Nurse practitioners have been one of the very important elements of the entire healthcare delivery system that ensure smooth functioning and effective care. As more people enjoy the access to healthcare services, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, nurse practitioners are recognized as one of the most in-demand patient-care personnel, a key to unburden the stress of medical facilities by offering cost-effective, high quality, and on-time care. This blog is for those applicants who have an interest in becoming a nurse practitioner. You will learn about the career and the steps involved in becoming a nurse practitioner, and know what qualities are required to become one.
How Nurse Practitioner Contribute to the Medical Realm
Nurse practitioners are advanced clinical practitioners. They are most often licensed as APRN (advanced practice registered nurses) or have additional certification on their existing RN (registered nurse) license. The licensing and certification requirement totally depends upon the laws written by the given jurisdiction. Nurse practitioners get advanced training in nursing. They begin as a registered nurse and then with the help of a master’s degree or a doctorate’s degree they get to move farther in their careers. Most NPs are hired by hospitals and clinicians to provide support services to doctors or individual physicians. Their training and special education let them deliver a superior level of care to patients. They are also licensed to perform tasks that RNs are not authorized to.
Nurse practitioners most often serve specific medical department, area or population, such as pediatric, geriatric, mental health, cardiology, women’s health, adult medicine and so on. With an advanced degree program, they can practice independently as PNs and even take roles similar to that of doctors.
The job duties of nurse practitioners vary in each country based upon the government rules. However, the most common tasks they perform are conduct physical assessment, diagnose illnesses, order test, observe test results and diagnostic procedures, plan treatments, measure progress, prescribe medication within limits, and manage patient treatment. They are also allowed to bill health insurers for their office time and procedure.
However, they are not allowed to prescribe controlled substances and even if they are, they may be tightly regulated. With the growing shortage of primary care physicians, more states in the US are passing laws that allow NPs to practice independently without doctor’s supervision. However, depending upon the country‘s governance, the law of working under the supervision of physician changes.
NPs allow doctors to treat more patients who are in dire need and become more efficient without adding-up expenses. This makes nurse practitioners direct revenue producers for doctors and hospitals. And therefore, they have better job security and higher salaries than other types of nurses.
Role of Nurse Practitioners as Physician Extenders
Although it is not observed in many medical care centers, NPs can be considered as physician extenders because they are eligible to provide many of the same services and care as primary care doctors. Nowadays many healthcare providers are recruiting NPs to offer primary care when are unable to fill in the need for physicians.
However, experts from the medical community feel that NPs should not be allowed to perform so many crucial duties with relatively brief education and training period as compared to physicians who complete several years of education and many more years of residency training, before getting an opportunity to treat patients.
According to AANP (American Association of Nurse Practitioners), the average salary of NPs increased by 10% between 2011 and 2015, wherein the average base salary of a full-time nurse practitioner was $97, 083 in 2015.
Qualities of Nurse Practitioners
Although doctors closely work with patient’s health, nurses are the people who closely work with patients’ emotions. They treat illnesses, counsel patients, talk to them personally and even educate them about good health and hygiene. So, they need to possess certain qualities to qualify as masterful colleagues to doctors and physicians. You must learn, refine, or master these skills if you truly want to serve effectively as an NP.
Empathy means understanding another’smental condition and emotionalturmoil by trying to walk in their shoes. You have to have a special ability to feel someone else’s feelings. This will help you to respond in a manner that makes you someone who truly cares about the patient’s well-being. Empathy instigates compassion, kindness, and caring.
Although great communication skills are the fundamental requirement for any career, it is one of the main job requirements for nurse practitioners. You must have great speaking and listening abilities because the more you listen and the more you clear your speech, the easier it would be for you to solve problemsand help patients effectively.
Nursing is a very stressful job. You may have to deal with the traumatic situation on a regular basis based upon your specialty. You have to accept suffering and deal with death without affecting your personal life. On the contrary, when you reunite long-suffering patients with their families after their recovery, it will really be a heartwarming episode. So, you must have emotional stability and draw strength from the positive outcomes.
Cognitive and Detail Oriented
A great nurse pays attention to the minutest of details to deliver better treatment. Each step in the medical field can have many consequences. You must read the patient’s chart history correctly, remember details, provide medication on time, and commit nil errors. Even the smallest sign from a patient can reveal a symptom or diagnostic solution.
It means being persistent, determined and resolved to pursue a purpose. Right from giving a 30-minute CPR to taking care of a third degree burnt, a nurse has to do it all. You will be doing impossible things most of the times. Therefore, having a never –give up attitude will actually help you in surviving this medical job.
You must be honest, ethical, and trustworthy. You must be careful with the small matters, such as the right dosage, right food, etc., only then you will be trusted with important works. Nursing is one of the most honest and ethical professions, and you must continue to demonstrate the trait with each and every patient. You have put the needs of your patients first, defend them against others, and care for them as your own.
Steps to Become a Nurse Practitioner
Step 1: Become a Registered Nurse
Becoming a registered nurse (RN) is simpler than becoming an NP. You can choose an associate degree in nursing, vocational training program, or a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. You can also look for programs that combine a bachelor’s degree and steps to becoming an RN. If you are from a non-nursing background, you can choose one of the accelerated degree programs offered by many schools. You have to become a licensed practical nurse (LPN) and then become an RN. However, you must be a graduate from an accredited nursing program to meet the licensure requirement.
Note: Nowadays employers in healthcare are more particular and require clinical staffs, including RNs to have a college degree. Diplomas have become less popular.
Step 2: Get a Bachelor’s Degree
It is the usual requisite for graduate studies, and a nurse practitioner must possess a college degree. You must join a bachelor’s degree in nursing science (BSN) or a major in one of the related studies. Your program will contain syllabuses from medical studies, as well as courses related to business management, communication, health, quantitative skills, and general mathematics.
The most logical way to pursue the career is enrolling into the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) after finishing high school. But there are many NPs who gain work experience first, as LPN with an LPN diploma or associate degree in nursing, and then move on to becoming an NP.
In the BSN program, you will learn how to manage patients, how to solve problems, how to make complex decisions, and learn more about medicine and clinical studies.
Step 3: Gain Experience by Working
After receiving a bachelor’s degree, the next milestone is working frontlines of healthcare centers as registered nurses for a few years before seeking certification as NP or APRN. Some nurses believe that acquiring education back to back, from bachelor to master level, makes them a more efficient candidate for the job. There are others,whoalso believe that gaining experience before earning master’s program proves to be an intelligent choice.
However, with experience, LPNs learn a variety of skills related to the job upfront, including working in different medical facilities and environment, addressing health issues of people from all walks of life, learning more about medicines and medical terminologies, working with team of professionals in clinical settings, and working with medical devices and equipment.
Step 4: Earn a Master’s Degree
The minimum educational requirement of becoming a nurse practitioner is the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). Therefore, you must earn a post-graduate degree from an accredited program. However, the eligibility to earn an MSN differs from school to school and country to country. While many graduate colleges require students to gain a few years of work experience before enrolling into MSN or Nurse Practitioner Program, others insist that students must gain RN work experience. In either case, the experience is a must. Experience will provide better employment opportunities in the future and prove to be an important element for elevated growth and accelerated pay scale.
The programs provide in-depth study in many subjects, especially medical ethics and law, anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and anatomy, where you will receive comprehensive training in both classroom education and clinical learning.
MSN is currently the most common degree program in the field. Therefore, if you must outshine, consider doing a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree.
To further improve your career graph, you could think of earning a Ph.D. in related fields, such as healthcare administration, nursing education, medical research etc.
Students pursuing MSN will have to commit at least 18 months of full-time study, while students pursuing DNP programs must commit at least 2 to 3 years of full-time education.
Your next target should be becoming an APRN (advanced practiced registered nurse). You can focus on a particular specialty, like family care, primary care, geriatrics, psychiatry, cardiology, women’s health, or pediatrics.
Step 4: Apply for License
Nurse practitioners must be licensed professionals. And,it is a universalrequirement in all states and most countries. However, the licensing requirements vary in each state. Therefore, you must find out those requirements before you begin to pursue this career. The typical qualification mandatory by the state is candidates must hold a master’s degree in nursing, must have the RN license, and should clear a national certification examination.
You can take the national certification examination from various third-party professional associates. Your specialty will determine the organization,however. The eligibility of this certification is an RN license, a bachelor’s or master’s degree from an accredited institution, and a certain number of hours of clinical work experience.
Some of the organizations in the US that offer the certification examination include the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, Pediatric Nursing Certification Board, and the American Nurses Association (American Nurses Credentialing Center).
Step 5: Earn Further Specialization
Once you become an advanced practiced registered nurse (ARPN), try specializing in other medical areas or certain patient population. Your experience, certification, and education will help you advance in your career. Nevertheless, you will get to learn a lot many things in your profession every day. Nurses closely work with both doctors and patients. You will be a lifelong learner in reality, if you stay and grow in the profession.
Nevertheless, certifications will make you an expert in the related field and will probably give you job stability. Some of the certifications that you can pursue as an ARPN are Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AG ACNP), Acute Care Pediatric Nurse (ACNP), Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP), and Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP).
Career opportunities in healthcare include a physician assistant, nurse anesthetist, emergency department nurse practitioner, retail health nurse practitioner, and surgical, oncology, house call, psychiatric, neonatal, and cardiology nurse practitioner.
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