Is Being a Nurse Practitioner Worth It? Exploring an Advanced Career

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Nurse practitioner checks patient’s heart rate.

Nurse practitioners (NPs) play a significant role in modern-day health care. In addition to providing many of the same services doctors do, such as physical exams and prescription referrals, they bring a more personal touch to the nation’s health care system. The latter is largely tied to the shortage of primary care physicians (PCPs) and many patients feeling rushed at doctor’s appointments.

According to a 2018 PatientEngagementHIT article, approximately 13% of patients in the U.S. live in a county impacted by the shortage, which is only part of the problem. The forecast increase in patient demand also poses a challenge. “By 2030, demand for primary care will increase by 38% among the over-65 population, and by 55% for the over-75 crowd,” the article states. “For all age groups, demand will increase by 8%.” As such, nurses who pursue a Doctor of Nursing Practice will be equipped to help address those problems.

The Nursing Shortage

Those questioning whether being a nurse practitioner is worth it should know that the U.S. health care staffing shortage isn’t limited to doctors. In the early 1990s, health insurance companies started implementing a series of cost-cutting policies, one of which led to replacing nurses with less skilled staff members.

Amid the nationwide layoffs, RNs lost their trust in the industry, and many chose to pursue alternate career paths. Student enrollment in nursing programs also started to lag. This trend, combined with the shortage of primary care doctors, has made it difficult for those working in the medical profession to keep up with the needs of aging baby boomers.

Not surprisingly, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the employment of all nurses, including NPs, to increase by 31% between 2016 and 2026, which is far faster than the average projected growth for all occupations (7%). It attributes this change to a growing demand for services due to “an increased emphasis on preventive care and demand for health care services from the aging population.” Since advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) can perform many of the same care functions as physicians, nurses with a DNP will be prepared to address baby boomers’ care needs.

The Skills for Nursing Success

Nurses interested in pursuing a career as a nurse practitioner must develop a number of skills. In addition to remaining current on advancements in technology and care practices, they’ll need to be adept in the following areas:

Communication

Being able to relay information to patients clearly and concisely is an important skill for NPs to have. This includes paying attention to nonverbal cues, such as body posture, and demonstrating active listening, which helps patients know their providers are engaged in the conversation.

Health Care Assessment

Health care assessment is among the most important duties NPs perform. Nurse practitioners who provide precise, accurate assessments can deliver better care, which often leads to better results. To this end, they record their patients’ blood pressure, pulse, and respiratory rate, among other data, to develop an informed diagnosis.

Health Care Delivery

Health care delivery involves providing patients with the best possible care every day. NPs must be able to evaluate and implement care in ways that improve patient outcomes.

Certifications Needed for Advanced Practice Nursing Roles

Aspiring NPs who continue to wonder if being a nurse practitioner is worth it should know there are many specialization certificates available in a Doctor of Nursing Practice program. Some popular specialties are adult-gerontology, family practice, pediatrics, psychiatric mental health, and women’s health.
● Adult-Gerontology (AGNP): The AGNP certificate program is designed to provide NPs with the education they’ll need to serve the elderly.
● Family (FNP): FNP students develop the skills to work with patients of all ages in a family practice setting.
● Pediatrics Nurse Practitioner (PNP): Nursing students with an interest in providing care to infants, children, and teens may be drawn to this specialty, as it will prepare them to work in pediatrics.
● Psychiatric Mental Health (PMHNP): Future NPs who want to work in mental health care should consider this program, as it will teach them about psychopharmacology and how to provide care to this patient population.
● Women’s Health (WHNP): The WHNP certificate is designed to teach aspiring NPs about the aspects of providing care to women in all stages of their lives.

Learn More

Nurses interested in pursuing a career as a nurse practitioner can start by attaining an advanced degree. The online BSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program at Regis College is designed to provide students with the knowledge and skills to be successful in that role.

In addition to delivering all coursework online, the program offers three start times each year. Are you ready to take your nursing career to the next level? Discover how Regis College can help you move toward your goal.

Recommended Readings
The Baby Boomer Nurse Retirement Wave Has Started
The Primary Care Provider Shortage: 2019 Update
Nursing Facts: 8 Things You Should Know About the Nursing Profession

Sources
American Association of Colleges of Nursing, “The Essentials of Doctoral Education for Advanced Nursing Practice, Essential Nursing Skills Checklist”
American Association of Colleges of Nursing, Nursing Shortage Mayo Clinic, Science of Health Care Delivery: Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Center
Nurse Choice, “10 Essential Nurse Communication Skills for Success”
PatientEngagementHIT, “NPs, PAs Could Reduce Primary Care Physician Shortage Nearly 70%”
Regis College,   BSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners
U.S. National Library of Medicine, “Nursing Shortage”
WBUR, “Nursing a Shortage