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If your passion for nursing has you wanting to take on more responsibilities for patient care, there’s never been a better time to become a nurse practitioner (NP). The United States was dealing with a severe nursing shortage long before the arrival of COVID-19, and the situation is rapidly evolving. It’s unclear how many Americans will be infected with novel coronavirus, but what we have learned is that nurses are needed to help.

Why become a nurse practitioner? Depending on one’s goals, you may study to be a nurse practitioner (NP) or to pursue a degree as an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). This advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) position requires graduate-level education, commands a higher salary and lets you perform many of the same services as physicians. APRNs will be increasingly used in team-based models to provide preventive and primary care, reports the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The BLS also notes, “As states change their laws governing APRN practice authority, APRNs are being allowed to perform more services. APRNs also are being recognized more widely by the public as a source for primary healthcare.” In light of the major impact COVID-19 is sure to have on the country’s health care system, this statement may prove to be even more accurate over the coming months.

What are some key nurse practitioner duties? cites a Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) report that estimates NPs can provide 80-90% of the care that primary care physicians offer. Although the scope of practice varies from state to state, 28 states currently provide NPs with “full practice authority.” This means they can practice without requiring a physician’s supervision, either working independently or in collaboration with physicians. Some nurse practitioner duties include:

  • Performing physical exams
  • Diagnosing and treating various health problems
  • Performing, ordering, and analyzing diagnostic tests
  • Creating patient care plans
  • Prescribing medications
  • Referring patients to specialists
  • Conducting research

In the remaining states, NPs still have more authority than RNs but often require a doctor’s signature when making certain patient health care decisions. Some NPs choose to specialize and care for a certain population, such as pregnant women, children, the elderly, or those with mental health conditions. Others receive NP certifications in family or emergency care.

What are the steps to become a nurse practitioner?

Nurse practitioners, like all APRNs, must have at least a master’s degree from an accredited program in their specialty role. They must also be licensed registered nurses (RN) in their state, pass a national certification exam, and have a state APRN license, explains the BLS.

MSN degree

A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is the most common form of entry-level education for NPs. These intensive programs usually take a minimum of two years to complete and include classroom education and clinical experience. Coursework usually includes:

  • Advanced Health Assessment
  • Pathophysiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Diagnosis and Management
  • Diagnostic and Clinical Reasoning

Graduates are eligible for APRN licensure, although exam and certification requirements vary from state to state.

RN to BSN programs

Because most APRN master’s programs prefer candidates who have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, many nursing schools offer RN to BSN programs that allow current RNs with an associate degree (ADN) or a diploma in nursing, as well as non-nursing students with a bachelor’s in a related health science field, to earn a BSN at an accelerated pace. Working licensed RNs with ADNs who want to advance their career or deepen their education can earn a BSN in as few as 12 months with an RN to BSN bridge program.

Post University’s RN to BSN program is designed for associate degree or diploma-holding RNs who want to continue their education but need flexibility as practicing professionals. Courses are taught in an eight-week, 100%-online format and center on:

  • Leadership in contemporary patient care
  • Cultural competency
  • End-of-life care
  • Population and community health nursing
  • Clinical reasoning and ethical decision-making
  • Communication, team building, and collaborative strategies

Unlike other online nursing schools, Post University’s RN to BSN planned practice experiences are immersive. In each course, you make real-life decisions and interact with colleagues and patients in a completely virtual context.

Where do nurse practitioners work?

NPs deliver primary care to patients in a variety of settings, including community clinics, ambulatory care centers, long-term care facilities, and patients’ homes. Some NPs transition from hands-on patient care to pursuing managerial or administrative positions. The BLS reports an approximate 189,100 nurse practitioner jobs in the United States in 2018. The largest employers of NPs were as follows:

  • Offices of physicians: 47%
  • Hospitals; state, local, and private: 27%
  • Outpatient care centers: 9%
  • Educational services; state, local, and private: 4%

What is the nurse practitioner job outlook?

Overall, job opportunities for advanced practice registered nurses are likely to be excellent over the coming years. The BLS estimates job growth for NPs to be 26% from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. This accounts for about 16,900 openings for nurse practitioners each year over the decade. APRNs will be in high demand, particularly in medically underserved areas such as inner cities and rural areas. Growth will occur primarily because of the following:

  • Increased emphasis on preventive care
  • Demand for health care services from the large, aging baby-boom population
  • The growing number of patients with chronic and acute conditions
  • Health care legislation creating a large pool of newly insured patients

The median annual salary in 2018 for nurse practitioners was $107,030, according to the BLS, with the top earners working in hospitals, outpatient care centers, and physicians’ offices.

What type of person excels in this career field?

Are you wondering if you have what it takes to become a nurse practitioner? A passion for science is a good starting point, coupled with the ability to think quickly, independently, and resourcefully. This role requires exacting attention to detail and sharp critical-thinking skills.

NPs need excellent communication and interpersonal skills because they work as part of a collaborative health care team. You must be compassionate and able to empathize with patients who may be experiencing pain or feeling fear. You need strong leadership skills because NPs often hold positions of seniority and manage other nurses or office staff when providing patient care.

Are you ready to step into the challenging and rewarding role of nurse practitioner? Your search for an online RN to BSN program ends here, but your future is just beginning. Contact us to apply to Post University today to accelerate your nursing career.