Nurse practitioners are advanced practice nurses who have chosen to focus their care on a particular patient demographic, such as children, the elderly, or individuals with mental health disorders. Through experience and education, they have developed the specialized clinical skills that are essential to successfully administering complex patient interventions. But why become a nurse practitioner if it requires such extensive education? The health care industry is currently experiencing a massive demand for qualified nurse practitioners to enter the workforce. Aspiring nurses who choose to pursue higher education and enter this employment climate will likely be rewarded with a variety of satisfying, and lucrative, career and advancement opportunities.
Nurse Practitioners Are in High Demand
Over the past several decades, the US population has grown significantly, and with it, the number of people who depend on health care services. At the same time, the number of experienced nurses has continued to decline at every level as nurses reach retirement or transition into administrative positions. These challenges combine to make a significant impact on how effectively health care systems can deliver services. With fewer experienced nurse executives and managers in the field, nursing departments are missing the high-level talent they need to optimize their operations. At the clinical level, the lack of active registered nurses (RNs) and advanced practice registered nurses is slowing the delivery of health services, resulting in a decrease in the quality of care being provided.
Why Become a Nurse Practitioner If You Are Already a Registered Nurse?
The answer is simple; while RNs are equipped with the skills to provide basic patient care, there is a cap to the level of care they are qualified to administer. Nurse practitioners hold either a master’s or doctoral degree and typically have years of experience in their field, meaning they can better adapt to unique clinical circumstances. Through their education, they also learn how to lead nursing teams, making them essential to nursing departments. Although RNs can help in reducing the growing skill gap, nurse practitioners can contribute to patient care on a much broader scale.
What Does It Mean to Be a Nurse Practitioner?
Nurse practitioners are more than just experienced nurses. They are also certified to provide care to a particular patient population. In some cases, they can be given administrative responsibilities as well. The context of their work varies, depending on their area of expertise, but the following are roles and responsibilities that are consistent for all nurse practitioners:
- Diagnosing patient illnesses
- Prescribing medications
- Counseling patients to improve their health
- Administering treatments to patients
Beyond these basic responsibilities, nurse practitioners also have job duties that are specific to their area of specialization. The following are specialization options that Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) students might consider:
Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
Pediatric nurse practitioners care for children and adolescents. They use their understanding of pediatric biology and childhood health to devise treatment strategies, then use their advanced clinical skills to put them into practice. In addition to building their clinical skill set, college courses also teach aspiring pediatric nurses about childhood psychology, making it easier to connect and communicate with children, and counsel them towards making healthier life choices.
Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
Mental health is receiving an unprecedented level of attention today in the US. As a result, more people than ever are turning to hospitals or other mental health institutions for treatment. This specialization favors empathetic nurses who are dedicated to helping patients from various backgrounds cope with mental issues that negatively impact their life. In some instances, the issues may be solved through counseling, or prescribing medication. In other cases, such as drug abuse, the nurse practitioner must develop and implement a plan to address the addiction and ensure the patient doesn’t return to the same habits in the future. Nearly half of the states in the US allow psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners to practice with little or no oversight from physicians, meaning the types of services they can independently provide vary depending on location.
Family Nurse Practitioner
Family nurse practitioners have the most diverse range of patients, because they specialize in treating men and women across their entire lifespan. They also have the unique role of teaching families how to live healthier lives. As an example, family nurse practitioners have the rewarding opportunity to provide prenatal care to pregnant women, assist in postnatal processes, and then continue providing care as the family grows older. A well-educated family nurse practitioner understands how to promote healthy habits to each member of the family, ensuring they understand how to manage their own health at every stage of their lives. Family nurse practitioners play an essential role even for families without young children; showing couples how they can optimize their health even as they grow older.
The answer to the question “Why become a nurse practitioner,” is not a simple one, because there are many reasons to make that choice. Apart from helping mitigate the nursing shortage, becoming a nurse practitioner means taking responsibility to help improve the overall health of the country’s population, and raising awareness of public health issues and their treatment. Experienced nurses who wish to further pursue their passion for helping others should consider earning their Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. Specializing in a practice area, and gaining skills highly valued by employers, can position nurses to re-enter the health care field as nurse practitioners in the field of their choosing.
The demand for nurses continues to increase, and the need for professionals with doctorates in the nursing field will only grow. Place yourself on the cutting edge of nursing practice by earning your online DNP degree from Regis College. Speak with an admission adviser today about how Regis College’s online BSN to DNP program can help prepare you for the future of nursing in America.