients on healthy choices.
  • Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse Practitioner – offer primary mental health care with medication and talking therapies.
  • Geriatric Nurse Practitioner – primary care services for senior patients.
  • Neonatal Nurse Practitioner – provide specialized care to newborns, often those born prematurely or having complications post-birth.
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – provide care to under 21s.
  • Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner – provide immediate care to acutely ill patients and healthy lifestyle counseling.
  • Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner – care for patients from their late teens onwards with chronic conditions.
  • Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner – primary care services for women across their lifespan, often beginning at adolescence.

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Can you subspecialize as a nurse practitioner?

Yes, you can! Subspecializing can give you a chance to focus all your educational and professional energy into one area that particularly piques your interest.

Subspecialties include:

  • Immunology (the immune system)
  • Cardiac (the heart and circulatory system)
  • Dermatology (the skin, hair, and nails)
  • Holistic (a comprehensive approach to health, using practices such as aromatherapy and acupuncture)
  • Hospice (end of life care)
  • Gastroenterology (the digestive system)
  • Surgical (working the OR within a larger medical team)
  • Neurological (the nervous system: both the central and peripheral)
  • Orthopedics (the musculoskeletal system)
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory (the body’s breathing system)
  • Sports Medicine (a multidisciplinary role treating sports-related injuries)
  • Urology (the urinary tract and male reproductive organs)

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What qualifications do you need to become a nurse practitioner?

To become an NP, initially, you will need a four-year bachelor of science degree in nursing (known as a BSN) to license as an RN and get some experience to start with. You can pursue specialization while you work as an RN, but you may need further certifications to be eligible to take a master’s program in your chosen field. As the next step in your journey to become an NP, you will need to earn a master of science in nursing (an MSN) or a nursing program doctor (a DNP). From here, you need to gain certification from a specialty nursing board and obtain appropriate state licensure. The final step in your journey is gaining employment. You will need to provide all certifications and, most likely, a full CV.

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What are the basic high school requirements for nursing?

A nursing degree program will admit students with biology, chemistry, and physics grades that stand out, alongside other core subjects. Extracurricular education opportunities that teach about pharmacology, human anatomy, and physiology are a great way to be prepared for the classes taught at nursing college.  Any voluntary work or work experience is a plus, particularly if it reflects a genuine desire to help others, in a healing capacity or otherwise.

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What experience do you need to become a nurse practitioner?

Depending on your choice of the study program, you will need to check their minimum requirement for field experience to progress to NP’s position. Some educators offer a set minimum number of hours, whereas others consider your whole employment term as an RN. They may also ask you to provide proof of these hours.

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What personal characteristics are suited to the role of a nurse practitioner?

To qualify for the emotional strain of nurse practitioners’ jobs, admissions tutors and employers look for personality traits such as compassion, approachability, and a calm and confident manner. Top nurses across the board are also great communicators, empathize with patients, pay attention to detail, have substantial stamina, and have an outstanding commitment to patient advocacy.

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What are the benefits of becoming a nurse practitioner?

At a glance:

  • Flexible shift patterns and often, a relatively self-managed schedule
  • Autonomous practice (location dependent)
  • More responsibility
  • A greater level of knowledge in your chosen field
  • A salary increase
  • The potential to help more people at a more specialized level
  • A challenging and fast-paced work environment that is highly rewarding
  • The opportunity to get to know patients and their families
  • A wider contribution to the community
  • An incredibly varied work life
  • Home and work balance

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What specialty is the most common for nurse practitioners in the States?

FNPs make up 55% of all NPs in the USA. Experts say that with the huge variation of people and tasks that FNPs encounter, this number is set for growth.

How can you train to become a family nurse practitioner around your current work and family life?

Assuming you are already a practicing RN, becoming certified and specializing in family care can be flexible, convenient, and highly beneficial to you and your community. You can take an MSN degree program from home at your own pace, with the same 1-1 support you would experience in a classroom.

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How affordable is it to become a family nurse practitioner?

As well as being able to continue working around a distance learning program and continuing to earn a salary, you may find that becoming an FNP costs less than you would expect. If you want to specialize but cannot afford to, see if you are eligible for financial aid to help with the cost. Alternatively, apply for a government or charitable grant to help you complete your further education.

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How are family nurse practitioners different?

FNPs are described as ‘mid-level’ professionals. The difference between an FNP and an RN’s duties lies in their ability to diagnose, test, and prescribe. Shockingly, it is the difference between a doctor and an FNP that is slightly smaller. The main difference is the amount of time spent and training routes, with doctors experiencing a far more exhaustive medical education. This results in an FNP often having to consult with higher-level professionals for complex cases. However, FNPs tend to have more available appointments and often see more patients in a day. Although they may deliver the same care to patients, the differences between a doctor and an FNP expands further than a degree. It lies in their licensing, training requirements, continued recertification requirements, and salary.

FNPs also have a duty to educate patients and understand healthcare from many different points of view, which is unique in the healthcare sector. They are mostly based in clinical and hospital settings, although some FNPs can be found working in the community.

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What are the benefits of becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner?

On a personal and professional level, the median base salary for an FNP is approximately $110,000, which is a considerable increase from an RN’s salary. It is also a practice growing at a 7% faster rate than its clinical counterparts. There is an ever-growing demand for competent FNPs in the US, making job security higher than the average position. This is because of the invaluable gap that FNPs fill in the healthcare system; they are highly valued and educated.

From a wider perspective, nurses are healers, while doctors are scientists at their core. This means that this role’s additional responsibilities provide a great opportunity to do what you inevitably love: helping people.

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What does a typical day look like for a family nurse practitioner?

It is often suggested that as an FNP, there is no ‘typical’ day, week, or month. They see patients of a wide age range and a multitude of conditions and diseases. Their days consist of administrative tasks, lab test follow-ups, seeing patients for diagnosis and treatment, and admitting patients to the hospital or referring them, where necessary. There are also many important decisions in everyday life of an FNP, such as prioritizing patients and creating treatment plans.

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Where can I work as a family nurse practitioner?

After earning your qualifications and gaining certification and licensure, you will want to find the environment where you thrive. As an FNP, you can work in research, clinics, emergency settings, clinics, hospitals, out-patient services, or practice independently.

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What other routes can registered nurses take to advance their careers?

As an alternative progression route, nurses can use their degree to become an educator of nursing, take on a clinical leadership or mentorship role, or transfer into a nurse informatics role. If you are specifically looking to move away from patient care, the role of telemedicine nurse, case manager, or legal consultant is a potential position to explore. You could also move further afield by working for an insurance company collecting and interrupting data, performing clinical research, and completing medical coding. If your love of science has driven your nursing career thus far, consider branching out into the field of pharmaceuticals or research.

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Why qualify as a nurse practitioner now?

With the Coronavirus having swept the States, the demand for NPs is bigger than ever, no matter what type of specialty. You can enjoy a truly enriching workday while helping others and increasing your own conveniences, such as income and flexibility. The Coronavirus has claimed over two million lives and infected almost 100 million people in total. It has had a devasting effect on all of humanity, and America has faced challenges like lockdowns, a recession, and a shortage of food and ventilators. The terrifying reality is that more resources and personnel are needed to defeat this chaotic virus.

Qualify as an NP in as little as two and a half years and be the positive change you want to see in the healthcare system. Enrich your life and the lives of countless others providing primary and acute care services as an NP.

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In conclusion

Becoming a nurse practitioner is a great step for registered nurses. It can provide a wealth of benefits: financially, educationally, and flexibility, as well as the ability to help more people by recovering from more complex conditions. There are many subspecialties with the nursing practitioner role, including surgery, neurology, and respiratory.

The FNP is the most popularly occupied NP position, and within it, a wider range of responsibilities have evolved. The need for NP professionals is growing quickly, and they are considered invaluable members of the healthcare team. There are many alternative ways to progress as a nurse. However, the nurse practitioner role has a high demand and highly rewarding benefits, so whatever your career plans are, there are options for you.

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