Working as a Registered Nurse is tough at the best of times, let alone in the middle of a global pandemic! As tough as it is, though, most nurses have chosen their career because they genuinely love their patients, and they want to help people. If you are a Registered Nurse looking to take the next step, then training as a Nurse Practitioner could be a good choice for you as it will allow you to continue to do the work you love while building up your responsibilities and your salary. Becoming a Nurse Practitioner will also open up more career opportunities for you in the future.
Who is a Nurse Practitioner?
A nurse practitioner is a Registered Nurse who has earned either a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and taken the certification examination to become a Nurse Practitioner.
Nurse Practitioners have more authority than Registered Nurses as a result of their additional training, and they have accountabilities similar to those of a Doctor. Depending on which state you are in, becoming a Nurse Practitioner may mean that you don’t need to be overseen by a Doctor to carry out medical diagnosis and treatment.
A Nurse Practitioner will usually either work as a primary care provider for a specific portion of the population like the elderly, or they will specialize in a particular medical focus, for example, cardiology. This ability to specialize and choose where to focus training and efforts means that Nurse Practitioners have the opportunity to align their work with their passions and get great satisfaction out of their daily work.
Options for Specialization
Nurse Practitioners can elect to specialize in a variety of areas. Whatever your chosen specialism, you will need to attain certification, so when you are evaluating your training options, you must review the certification criteria for your state and ensure that you are doing everything you need to do to meet them. Typically, the requirement is that you be a registered nurse, attain your masters or doctorate degree, and gain a certain number of hours of supervised clinical experience. Some of the areas that you can specialize in are:
- Adult-Gerontology Acute Care – Nurse Practitioners in Gerontology Acute Care mostly provide care to the elderly. They will treat acute, chronic, and severe conditions by working with a multitude of healthcare providers to implement a treatment plan with the best possible outcome. As a Nurse Practitioner in Gerontology Acute Care, you will familiarize yourself with the history of your patient and ensure that this information is used within the formulation of the treatment plan.
- Adult-Gerontology Primary Care – If you choose to work in Gerontology Primary care, your patient group will also usually be the elderly. Still, the difference is that the majority of your work will be around implementing preventative healthcare to support health and quality of life. You would be the primary care point for your patients, referring them on to other medical services as needed.
- Cardiac – Nurse Practitioners with a specialist in cardiology work with patients who have a heart condition or high blood pressure and cholesterol. You will be trained in administering the cardiovascular assessment, ordering, and interpreting tests, administering medication, and helping to manage long term treatment strategies such as the installation of pacemakers.
- Family – Family Nurse Practitioners offer primary care to families, often throughout their lives. They are trained to treat and diagnose a wide variety of health issues, as well as providing guidance on ‘everyday’ issues such as cholesterol, childbirth, newborn care, aging, and stress management. Family Nurse Practitioners often work in a private practice and have a high level of autonomy, with the ability to collaborate with physicians to discuss best practice and treatment strategies. In many cases, Family Nurse Practitioners can even prescribe medication.
- Neonatal – Neonatal Nurse Practitioners often work in hospitals in an acute role, taking care of babies born preterm or those who are otherwise at high risk. They can also work in the community, being the primary care provider for babies through to when they are young children.
- Oncology – Specializing in oncology means that you would work as part of a larger team to diagnose and treat cancer in your patients. Oncology Nurse Practitioners provide their patients with a source of psychological support, and they also provide knowledge and support regarding diseases and treatment options. They may also offer advice on lifestyle changes to facilitate recovery.
- Orthopedic – Orthopedic Nurse Practitioners often work very closely with physicians to coordinate care for patients suffering from musculoskeletal conditions. They will conduct examinations, treat ailments, and analyze potential outcomes.
- Pediatric Acute Care – Nurse Practitioners working in Pediatric acute care work with children who have chronic, acute, and critical illnesses from infancy until childhood. Part of their role also involves working with families to educate and create the best possible treatment outcomes.
- Pediatric Primary Care – Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioners, are the primary care providers for infants and children, assessing and measuring growth and development to ensure that the child is developing as expected. They also provide education for families and caregivers.
- Psychiatry and Mental Health – working in psychiatric facilities, mental health centers, correctional facilities and schools, Psychiatry, and Mental Health Nurse Practitioners work to care for patients experiencing mental health and psychiatric issues. They will employ a mixture of theoretical, clinical, and scientific methods to offer care.
- Women’s Health – The work of a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner is varied; they specialize in working with women of all ages. They can work with teenagers, providing information on safe sex and STD’s, mother’s to be, or they can work with older women who are approaching menopause. Women’s Health Nurse Practitioners are also involved in the diagnosis and treatment of eating disorders in women. They can take on a primary care role or become more involved in acute care or chronic or severe conditions.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has stated that the employment of nurse practitioners is set to grow by 26% by 2028, which is a great deal more growth than other professions. This growth is set to happen mainly because of an aging population and an increased emphasis on preventative care.
The world is set to change after the current pandemic, with the outlook uncertain for many careers. However, nursing is an area that is likely to continue to be a solid career choice.
Salary and Benefits
The median salary for Nurse Practitioners is $115,800, which is more than double the national average salary for other occupations.
On average, a Nurse Practitioner will earn around $30,000 more per year than a Registered Nurse and double the salary of a Licensed Practical Nurse.
Nurse Practitioner Salaries vary by specialism and by state and generally increase with experience and additional training. The average Nurse Practitioner salaries per specialism are:
General Nurse Practitioner – $115,800
Family Nurse Practitioner – $105,898
Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner – $90,102
Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner – $107,309
Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – $121,659
Acute Care Nurse Practitioner – $110,076
Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner – $91,454
Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner – $100,035
Emergency Nurse Practitioner – $113,840
Neonatal Nurse Practitioner – $124,756
If you are a Registered Nurse, then the chances are that you have already built a life for yourself that you can’t just drop out of for a year to pursue your master’s degree.
Luckily, there are increasing options available for part-time and online study. For example, Marymount University offers accredited online nurse practitioner programs that can be completed part-time over two years. They also guarantee a clinical placement, which is essential to become certified as a Nurse Practitioner, you will usually need 500 hours of supervised clinical experience. The course at Marymount University offers in-depth training on evidence-informed care, research and analysis, and ethical leadership and advocacy. They also had a 100% pass rate for the AANP and ANCC certification exams in 2019.
If you are considering returning to study, then you must ensure your course is accredited. If it isn’t, you won’t be able to use it to apply for certification.
Start Your Own Practice
Perhaps one of the most enticing options that becoming a Nurse Practitioner opens up for you is the ability to start your own practice. If this is something that appeals to you, then there are a few things that you should start thinking about sooner than later.
- Setting up your own business is a path littered with unexpected obstacles. You will find it easier to navigate this next exciting challenge if you surround yourself with people who have been there before you. Reach out to other Nurse Practitioners who have started their own business and ask them for any advice they can offer. Most people are willing to talk about themselves! It’s also worth trying to connect with other people who you can trust to support you as you get your business running, for example, accountants and lawyers. Talk to friends and acquaintances who have started any type of business, they will all have something useful to offer.
- If you are a business owner, you are suddenly responsible for so much more than your patients! You will need to file for licenses and permits, which will vary from state to state. You will also need to get an NPI number, which correlates with your new tax number, and finally, you will need to begin the credentialing process with Medicare. This one will probably take a while, so definitely best to get it started sooner rather than later.
- There are a few things to consider when it comes to location. Each state will generally expect to pay differing amounts for Nurse Practitioner services, so if possible, you should think about locating your practice in a state where it makes the most financial sense for you. Some states allow Nurse Practitioners to work and prescribe medications without the supervision of a Doctor, but some do not. Depending on how you are thinking of structuring your business, this should undoubtedly be considered. Once you have narrowed down your choice of state, then consider your business premises. You will want a space that isn’t too expensive, but at the same time doesn’t look so budget that it is off-putting for your clients! Do you want to put your own stamp on your office? If so, you could consider buying and remodeling a property. If not, then you could just lease existing medical premises.
- Budgetary Projections. Start making budgetary projections based on the area of the country in which you are operating and how many patients you expect to see. You should use these projections to inform the decisions you make around staffing, equipment, and location.
- Liability Insurance. This is another process that can be time-consuming, so start early. Most insurers will want to see proof of your existing malpractice coverage before they will issue a new policy, so be sure that you keep your paperwork organized and easily accessible to save yourself a headache later on.
- Specialist equipment can be expensive, so this part requires some thought. Based on your budgetary projections and business plan, decide which pieces of equipment are essential and which are not. You should focus on the items that patients will need the most and those which offer a good return on investment (ROI). Once you have this information, have a look around to see if you can source any of the items you need second hand. Surplus retailers and eBay can be an excellent source of the equipment you need.
- Staff Strategy. Employing members of staff is costly and increases paperwork, so it is a good idea to keep staffing levels as low as possible to start with. Consider which members of staff you need for the core services you are providing, and which types of people will add the most value for you. For example, if you are hoping to be relatively hands-on and continue to work with patients, then you might want to hire someone to take care of the day to day running of your practice; otherwise, you won’t have time.
- Every business needs a strong marketing strategy to thrive; after all, people won’t come to you if they don’t know that you exist! You can hire specialist marketing firms to take care of this for you as it is time-consuming; however, it is worth educating yourself on the basics of marketing so that you have some idea of the kind of strategy that you would like to use to best reflect your new business.
- Set Goals. Set goals both for your business and yourself. If you would like to one day only be working two days per week, then this should be part of your strategy. After all, it’s your business, you call the shots!