Much has been said and written about the growing physician shortage facing the United States. While this gap in healthcare provision and the needs of the population is certainly cause for concern, it also presents a great opportunity for registered nurses to both contribute to society in an important way and find job opportunities. In fact, nursing is projected to grow at a rate of 16% between 2016 and 2024 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, significantly quicker than the national average for all other occupations. One category of nurses who are actively filling the gaps in the midst of the physician shortage is the nurse practitioner. However, due to the advanced knowledge and skills required for nurse practitioners, the qualifications for becoming a nurse practitioner call for a higher level of training and expertise. For those registered nurses that are considering pursuing further education and those considering nursing in general, below is a brief guide documenting what it takes to become a nurse practitioner!
Becoming a Nurse Practitioner
Perhaps the greatest obstacle to becoming a nurse practitioner is the advanced education it requires. While most registered nurses are able to practice with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, nurse practitioners must earn either a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). While there are dual degrees available that allow students to earn their advanced degree while working towards an undergraduate degree, the most common pathway involves at least three extra years of graduate school. This can be burdensome both in regards to the financial and time obligation. However, nursing scholarships like ours and online degree programs offer students options that can work for their situation. Additionally, online programs can allow students to work while in school which is another great way to help offset the heavy financial burden of education.
While there are certainly some general guidelines to becoming a licensed nurse practitioner, much also depends upon the state in which you intend to practice. This said you must pass the NCLEX-RN in order to first become a registered nurse and complete your accredited graduate program of choice. However, you will also be required to obtain an Advanced Practice Nursing License from your state nursing board. For more information about the state nursing boards, take a look at the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. After becoming a licensed advanced practice nurse you will likely need to obtain certification within a patient population such as family medicine. Although this can seem overwhelming, the most important part is to find a graduate program that is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Any program certified by either of these commissions will provide the resources you need to become licensed.
After becoming a nurse practitioner, you will likely be faced with countless new job opportunities. While your options will again vary by state, you could find yourself working in partnership with a doctor or even running your own practice. Of course, your day to day responsibilities may vary by specialty, but generally speaking, you will be able to diagnose and treat patients independently. The independence and increased salary that you can earn are two of the factors that can make this career path appealing to many seeking to further their nursing career.
While the requirements for becoming a nurse practitioner may at first seem overwhelming, there are many compelling reasons why this is an incredible career path. For both nurses who have years of experience looking to take the next step in their professional lives and people thinking about starting a career in healthcare, consider becoming a nurse practitioner! Although you’ll certainly spend some extra time in the classroom, you’ll likely find that it’s worth it in the long run!