Advance Practice Nursing Career

Are you considering taking your nursing career to the next level?

Advanced practice nurses are not doctors, but they do many of the things that doctors do. In many cases, they make medical diagnoses and write prescriptions. They treat common illnesses and refer people to specialists when necessary. Some advanced practice nurses serve as primary care practitioners; this is particularly important in rural areas where there simply aren’t enough doctors. The scope of practice depends on the statutes of a nurse’s own state. It also depends on the type of advance practice one pursues.

Become an Advanced Practice Nurse

Types of Advanced Practice Nurse

Many advanced practice nurses specialize. There are four main classifications for advanced practice nurse: nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist, nurse anesthetist, and nurse midwife. Nurse midwives deliver babies; they also care for women during the time before and after birth. They examine newborn infants and support new mothers as they learn to care for their needs. They are not equipped to handle special needs births, so they do refer these cases. Nurse anesthetists, meanwhile, are an integral part of the surgical team. They administer anesthesia and monitor patients before, after, and during surgery.
Nurse practitioners often serve as primary care providers. They may have training in any of several areas. The most common – and most needed – are family practice and psychiatric/ mental health nursing. These two services go a long way toward meeting people’s basic health needs in under-populated areas.

The role of the nurse practitioner and the clinical nurse specialist can seem similar, but clinical nurse specialists focus more on population level health.

APN Education

Nurse practitioners have graduate education. In all cases, they are trained at at least the master’s level; many programs have transitioned to the doctorate level. (Organizations like the American Association of Colleges of Nursing have made a strong push for this.)

Although nurse practitioners are highly educated, their training differs from doctors’ in some important ways. Nurses don’t get their education all at once. A nurse typically practices as an RN for at least a couple years before going on to become an APRN. Some practice for many years first.

Once a nurse has some level of licensing, she can pursue coursework – and additional licenses – while working. Many programs for working nurses are conducted largely online, though there may also be on-campus intensives.

One thing that an advanced practice nursing student can’t do from behind a computer screen is fulfill her clinical hours. Advanced practice nursing programs generally include at least 500 hours of clinical practice – depending on where the nurse lives, this requirement may actually be written into the law. Some APRN courses include as many as 1,000 hours. The second 500 hours are generally quite different; the focus is less on developing basic clinical skills than on conducting research and carrying out projects. Out-of-state programs are sometimes able to supervise nurses in their own home state.

Licensing and Certification

APRNs must have state licensing. Requirements vary slightly from state to state, but there are commonalities. The nurse must complete an accredited program. In many cases, one must also pass national certifying exams. Many states require continuing education for licensure maintenance. In some states, APRNs must apply separately for prescriptive authority.

Salary and Career Outlook

Salaries for advanced practice nurses vary by specialty, but one can expect to make well above the norm for a registered nurse. Advance for NPs & PAs issued a 2010 salary report; $90,770 was listed as the average figure for nurse practitioners.

The demand for nurses is expected to be high in the coming years. Nursing is different than many professions in that there is actually more concern about filling positions that require higher levels of education than those that require less. Rural and frontier counties are especially in need.

To learn more about becoming an APN, you can contact schools that offer APN or DNP programs. Another option is to take some time to explore additional careers in health care that may peak your interest.