What Are Some of the Most Popular Advancement Opportunities for Nurses?

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A nurse takes an elderly woman’s blood pressure.

Nurse practitioners are on the front lines improving people’s lives — listening, empathizing, and understanding where patients are coming from while delivering complex medical care. From promoting patients’ whole health to working with populations that range from the very young to the elderly in clinical and nonclinical settings, nurse practitioners are playing an increasingly important role in a health care industry that is facing many challenges.

What does the future of health care hold for nurse practitioners? Data from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) indicates that there could be a severe shortage of physicians by 2030, which will impact the way patients access health care in the U.S. This creates advancement opportunities for nurses to collaborate with physicians on efforts to address patient needs. In fact, the demand for nurse practitioners is expected to increase. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the projected growth rate of nurse practitioner jobs is 31% from 2016 to 2026, which far outpaces that of other occupations. This is in large part due to increasing demand for preventive care and the expansion of an aging population in need of health care services.

This increased demand indicates there are significant advancement opportunities for nurses seeking to grow and take on leadership roles in their careers. As the health care industry continues to transform, advanced practice nurses trained at the doctoral level can help drive improved patient outcomes and address shortages in the field. For registered nurses (RNs) with a bachelor’s degree in nursing seeking to become advanced nursing practitioners, the online BSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice program at Regis College offers five areas of concentration: pediatrics (PNP), family (FNP), psychiatric mental health (PMHNP), women’s health (WHNP), and adult gerontology (AGNP).

Transitioning from an RN to an NP

For those asking, What are the advancement opportunities for nurses today, and how can I start preparing for them? transitioning from an RN to an NP is one way to advance in your career. Do you want to work with children, families, women, or aging populations? Are you interested in focusing on mental health issues? The answers to these questions can help point you in the right direction.

According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, there are 270,000 licensed nurse practitioners (NPs) in the U.S., and 87% of them are certified in an area of primary care. For RNs looking to transition to a specialized advanced practice, there are a number of roles to choose from. You may have questions about what types of activities are performed in these roles and the skills that are needed to succeed. Below are brief descriptions of five popular specialty areas for nurse practitioners and the necessary skills for each role.

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNP) have knowledge of contemporary psychotherapy modalities and psychopharmacology. They use their skills to assess the mental health of individuals, families, and communities and to treat psychiatric disorders by developing plans of care for patients, prescribing medications, and administering psychotherapy. PMHNPs can work in various settings including their own private practices. Regulations and licenses to practice psychiatric mental health can vary by state.

Necessary skills for PMHNPs:
● Empathy
● Leadership skills
● Interpersonal skills
● Analytical competencies

Gerontology Nurse Practitioner

Adult gerontology nurse practitioners (AGNP) are among the best equipped to meet the unique needs of a growing senior population in the U.S. AGNPs use their knowledge of chronic illness and aging, including polypharmacy management, palliative care, and end of life considerations, to provide medical services for older patients in clinical settings, hospices, and patients’ homes. AGNPs conduct physicals and create care plans using appropriate methods, guidelines, and evidence. They educate their patients on well-being and provide consultations with the caregivers and family members of senior patients.

Necessary skills for AGNPs:
● Written and verbal communication skills
● Compassion
● Interpersonal skills
● Critical thinking skills

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

Pediatric nurse practitioners (PNPs) work with children every day, but they also interact with parents and inform them about their children’s health. Therefore, PNPs should be able to show compassion to alleviate anxiety in both children and parents visiting health care settings — from subacute care to ambulatory care. PNPs focus on a variety of health needs and issues with a focus on providing care to children from birth through young adulthood. PNPs treat pediatric patients with acute or chronic illness through the creation of plans of care.

Necessary skills for AGNPs:
● Advanced knowledge of child growth and development
● Compassion
● Teamwork skills
● Interpersonal competency

Family Nurse Practitioner

Family nurse practitioner (FNP) is the most prevalent specialty area, with nearly 50% of NPs focusing on family practice, according to data from the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. FNPs work with every age group in a family practice environment, and they often see patients independently. They manage patient care plans, diagnose and treat chronic conditions, write prescriptions for medications, interpret lab work and imaging, and promote disease prevention through education.

Necessary skills for FNPs:
● Leadership skills
● Written and verbal communication skills
● Interpersonal competency
● Problem-solving ability

Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner

Women face health care issues throughout the different stages in their lives, from reproductive health concerns to chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer — 38% of women suffer from chronic disease, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Women’s health nurse practitioners (WHNPs) are trained clinicians who focus on primary care for women, including prenatal care and disease management, and they often provide gynecological and obstetrical health care services. They also can provide health care services in relation to cardiology, infertility, and endocrinology, among other areas important to women’s health.

Necessary skills for WHNPs:
● Interpersonal skills
● Compassion
● Critical thinking skills
● Written and verbal communication skills

Find an Area of Focus That Interests You

A career as a nurse practitioner in these areas can be financially as well as personally rewarding. According to PayScale, the annual salary for these roles ranges from $83,442 to $97,697. The BLS reports that the median annual wage for nurse practitioners was $113,930 in May 2018.

In every role, successful nurse practitioners are compassionate and possess leadership, analytical, interpersonal, and communication skills. Their formal nursing education and knowledge of math and science are further strengthened by their decision-making and problem-solving abilities. If you are a skilled RN with a bachelor’s degree who is seeking to take advantage of advancement opportunities in nursing, the online BSN to DNP program from Regis College can help prepare you to take on high-level positions and meet the rising demand in the health care sector.

Learn more about the online BSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice program at Regis College.

Recommended Readings
The Pivotal Role of Orem’s Self-Care Deficit Theory
A Day in the Life of a Nurse Practitioner
How Does Nursing Influence Health Care Policy?

American Association of Nurse Practitioners, NP Fact Sheet
American Association of Nurse Practitioners, Nurse Practitioners in Primary Care
American Association of Nurse Practitioners, What’s a Nurse Practitioner (NP)?
American Nurse Today, “Primary Care Shortages and the Role of Family Nurse Practitioners”
American Psychiatric Nurses Association, Psychiatric Mental Health Nurses
Association of American Medical Colleges, “New Research Shows Increasing Physician Shortages in Both Primary and Specialty Care”
Clinician Today, “Why Women’s Health Nurse Practitioners Are Health Care Heroes”
Mayo Clinic, “Nurse Practitioner
National Conference of State Legislatures, “Improving Women’s Health: State Policy Options”
Pediatric Nursing Certification Board, The Primary Care Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (CPNP-PC)
Regis College, Online BSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice
Regis College, “What Does an Adult Geriatric Nurse Practitioner Do”
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners