For many, a career in nursing is an appealing path for a variety of reasons. In particular, many are attracted to the security that comes with nursing roles as well as the ample opportunities for career growth in the space.
One specific advanced nursing role that many healthcare professionals aspire to step into is that of nurse practitioner. Unfortunately, though many RNs aspire to grow into this role, the path to becoming a nurse practitioner isn’t always clear.
Thankfully, having a little bit of guidance can go a long way when it comes to understanding this career advancement process.
Here is the career journey one can expect when going from registered nurse to nurse practitioner.
Obtain a Bachelor’s Degree
To become qualified for nurse practitioner roles, one is required to obtain a bachelor’s degree. This will prepare one with the skills and knowledge to thrive in nursing roles and eventually step into advanced roles.
For those who are intent on becoming nurse practitioners from the beginning, there are specialized programs that help them achieve this goal.
However, registered nurses who only have an associate’s degree from an accredited program can often enter two-year degree programs to obtain their Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees. This being the case, RNs are in a privileged position to become qualified as nurse practitioners in an efficient manner.
While many aspiring nurse practitioners are eager to step into the role as quickly as possible, the truth is it takes time to step into the role. One of the main reasons the process can be time-consuming, apart from the educational requirements, is that registered nurses must gain experience in the nursing field before becoming qualified for the advanced nursing role.
The reason that gaining a few years of experience as an RN before becoming an NP is important is the many different situations one is exposed to and the skills one gains. From becoming comfortable in high-pressure situations to developing a deep understanding of the technical duties that nurses must perform, these experiences are invaluable to nurse practitioners.
This being the case, the path to becoming a nurse practitioner will differ for RNs depending on the amount of experience they have in the field.
Decide a Focus
When pursuing the role of nurse practitioner, it’s important for young professionals to have an idea of what type of specialty they want to pursue. These specialized roles that one can step into include family practice NP, gerontology NP, and women’s health NP.
This can give one a chance to gain experience as an RN in a specific environment that is conducive to learning specialty-specific skills. In addition, these experiences can be ripe opportunities for finding mentorship in veteran nurse practitioners.
Obtain an Advanced Degree
To become qualified for the role of nurse practitioner, RNs must obtain an advanced degree. This can be either a specialized master’s degree or a doctoral degree in nursing. However, it must be noted that many facilities require one to have a doctorate in nursing to be qualified for NP roles.
With this type of advanced degree, one will gain a more advanced understanding of nursing practices and care.
The reason RNs must obtain an advanced degree and further their education is that nurse practitioners have a much wider scope of practice. Unlike registered nurses, nurse practitioners, depending on the state they’re practicing in, have the ability to assess patients and prescribe medicine much like physicians.
In addition to technical skills, these programs prepare aspiring nurse practitioners with soft skills such as psychological skills to better be able to deal with patients, their families, and other healthcare workers.
Being Prepared for More Responsibility
While RNs have a significant responsibility in their roles, nurse practitioners take on even more responsibility in their advanced practices. This is because the wider scope of practice and increased levels of autonomy come with more accountability.
Though there are many professionals who thrive under pressure, others find it difficult to reach their full potential in these types of conditions. However, for RNs intent on pursuing a career as a nurse practitioner, it’s vital to understand that more responsibility, pressure, and likely stress will come with the role.
Understand Each State is Different
Each individual has their own unique reasons for pursuing a career as a nurse practitioner. For some, it’s for the lucrative salaries. For others, it’s for the opportunity to have more autonomy and power as a healthcare professional.
However, it’s important to understand that not all states offer NPs the same amount of power and autonomy. While some states allow NPs to prescribe their patients medication, others are much stricter and significantly limit the autonomy that NPs have.
In addition, the requirements for becoming a nurse practitioner can also differ from state to state. For these reasons, it’s key that aspiring NPs have a thorough understanding of nurse practitioner requirements in the specific states where they’re registered as RNs.
Options to Instruct as an RN
Given the thorough expertise and knowledge that nurse practitioners have, they are prime candidates for teaching positions in universities. This can be in both programs for nurses training to be RNs and in programs in which nurses are training to be NPs.
What makes this such an amazing option is that it can be a great way for nurse practitioners to pivot later in their careers. This allows NPs to continue utilizing their specialized knowledge in less stressful and strenuous work environments.
For aspiring nurse practitioners, it can be helpful to think through one’s career and the goals one hopes to achieve. If one is planning on stepping into an instructional role at some point, there are different avenues for preparing and learning about the educational process in a deeper way.
Becoming a Nurse Practitioner is a Great Option for Registered Nurses
For RNs looking to advance their career and take the next step, pursuing nurse practitioner roles is an amazing option. From allowing more autonomy as a healthcare professional to commanding a lucrative salary, this is an amazing healthcare role that provides one with ample room to grow.
Though it may seem like a daunting undertaking at first glance, undergoing the process can be an incredibly fulfilling and rewarding path. As such, any RN looking to grow professionally should consider becoming an NP.