How to Become a Nurse Practitioner

How to Become a Nurse Practitioner

Nurse practitioners are a vital and valuable part of a health care team and provide a wide range of specialist services. You may already be a practicing RN wanting to move into a certain area of nursing, or you could be just at the start of your nursing journey and planning your educational pathways. If you are considering becoming an NP, then there are various qualifications and licensure that you will need to pursue before you can work in this area. Becoming a nurse practitioner requires many years of hard work and dedication, as well as advanced training in a specific area of nursing. Here are just a couple of things to consider when you are thinking about becoming a nurse practitioner. 

What qualifications do you need?

NPs are advanced practice nurses, and you will need plenty of experience and qualifications before you can become one. Studying msn np programs can provide you with a flexible study option that works around your life and job. In general, NPs hold an msn, which is a masters of science in nursing, in the area they wish to specialize in. Some areas may even require you to have a dnp. The msn np programs can take 24-30 months to complete, depending on which pathway you choose to take. The pathways are:

  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Degree, 28 months to complete
  • Family Nurse Practitioner Degree, 30 months to complete 
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Degree, 28 months to complete
  • Adult-Gerontology, Primary Care, Nurse Practitioner Degree, 24 months to complete

There are many courses in each program, such as Theoretical Perspectives for Advanced Practice and a Moral and Ethical Decision-Making residency. Classes can be taken to fit the 7-1-7 model, which means you have a 1-week break in between each 7-week course. This can make msn np programs a more accessible method of learning, as they are designed to fit around your existing job and shift schedule. 

There are also certain entry requirements that you will have to fulfill, such as:

  • 3.0 GPA
  • Unrestricted and unencumbered current nursing license, from the state that you are employed in 
  • BSN degree from a regionally accredited institution or nursing program, either CCNE or NLN

How do you become a nurse?

The journey to becoming a nurse practitioner is rigorous and challenging, both academically and personally. NPs deliver advanced nursing services and therefore require a higher, more intense level of training. In general, the path to working as a nurse practitioner will look like this:

  1. Earn your BSN, or Bachelor of Science in Nursing, which is the minimum requirement and generally takes around 4 years.
  2. Gain your license- to become an RN, you need to pass the licensing exam for the state you want to practice in.
  3. Gain clinical experience- you can now begin working as an RN. General nursing is particularly helpful if you do not yet know which area of nursing you would like to specialize in.
  4. Earn your MSN- this is the minimum requirement to become an NP, and some roles may even require you to have a DNP
  5. Pass the National Certification Exam- these exams are administered by different boards depending on your specialty.
  6. Gain your state license- as will the RN license, you will also have to take the licensing exam for the state in which you want to practice as an NP.

The msn np programs can help provide you with the clinical expertise required to prevent, assess, treat, and manage acute and chronic diseases and pursue your ideal nursing career in the area you are passionate about.

What do nurse practitioners do?

There are many clear differences between RNs and NPs. There are the different levels of education, licensure, and qualifications that are required in order to become an NP, and the differences in their roles and responsibilities, to name just a few. In general, NPs are a mid-level practitioner. Their main function is to promote wellness through patient health education. Nurse Practitioners are nonphysician clinicians, essentially meaning that they take on many of the diagnostic and clinical functions of a medical doctor, despite not being trained as one. One large distinction between RNs and NPs is that, in some states, NPs can practice independently, without the supervision of a physician.

NP career outcomes

When training to be an NP, you will be specializing in a certain area of nursing, such as mental health or pediatrics. During your early education and career, you will have the chance to experience different types of nursing, giving you the chance to find the specialism that you love. This is where msn np programs come in, to provide you with the next level of education required to pursue a career in this specialism.

  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner 

When working as an PMHNP, you will be trained to provide a range of mental health services to many different people dealing with mental illness. This can also be in various settings, such as schools, correctional facilities, military facilities, substance abuse programs, prisons, or trauma centers. PMHNPs can also generalize or specialize in areas such as geriatrics, forensics, or psychotherapy. The responsibilities of a PMHNP can include prescribing and managing medication, assessing and diagnosing patients, and providing counseling.

  • Adult-Gerontology, Primary Care, Nurse Practitioner

There are two types of AGNPs, with one focusing on acute care and the other on primary care. The online np programs can help prepare you to be the latter. This type of AGNP provides health care services to those aged around 21 and upwards who are not usually ill. Primary care AGNPs focus on the prevention of illness and the promotion and encouragement of healthy lifestyle choices in order to maintain health. As an AGNP, you could work in a variety of settings such as clinics, geriatric sites, or family practices. 

  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

PNPs provide healthcare services to younger people, from birth to young adults. Responsibilities can include performing physical examinations and developmental check-ups, preventing and treating illnesses and injuries, educating adults and caregivers in regards to the health of their child and care plans.

  • Family Nurse Practitioner

When working as an FNP your roles are incredibly varied, as they provide health care services across all ages, genders, diseases, and body systems. FNPs tasks include educating patients with the aim of maintaining their health and wellness, assessing patients, prescribing medication,and also have a focus on preventative care.

When you study msn np programs, you can choose from many advanced and specialized areas of nursing, learning the technical and personal skills in order to succeed in these different fields.

What other skills do you need?

If you are already working an RN, you will be aware of the huge range of skills and traits that nurses need to have, on top of the technical, medical knowledge. Nurses can often have a more holistic approach to patients than other medical professionals. This means they see the individual as a whole person, rather than just their injury or illness, and take into account factors other than their physical health. These factors can include psychological, social, environmental, cultural, and religious beliefs.

Additionally, there are some key traits that all nurses seen, regardless of their position or role. These can include:

  • Compassion- this is sympathy combined with the desire to fix whatever is causing the person distress or pain and is one of the core traits that nurses have.
  • Empathy- this is the ability to place yourself in the shoes of your patient in order to understand what they are feeling and goes hand-in-hand with compassion. Compassionate and empathetic nurses can help to make a patient feel more comfortable and calmer, which is especially helpful in traumatic or stressful situations.
  • Critical thinking- nursing will use all of your critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making skills, as well as your judgment. Often, there are no black and white answers in nursing, and you will have to utilize all these skills to work out what the best solutions would be.
  • Stamina- you will need to be both physically and emotionally strong. Nurses are on their feet for many hours each shift and also lift and move patients and equipment. Additionally, nurses also have to have emotional stamina. You will often be working in pressurized environments and with patients who have experienced traumatic events and will therefore need to be emotionally strong in order to maintain good boundaries and keep yourself and your patients healthy and safe.
  • Communication- this does not just mean talking; it also means listening and observing. A large part of nursing is educating, and you will need to be able to explain complex medical information to people who do not have the same level of training as you. Furthermore, you will be working with and communicating with a vast range of people, including the general public and other medical professionals, and will need to adapt your communication methods to suit each situation.
  • Teamwork- often, as a nurse, you will work as part of a larger, multidisciplinary medical team. Therefore, you need to be able to collaborate with other colleagues and team members, as well as other professionals such as social workers, to ensure that the patient is receiving the best treatment. 
  • Adaptability- nurses need to have a willingness to learn as the technology and methods surrounding the medical industry are constantly developing. Regardless of your position or how long you have been a nurse, you always need to be adaptable in order to make sure your patients are receiving a high level of up-to-date care.

These are just a few of the many skills that all nurses require to succeed in their roles. Online msn np programs can help you develop these skills, and learn how to apply them in the different areas that you are specializing in.

What about studying online?

The msn np programs use blended learning, which means they are taught online and in person. This gives you the opportunity to put your new skills into practice in a workplace without having to attend physical classes every day. The msn np programs are designed to fit around your life, so you can make them work for you. As well as the increased flexibility they offer, there are many other benefits to studying online.

Cost

One main factor that puts a lot of people off pursuing further education is the costs involved in being a student. As a nurse, you may already have gone through a lot of training, but the career options and potential for higher pay can help make msn np programs a worthwhile investment. The ability to study online can also help reduce or remove some of the costs, such as travel, tuition, accommodation, and educational resources. When you study online, you won’t have to find alternative accommodation on or near a campus or commute to classes every day. You may also still be eligible for financial support for your university, and the tuition fees for online programs can often be reduced. Furthermore, the ability to continue working alongside your course means that you can continue to earn money while you study.

Location

If your local school or college does not offer the kind of course you need, you may find yourself at a bit of a dead-end. You could choose to study something else or not study at all, which can be a serious dampener on your plans. With online learning, your physical location matters a lot less, and you have access to a wider range of courses and institutions. This can allow you to study the msn np programs that you want and need in order to progress to the next step in your career.

Studying msn np programs can help you to develop both professionally and personally. You will be able to train in an area of nursing that you are passionate about, providing health services to individuals, families, groups, and communities. The ability to study partially online makes these programs accessible and flexible for a larger number of people and it may just be the perfect study option for you.

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