How to Become a Nurse Practitioner
Nurse practitioners are nurses that have gained a further qualification, such as a master’s, and can help with the management and diagnosis of illness. Nurse practitioners can gain a higher salary and have different career opportunities, making it a popular specialty. Below we will look at how you can become a nurse practitioner, what jobs you can do, and what being a nurse practitioner entails.
What is a Nurse Practitioner?
Nurse practitioners, often known as NP’s, are nurses who have gained a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) or a master’s of science in nursing (MSN). A nurse practitioner is higher qualified than a registered nurse (RN) and has similar responsibilities to a doctor. Nurse practitioners are clinicians who focus on promoting health with their patients and help communities to prevent disease. They usually work in specialty or primary care settings and tend to focus on a specific population, such as the elderly, children, or families.
Nurse Practitioner Specialties
Nurse practitioners, just like nurses, can work in a variety of different fields. This means nurses who are already experienced in a field can continue their career as nurse practitioners in their specialty. Some common areas of specialty for nurse practitioners include:
- Family care
- Acute care
What Does a Nurse Practitioner Do?
Nurse practitioners have more responsibilities than regular nurses, but some parts of the job will be the same. Nurse practitioners can not only give medication, but they can also prescribe it. They can also examine patients and diagnose conditions, using diagnostic equipment or referring their patients for tests. Much like a general physician, nurse practitioners can provide treatment options for patients and care for their patients in clinics.
The Skills Needed to Become a Nurse Practitioner
As well as needing degrees and nursing skills, there are other skills that are essential for becoming a nurse practitioner. These include:
In a nurse practitioner role, you may be seeing patients on your own. This may involve triaging patients, providing information about their condition, examining patients, and diagnosing. You need to be able to hold yourself accountable, as you will be in sole charge of your patients’ care.
As a nurse practitioner, you may choose to run your own clinic. Due to this, having good time management skills is a must. You have to be able to stick to time limits when it comes to appointments, call patients if you need to bring them back in for another appointment, and refer to other healthcare professionals.
A very important skill as a nurse, optimism is key when you become a nurse practitioner. As you are diagnosing your own patients, you must be able to stay optimistic and provide your patients with support, especially if the diagnosis is not something they were expecting. You may also have tough days and being optimistic will help you stay positive when seeing your patients.
All nurses must have compassion, as they are dealing with patients who are going through difficult times. You may be the first point of contact for your patients, meaning you must be able to console patients, as well as their families. Being able to do this will help you not only save lives but change them too.
Become a Registered Nurse
The first thing you need to do, if you haven’t already, is gain a nursing degree to become a registered nurse. This can be in any specialty, but bear in mind which specialty you go into may mean you can’t choose certain specialties as a nurse practitioner. For instance, if you decide to do a pediatric nursing degree, you will likely have to go into pediatrics or a family nurse practitioner role, but this is not always the case.
You can gain a nursing degree at most universities, with the option of studying online. This means you can study nursing alongside other commitments, such as childcare. You will still need to complete placements, where you work in a hospital and learn on the job, but you can study for a nursing degree part-time if you need to. A nursing degree is usually achieved in two ways, either with a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) or an associate degree in nursing (ADN).
Study for a Bachelor’s
Once you have experience in nursing, you can then study for a bachelor’s degree. To become a nurse practitioner, you will need to hold a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN). If you only hold an ADN, you can enroll in a specialized program, called an RN-BSN, which is an accelerated degree that can be studied online.
This gives you the option to study for a bachelor’s degree while you continue to work. Some universities will allow you to go straight into a nurse practitioner course, known as an MSN, even if you only hold an ADN. You should check the course requirements to see if you can study without gaining another qualification.
Most nurses when going into a nurse practitioner role will wait until they have enough experience that they feel confident as a nurse. Choosing to gain at least a few years’ experiences will help you to excel in your role and understand illnesses and conditions better. This will make your studies easier, as you will have more knowledge and understanding.
Some nurses will go straight from studying for their bachelor’s into a graduate program but do not feel rushed if you feel you need more time. Once you are a qualified nurse practitioner, you will have more responsibility so you must feel confident in your abilities and be ready to take the next step in your nursing career.
Earn Your Nurse Practitioner Degree
There are several nurse practitioner degrees that you can take which will give you a slightly different qualification but will be for the same role. Once you have a bachelor’s you can choose to study for a master’s degree, which is one of the most common nurse practitioner degrees.
For nurses without a bachelor’s, there are specialist RN-MSN programs that will allow you to gain a master’s without a BSN. This is known as a bridge MSN program. Some universities offer a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree, which is the best level of education currently available for nurses.
Getting Ready for a Nurse Practitioner Role
Once you have completed your nurse practitioner degree, it is now time to look at job options. These will differ depending on which state you reside in, but even if you want to move, there are nurse practitioner roles in all US states. Be sure to update your CV with all the experience you have gained during your training and any grades that you achieved (or are going to achieve if you haven’t yet qualified).
Even if you haven’t finished your degree, you can still start looking for jobs for when you qualify. Nurse practitioners are in demand, meaning looking early could secure you a job opportunity before you have even finished your degree. Your university may even have open days, where employers come round to speak with soon-to-be graduates about the jobs they have in their health centers or hospitals.
Creating a LinkedIn profile, if you haven’t already got one, can help when finding nurse practitioner roles. You can also join groups on LinkedIn, which can allow you to be seen and may lead to a potential job opportunity. Be sure to update your location and have a professional photo on there to stand out.
There are many great job sites that you can use that allow you to enter keywords to find the role and location of your dream nurse practitioner job. Sites such as Indeed.com and CareerBuilder are a good first place to look. You can even just use Google’s search option to look for nurse practitioner jobs in your area. Making a profile on several job sites can also lead employers to reach out to you.
If you don’t want to find a job online, there are plenty of other avenues. You may want to go back to a place you have already worked, or somewhere you have studied. Anywhere you have gained previous clinical experience is a good place to start and ask around. Even if they do not have anything going at the moment, they may be able to get you in touch with someone who does or keep your CV on file. As you have already worked there, they have already seen you in action, meaning you are more likely to get a role. Joining a nurse practitioner association in the state you live in can also lead you to job opportunities.
Becoming a nurse practitioner takes a lot of hard work, study, and determination. Despite this, the benefits of becoming a nurse practitioner include a higher salary, more responsibility, and the chance to diagnose and treat your own patients. Whether you are just starting on your nursing career, or you are already a qualified nurse looking to get further, a nurse practitioner role is one of the best career options for those who want to climb the nursing career ladder.