The role of a nurse practitioner is in increasingly higher demand across the US today. Because fewer medical students are opting to go into family practice or primary care and the population is ageing and suffering from more chronic health conditions, nurse practitioners are in demand in every area to close this gap and ensure that patients can access the high standard of healthcare that they expect and are entitled to. Nurse practitioners enjoy higher salaries, more responsibility, and more career authority and autonomy compared to registered nurses along with a range of further benefits. They are hugely instrumental in improving healthcare policy and can often be found acting as vocal advocates for their patients.

What is a Nurse Practitioner?

A nurse practitioner is an advanced nursing professional who has completed advanced nursing training, often in the form of a master of science in nursing with nurse practitioner training or a doctor of nursing practice degree. The advanced training that nurses undergo to become nurse practitioners allows them to have more authority and responsibilities in their career compared to a registered nurse. NPs are given full practice authority in many regions, which permits them to carry out more advanced clinical work such as diagnosing patients, prescribing medication, and referring patients to further treatment without the need for them to be signed off or supervised by a primary care doctor.

Nurse practitioners tend to work as providers of either primary or specialty care. They will usually focus the provision of their care on a specific population of patients such as the general population, adults, the elderly, children, or infants. Some nurse practitioners such as psychiatric nurse practitioners focus on providing care to patients with certain health conditions.

What Does a Nurse Practitioner’s Role Involve?

Compared to a registered nurse, a nurse practitioner will usually have more responsibilities and authority in their career. They can examine, diagnose, prescribe, and refer in much the same way as a primary care physician. Depending on the state that they are licensed to work in, they can do this either independently or under the supervision of a primary care physician. Nurse practitioners are currently given full practice authority in twenty US states.

With an increasing number of healthcare environments now relying heavily on the knowledge, skills, and expertise of nurse practitioners to provide healthcare services to patients, they are becoming more and more essential and the demand for nurse practitioners is growing. For nurse practitioners, the previous experience that they have gained as a nurse puts them in a unique position when it comes to how they approach patient care. Across the healthcare industry, nurse practitioners are known for offering holistic and patient-centered care that comes with a high satisfaction rate, a lower rate of readmission to hospital, and fewer unnecessary patient visits to the ER.

How Much Can I Earn as a Nurse Practitioner?

One of the main reasons why nurses become nurse practitioners is because it’s a highly rewarding career option with endless chances to help other people. However, the salary is also a very appealing factor with nurse practitioners earning an average of over $100k per year according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. On average, nurse practitioners earn around $30k extra per year compared to registered nurses, and the salary can vary by location and based on the demand for nurse practitioners in the area, so there is always the chance to earn more.

What’s the Career Outlook Like for Nurse Practitioners?

Currently, the role of a nurse practitioner is in very high demand across the country, and this does not seem set to change any time soon. With nurse practitioners already given full practice authority in twenty states, this might be allowed in even more states in the future as nurse practitioners become more and more essential to providing high-quality healthcare as the country deals with a shortage of primary care doctors. It is predicted that by 2028, the jobs available for nurse practitioners are going to increase by almost 30%.

How to Become a Nurse Practitioner:

If the role of a nurse practitioner is appealing to you, there are several steps involved in reaching your career goal. To work as a nurse practitioner, you will need the following:

·      Become a Registered Nurse:

Qualifying as a registered nurse is the first step in the process of becoming a nurse practitioner. This can be done by enrolling in a nursing training program such as an associate degree or bachelor’s degree in nursing. If you want to get into nursing sooner rather than later, an associate degree in nursing is usually the shorter choice, however, there might be further qualifications and training that you will need to complete before you will be eligible for enrolling in a nurse practitioner training program in the future. You can use this degree to get the nursing experience that you will need to enroll.

·      Get a BSN:

If you are a registered nurse but do not already have a BSN, you will usually be required to get one before you can take your career further into the role of a nurse practitioner. A BSN is usually the minimum qualification requirement for nurse practitioner training. If you already have a nursing qualification such as an associate degree in nursing, you can find bridge programs that are shorter than a traditional BSN since they are designed to allow you to build on the knowledge and skills that you already have in nursing. If you have another bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing subject and want to get a BSN in order to start the process of becoming a nurse practitioner, you can find accelerated BSN programs available that are designed for people who have other qualifications. These programs typically take around half the time that a traditional BSN program will take to complete. Today, one of the easiest ways to get your BSN is online.

·      Get Nursing Experience:

The majority of nurse practitioner training programs will require you to have some experience in nursing before you enroll, due to the advanced nature of this role. How long you will have had to have been working as a nurse will usually vary between programs, so consider the experience requirement for the one that you are the most interested in. Getting experience as a nurse is not only necessary for getting into a nurse practitioner training program but it can also be very helpful when it comes to deciding what type of nurse practitioner you’d like to be. As a nurse, you will have the chance to get experience in several different departments and with a range of different patients and conditions, which can make it easier for you to figure out where you’d like to specialize or if you would prefer to go into primary or general care as a family nurse practitioner.

·      Get an Advanced Nursing Degree:

You will need to complete an advanced nursing graduate degree in order to further your nursing career and become a nurse practitioner. This will usually take around two to three years to complete depending on the route that you take. There are several options to consider including master’s degree programs followed by advanced nurse practitioner training before finally getting a license to work as a nurse practitioner in your state once you have graduated. Alternatively, you can now also find several advanced degree programs that are designed specifically for registered nurses who want to progress to the role of nurse practitioner. These are offered as general family nurse practitioner training programs or programs that are based around other specialties allowing you to get into your chosen role sooner. Since these programs are often taken by people who are working in nursing full-time, they are becoming increasingly available online and with flexible learning options to make studying easier.

How to Choose the Right Nurse Practitioner Training Program:

When it comes to training as a nurse practitioner, there is no shortage of options for registered nurses to choose from. A wide range of both online and on-campus nurse practitioner training programs has made it easier than ever for the right professionals to get into this career choice and start making a difference in healthcare. Several factors are worth considering before you choose the right nurse practitioner training program for you. If you are currently working as a registered nurse full-time and want this to continue, then the flexibility of the program is likely going to be a high priority for you. Many online nurse practitioner training programs today are highly flexible and allow students to choose when is best for them to attend classes and lectures, making it an ideal choice for nurses. Other factors to consider include the reputation of the school offering the program, the cost, duration of the program, employer support, and more.

Whether you’re thinking of starting work as a nurse or are already in nursing, a role as a nurse practitioner is an ideal option for many healthcare professionals to aspire to.