If you are currently working within the field of nursing and you want to advance your career, becoming an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) could be the right career move for you. APRNs are able to specialize in specific fields, they have excellent job autonomy, an elevated earning potential and there is a high demand for professionals in this role. Here is a short guide about advanced practice registered nurses, and the steps you need to take to become one.
What is an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse
Advanced practice registered nurses are nursing professionals who are educated at an advanced level. The ‘advanced practice’ part of the title refers to the level of practice rather than the specialty or type. The level of training gives APRNs the power to act autonomously to make decisions regarding the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of their patients.
How to Become an APRN
To become an advanced practice registered nurse, one must be educated to a master’s level in nursing at the very least. Some nursing professionals choose to gain a doctoral degree before, or after, they work in an APRN role. This level of education could be a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or a Doctor of Nursing Philosophy (PhD).
Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree
Many registered nurses (RN) decide to take this route to advance their career. A practicing nurse with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree can expect to earn a higher salary than one without a degree. This degree provides existing nurses with an in-depth knowledge in nursing practices and can help students gain new skills and develop their existing skill set. With a BSN alone, nurses can apply for higher level roles that require some level of leadership and can take on more responsibility within a medical and healthcare setting. They can also perform in roles that require a higher level of comprehensive patient care.
Gain an Advanced Degree
With a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, nursing professionals can go on to attain an advanced degree, such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. If you obtained an undergraduate degree in a different field don’t worry, as there are some great direct entry MSN programs out there. An advanced degree equips nurses with a deeper knowledge in nursing and teaches them how to offer enhanced patient care. A graduate degree can also give students the know-how required to apply for leadership and management roles. In addition to enhanced knowledge in nursing and leadership, nurses with advanced degrees will be able to apply for a broader range of job opportunities in the field of nursing.
Pick a Specialism
Registered nurses who have been in the game for a long time and know exactly where they want to go with their career, may want to consider picking a specialism when choosing a degree program. Narrowing your focus on a specific area can help you stand out from the crowd when you are finally able to apply for a higher-level position. The in-depth knowledge gained from a specialist degree program will help prepare nursing professionals for their future career. Nursing professionals should do some research into different specialties to narrow their focus. This could include job shadowing at work, speaking to other nursing professionals in the workplace and asking for work in various units to get a taste of what it would be like to work in a specialty.
Relevant experience in a supervised, clinical environment provides students with hands-on experience and knowledge to succeed in an advanced role. Completing clinical hours enables students to become more competent in a higher-level profession.
National Certification Exam
In addition to an advanced degree, students must also pass a national certification exam to practice as an APRN. There are many national, accredited organizations to choose from, nurses should choose the relevant certification exam based on the area they want to practice.
Finally, APRN graduates must apply for the correct licensure in order to practice. This licensure is dependent on the state they wish to practice, and requirements may differ depending on the state.
Different Types of Advanced Practice Registered Nurses
Once nursing professionals have achieved APRN status, they can pursue an advanced career in healthcare. According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, APRN positions include nurse anesthetist (CRNA), nurse practitioner (NP), clinical nurse specialist (CNS) and certified nurse midwife (CNM).
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist
According to a survey by Medpage Today, nurse anesthetists are one of the highest paid nursing professionals in the United States. With a highly skilled profession, CRNAs earn a median wage of $166,969 per year. Nurse anesthetists are responsible for administering anesthesia to patients, offering anesthesia related care such as monitoring health and vitals, and they also help doctors prepare an anesthetic plan for patients. CRNAs can find work in medical and healthcare settings such as pain management centers, outpatient centers, major hospitals and private practices.
As with nurse anesthetists, nurse practitioners provide care at an advanced level and have a wide scope of practice. NPs share similar duties to physicians and can provide primary and preventative care. NP responsibilities include examining patients, diagnosing and managing their health, prescribing medication, providing treatment and ordering diagnostic tests. APRNs who decide to practice as Nurse Practitioners can specialize in a broad range of fields. This includes family, women’s and child health, acute care, gerontology and oncology.
Clinical Nurse Specialist
CNSs are accountable for diagnosing, treating and managing patients, and encouraging good health and preventing risk behaviors and illness among individuals, families and communities. Clinical nurse specialists can impart their expert knowledge as a consultant to improve healthcare systems, and they can practice in many different settings. Depending on the specialty and location, CNSs can earn an annual median salary of $65,000 to $110,000.
A CNM is able to practice in an array of settings from hospitals to the homes of patients. They provide primary care services to women, such as reproductive health, gynecologic and obstetric care, and they also treat their patient’s partners for sexually transmitted infections.