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Career goals and objectives for nurse practitioners start with becoming a registered nurse. After that, additional education and clinical experience create a career path defined by your interests in a medical specialty, administration, or hospital medicine. Regardless of where you decide to practice, becoming a nurse practitioner is the perfect role for nursing professionals seeking more responsibility in patient care.
The Role of a Nurse Practitioner
A nurse practitioner (NP) is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) who can examine patients, diagnose conditions and prescribe treatment. In many states, nurse practitioners are not required to work under the supervision of a doctor, meaning they have full authority in caring for patients.
Other states require that nurse practitioners work under a physician’s supervision. Even under supervision, however, nurse practitioners are more than assistants following the instructions of busy doctors. They have a significant role in patient care, including diagnosing medical illnesses and designing treatment programs.
With their nursing background, NPs have a unique, comprehensive approach to patient care that greatly enhances patient-centered protocols focused on treating the whole person rather than a list of symptoms. This makes nurse practitioners invaluable to medical teams in hospitals, clinics and other healthcare facilities.
Career Goals and Education for Nurse Practitioners
If you don’t have a nursing degree yet, the simplest track for becoming an NP is to obtain a bachelor’s program in nursing science (BSN) and your RN license. Many nursing institutions also offer bridge programs for individuals who hold nursing degrees other than the BSN. After you’ve obtained your nursing license, your educational path depends on the area you’d like to specialize in.
For instance, NPs working in family, psychiatric or general medicine must complete a master’s level nursing program focused on advanced practice instruction and clinical experience. This takes approximately two years to complete and allows you to sit for licensure exams and certification in advanced practice nursing.
If you’re interested in becoming a nurse anesthetist, you’ll need a BSN and nursing license and two years of nursing experience that includes one year as an intensive care nurse before you apply to an accredited nurse anesthesia program. This program includes instruction and extensive clinical training in general anesthesia, pain management, geriatric anesthesia, spinal blocks, and other forms of anesthesia.
The highest degree offered in the advanced practice nursing field is the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DPN) which is becoming increasingly popular as the role of the NP expands. It’s not necessary that you hold a DPN to work as a nurse practitioner, but it may benefit those wishing to practice independently.
Numerous associations exist to provide networking information regarding accredited educational institutions, job outlook, potential earnings and future trends in NP careers. Two such associations are the:
AANP - American Association of Nurse Practitioners
AACN - American Association of Critical-Care Nurses
- American College of Physicians: Partner Buy-Ins
- Kaiser Health News: Nurse Practitioners Slowly Gain Autonomy
- American Association of Nurse Practitioners: Advocacy Center: Issues and Legislation
- New York Times: When the Nurse Wants to Be Called ‘Doctor’
- Medical Economics: Nurse Practitioners May Have Higher Job Satisfaction Than Physicians, Survey Says
- Clinical Advisor: Survey Explores NP Job Satisfaction in Retail Clinics
- Midlevel U: Survival Guide to Getting Started with the Nurse Practitioner Career
- Nursing Economics: Nurse Practitioner Workforce: A Substantial Supply of Primary Care Providers
- Advance Healthcare Network: Job Satisfaction in Primary Care: What Makes a Difference to NPs?
- Project HOPE: The People-to-People Health Foundation, Inc.: Health Affairs Blog: Doctors And The Bully(ing) Pulpit
Sandra King uses her life experience as a small business owner, single parent, community volunteer and obsessive traveler to write about a variety of topics. She holds degrees in communication and psychology and has earned certificates in medical writing, business management and landscape gardening. She uses her writing skills to inform her audience of the many interesting adventures available in life and provides tips for growing beyond the challenges you’ll meet along the way.