What to Expect When Pursuing a Career as a Nurse Practitioner

3rd November 2021

Whether you are just starting out as a nurse or you have tons of experience under your belt, seeking a career in an advanced nursing profession is a goal many working nurses share. Branching out in the field of nursing can mean different things to different people. However, becoming a nurse practitioner (NP) is a popular career route for many registered nurses. NPs work in enriching patient care roles, they have a wide scope of practice and they also benefit from an elevated earning potential. Here is a guide to the role of a nurse practitioner and what you should expect when pursuing this career.

The Role of a Nurse Practitioner

In the United States, nurses are one of the most trusted groups of professionals, according to the American Nurses Association, and becoming a nurse practitioner is the next natural step for many registered nurses. On top of the high level of patient trust, becoming an NP means that nurses have a wider scope of practice and can take on more responsibilities akin to that of a physician. Depending on their location of practice, they are able to practice independently and run their own practice. NPs are health care providers who deliver primary and preventative care to patients. They are responsible for examining and assessing patients, ordering tests, diagnosing illnesses and conditions, and prescribing treatment.

Advanced Practice Registered Nurse

Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) are nurses who have reached an advanced level with a few specific qualifications and relevant experience in the field. APRNs have a wider scope of practice than registered nurses and are able to take on a high level of responsibility in medical and healthcare settings. They are regarded as completely competent to use their expert skills and knowledge to practice on patients. Once nursing professionals become APRNs they can pursue different types of advanced level nursing positions. These include nurse anesthetist (CRNA), clinical nurse specialist (CNS), certified nurse midwife (CNM) and nurse practitioner (NP).

Earning Potential

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for nurse practitioners, nurse-midwives and nurse anesthetists is $117,670 per year. However, the average salary for a nurse practitioner can vary depending on the state they practice in and the area they specialize in.

Employment Outlook

From 2019 to 2029, the employment outlook for these APRNs is predicted to grow up to 45 percent, which far exceeds the national average for other occupations. This projected growth is down to the increasing needs of the aging population in the United States, and the growing demand for certified nursing professionals. Not to mention, a study from the Association of American Medical Colleges projects a deficit of up to 139,000 physicians by 2033. Some reasons for this shortfall include retiring physicians and aging patients. This deficit provides more opportunities for nurse practitioners, and other certified nursing professionals, as they can help alleviate the issue of a physician shortage.

Work Environment

Nurse practitioners can practice in a diverse range of work environments in medical and healthcare settings. For example, they could provide care directly in the home of their patients, in schools, private doctor’s offices, major hospitals and public health clinics.

Nurse Practitioner Specialisms

In addition to this diverse mix of work environments, nurse practitioners can narrow their focus to particular specialisms. Specialisms are often chosen when picking a degree program. While studying for their degree, prospective nurse practitioners gain in depth knowledge into specific fields and develop their skills to suit their chosen area of expertise. Here are some of the most popular NP roles.

Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

Psychiatric and mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNPs) are one of the most well paid roles for certified nursing professionals. PMHNPs can expect to earn an average salary of $125,000 per year. This NP specialty involves helping individuals of all ages with their mental health issues. This can include treating people with psychiatric disorders, behavioral problems and substance abuse issues. PMHNPs can use therapeutic measures to help their clients and they can prescribe medication too.

Family Nurse Practitioner

Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) have a broad scope of practice and work as primary health care providers for individuals, families and communities. FNPs are often the first point of contact for many people and provide primary care throughout a person’s lifetime. This enables FNPs to develop meaningful relationships with patients over a long period of time. The nature of the FNP role makes it incredibly enriching for many nursing professionals.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

Pediatric nurse practitioners (PNPs) can expect to earn an average annual salary of $110,000. They provide care for children ranging from newborns to young adults and can specialize by body system or service. Duties can include examining patients and diagnosing illnesses and conditions.

Becoming a Nurse Practitioner

As mentioned earlier, nurse practitioners are advanced practice registered nurses. To become an NP must undergo specific training and have a certain level of experience.

Get Qualified

Nurse practitioners are registered nurses who have obtained an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN). Next, RNs need to gain a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). Registered nurses with an ADN can obtain a BSN before getting their MSN. Alternatively, there are some degree programs that allow nurses to accelerate their learning and skip the BSN. An MSN is essential for nurses who want to advance as a nurse practitioner. This advanced degree equips working nurses with deeper knowledge in nursing and helps then gain skills that enable them to provide patients with better care.

Gain Relevant Experience

Nursing professionals must complete a certain number of clinical hours to progress as an NP. Clinical experience in a supervised environment enables students to gain working knowledge and practical experience to become an NP.

Certification and Licensure

In addition to an advanced degree and clinical experience, nurses need to pass the relevant national certification exam, which differs depending on where they want to practice. They must also obtain the correct state license. The requirements for the license vary depending on the state.