How to Become a Nurse Practitioner?
A nurse practitioner is also known as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN); this means that they are registered nurses who have completed additional training and education, often specializing in a particular medical area. Some specialities for nurse practitioners include family medicine, pediatrics, gerontology, psychiatry, women’s health, acute care, and oncology, though there are still other avenues that an APRN can pursue.
Job outlook and opportunities
Demand for nurse practitioners is fierce, and those seeking nurse practitioner jobs have thousands of opportunities available to them across the country; better yet, this number will only continue to grow. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that the occupational outlook for nurse practitioners is very rosy, with a growth rate of 40% through to 2031: an astounding number that is far faster than the growth rate for most other professions.
Nurse practitioners frequently serve as primary care physicians for patients, as they have the knowledge to diagnose and treat illnesses; they can also prescribe medications and make referrals to specialists for other areas of care. There are numerous settings in which a nurse practitioner can work, whether it is a private practice, a large hospital, a nursing home, or a treatment center for addiction and mental health: this is a field with a wealth of opportunities to save lives.
First steps to becoming a nurse practitioner
The path to becoming a nurse practitioner starts with becoming a registered nurse, which requires a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. You’ll have to pass the licensure exam in order to become an RN; the requirements for this vary by state, and you will be provided with information on the exam during your BSN degree.
After you have received your nursing license, it’s essential that you gain clinical experience to fully understand the healthcare industry and how to care for patients. This is a great time to try out different settings and practice areas, whether that is working with the elderly or mental health patients, as you may not realize exactly what you want to specialize in right out of college.
Enrolling in a nurse practitioner program
Once you feel confident in your nursing acumen, it’s time to take the next step: enrolling in a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. You should take your time choosing a program, as each one will be geared toward different specialities; if you’re not entirely set on a specialty area, try to pick a program that offers several that you might be interested in, as this means you won’t have to transfer if you change your mind.
Just as with your BSN, you’ll need to complete clinical hours and coursework related to your specialty; the classes here will be highly focused on a certain specialty, unlike the more general overviews that you received during your Bachelor’s degree. Some topics you’ll review during your program include specific mechanisms of disease origination, manifestation, diagnosis, and management; treatment plans; pharmacological interventions; and any special considerations for your patient population.
Getting licensed as a nurse practitioner
The next steps are very similar to the process of becoming an RN but simply more advanced. Once you’ve completed your coursework, you need to take a national certification exam related to your given specialty. There are several certifying boards, and your instructors will help you prepare and sign up for the exams based on your practice area.
Next, you will apply for an APRN license in your state. The licensing requirements are different by state, but all of them require you to submit an application and documentation proving your credentials, as well as undergo a background check. You may also have to pass a state-specific exam, which will be similar to your certification exam for the certifying board of your practice area. You can look up the licensing requirements by state, and it will also be covered in your courses if you took classes in the same state in which you are getting licensed.
Maintaining your APRN status
Like all medical licenses, you have to maintain good standing in order to prevent having your license revoked. This includes completing the required number of continuing education courses per licensing period and fulfilling all the obligations of your certifying organization, which will be laid out for you when you complete your certification exam. As expected, you also need to provide stellar care to your patients, because patients and your employer can report you to the state licensing board should there be any concerns about the quality of your work.
Being a nurse practitioner isn’t easy, and the steps to become one aren’t simple either: you will need to show consistent dedication to your work, as well as a strong desire to continue honing your skills over time. However, it’s an incredibly rewarding occupation, and one that is desperately needed in the United States and abroad. If you’re considering becoming a registered nurse, know that you can always advance to even greater heights with more education and training – and therefore be of even greater service to your patients.