Whether you are looking into becoming a nurse or have already obtained your RN, you may be wondering about the experience needed to become a nurse practitioner. The role of the nurse practitioner is becoming more important in the U.S., as there is an increasing need for quality patient care for more people. Opportunities to make an impact in the lives of patients, along with higher income, make the nurse practitioner job a very attractive one.
Education and Training
A nurse practitioner is known as an "advanced practice registered nurse" (APRN) which means that he or she holds an RN license, but can work beyond the scope of a regular RN. That's because an NP typically holds a master of science in nursing (MSN) degree and has completed coursework and training that qualifies them to do the advanced work of a nurse practitioner. Though the types of things a nurse practitioner can do varies by state, many NPs can conduct physical exams, diagnose illnesses, prescribe medications, make patient referrals and order lab tests for patients.
Types of Nurse Practitioners
A nurse practitioner has to graduate from an accredited MSN program. Experience needed to become a nurse practitioner may vary depending on what kind of nurse practitioner you decide to be. There are many different kinds of nurse practitioners, including Family NPs, Geriatric NPs, Acute Care NPs, Neonatal NPs and more, according to NP Central. Certified Nurse Midwives and Certified Anesthetists are also considered nurse practitioners. Clearly the experience you will need to prepare for these different types of work will vary according to the specific needs of your certification.
To Work as an RN First or Not
It is fairly usual for someone to work as an RN for at least two years, if not several, before becoming an NP. Many people obtain a BSN degree, become licensed as an RN, and after a while enroll in an MSN program and pursue advanced practice.
However, it's not the only path. If you hold a bachelor's degree in another field than nursing, you can sometimes take what's known as an accelerated program in which you do the work needed to qualify as an RN in the first year, and then spend another one to two years working to complete requirements for advanced practice. NP Central notes that these programs are typically a little longer than the standard MSN program and are also highly competitive to get into. At least, however, you do not need to return to school to earn a second Bachelor's in Nursing, before pursuing your higher degree.
Likewise, there are some accelerated programs available for RNs who have decided they want to become NPs, but who do not yet hold a BSN. Some RNs become licensed after receiving only an associate's degree. These programs are similar to the one mentioned above, but tailored a bit differently since the students will already have nursing skills and experience in place before they begin.
Related Resource: MBA in Healthcare Management
Experience needed to become a nurse practitioner will vary depending on your educational background and the type of NP certification you may want to pursue. But one thing is sure, becoming a nurse practitioner is exciting and demanding work.