Certified nurse practitioners (NPs) are more than just advanced practice nurses. They also serve as knowledgeable, authoritative leaders who are capable of guiding the efforts of their organizations in delivering high-quality care to achieve improved patient outcomes. To qualify for advanced clinical roles, nurses must earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and pursue certification in their desired area of practice. Post-MSN programs go a step further and offer nurses a straightforward route to specializing in a particular clinical discipline. These programs are designed to enhance clinical skills while also sharpening the ability to lead and manage health care teams.
Develop New Skills Through Post-MSN Certification
At each stage of their careers, nurses develop new skills that prepare them to provide patients with a higher quality of care. Post-MSN certification coursework offers student nurses the technical foundations needed for advanced practice by exposing them to an array of key skills and competencies, including the following.
● Advanced Health Assessment – Nurses are often responsible for evaluating incoming patients and determining the severity of their conditions. At the postgraduate level, student nurses learn to use health histories and advanced physical assessment techniques to diagnose patients. Upon completion of the program, certified nurse practitioners (NPs) should understand how to collect and analyze in-depth patient data that other health care providers can use to inform their clinical decisions.
● Advanced Clinical Pharmacology – Certified NPs are qualified to prescribe medications (although some states require physician oversight). To prepare them for this responsibility, NP certification programs educate nurses about various drug interactions and side effects. Courses also cover a range of related pharmacological topics, such as pharmaceutical chemistry, biochemistry, and human toxicology.
● Advanced Practice Management – Nurse practitioners who intend to seek management positions must learn business skills that apply to clinical health care environments. Also, some states permit NPs to work independently. Mastering advanced management skills will serve these NPs well as they lead their own primary care practices and support staffs.
● Advanced Clinical Practice – Every clinical specialization requires nurses to be proficient in a distinct set of skills. Post-MSN certification programs offer concentrations that allow students to practice and refine these skills in hands-on clinical environments. Certified NPs demonstrate the necessary knowledge to perform complex medical treatments while delivering safe, quality care.
Why Earn a Post-MSN Certification?
One primary reason for earning a post-MSN certification is that it prepares experienced nurses to sit for advanced practice nurse licensing examinations. Attaining a nurse practitioner license may yield a number of benefits, such as increased opportunities for employment. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasts the number of jobs for nurse practitioners to increase 36 percent from 2016 to 2026 — nearly five times the national average for all jobs.
Earning a certification may also offer nurses the ability to expand their scope of practice and qualify for higher-paying jobs. According to the BLS, registered nurses (RNs) earned a median salary of $70,000 in 2017, while nurse practitioners earned $103,880.
Earning post-MSN certification may also enable nurses who previously earned an MSN in a non-clinical specialty, such as informatics or education, to reroute their careers to focus on advanced clinical practice.
How to Become a Nurse Practitioner
After completing a post-MSN certification program, nurses may apply to sit for a certification exam that evaluates their knowledge of nursing theory and clinical techniques in their desired specialization. These exams are administered by one of several certification boards, such as the American Nurses Credentialing Center, American Association of Nurse Practitioners, and National Certification Corporation. Most nursing subfields also have their own boards and exams; for example, the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board administers the Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN) exam.
Passing a certification exam allows NPs to apply for licensure in the state in which they wish to practice. NPs who are already certified in one specialized field may also choose to enroll in other certification programs to further expand their practice and provide a wider range of health care services.
Nurse Practitioner Specializations
While registered nurses may work in specific areas of medicine, they cannot truly specialize until they become certified nurse practitioners. Some examples of NP specializations include:
● Family nurse practitioners – NPs in this specialization administer primary and specialty care to family members of all ages, often establishing long-term patient relationships.
● Pediatric nurse practitioners – This area focuses on delivering care to babies, infants, and children who may not be capable of articulating their symptoms.
● Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners – NP’s here specialize in assessing, diagnosing, and treating a range of mental health conditions.
Earning an MSN is a noteworthy accomplishment in a nurse’s career, but it does not represent the peak of clinical proficiency. Going forward to complete a post-MSN certification program can serve to position student nurses to step into advanced clinical practice as nurse practitioners, which can work to significantly expand long-term career options.
The online Post-Master’s Certificate program at Regis College offers a cutting-edge curriculum that is designed to guide nurses toward advanced roles as nurse practitioners, opening paths to work more independently and practice in specialized subfields. Visit the Regis College website to learn more about this program and the certifications that may lead to enhanced career opportunities.