What Kind of Nurse Should I Be? Examining Advanced Practice Nursing Paths

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Advanced practice nurses discuss a patient’s chart.

The health care landscape has changed drastically over the years. As communities place greater emphasis on preventive care and populations worldwide continue to grow, nurse practitioners have become crucial to the health care industry. More and more, nurse practitioners are becoming widely recognized as primary health care providers. And demand for nurse practitioners is only going up. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the number of jobs for nurse practitioners will increase 26% from 2018 to 2028.

Quality training and education is key to filling these roles with highly trained experts and specialists. Advanced degree programs, such as Master of Science in Nursing and post-master’s certificate programs, help prepare a new generation of nurse practitioners.

Today, there are a variety of options for those who wish to pursue a career in advanced practice nursing. But the sheer number of pathways and possibilities can be overwhelming, leaving many students wondering: What kind of nurse should I be?

Advanced Practice Nursing — Where Patient Care Meets Leadership

Nurse practitioners provide a wide range of health care services, from pediatrics to women’s health and even psychiatric mental health. Nurse practitioners are trained and certified to assess, diagnose, manage patient concerns, and order tests

Role and Responsibilities

In many ways, nurse practitioners function as primary care providers. They see patients, diagnose conditions, prescribe medication, provide referrals, and admit patients to hospitals for further treatment. But their advanced training also qualifies nurse practitioners for managerial roles. In fact, many lead teams of other nurses or even entire departments. In these leadership positions, nurse practitioners are responsible for providing expertise and support to other nurses, help drive organizational change, and ensure that all patient care aligns with current research and best practices.

Important Skills

A strong educational background and extensive hands-on experience are key to the success of all nurse practitioners. As a foundation, they must possess comprehensive scientific training so they can stay at the leading edge of research findings and advanced practice methods. Nurse practitioners must also be able to work independently, use clinical experience to improve practice and patient outcomes, and demonstrate a working knowledge of health care technology.

Nurse practitioners also need compassion and sharp critical thinking skills. Advanced practice nursing is a demanding field. Balancing a heavy workload while truly caring for each individual patient is not an easy task. Professional autonomy, patience, and solid decision-making skills are important. As health care leaders, nurse practitioners must be experts in health care policy, ethics, and management. These skills are fundamental to facilitating change, creating health care policy, and advocating for ethical and culturally sensitive care.

To pursue managerial roles, nurse practitioners must have a solid foundation in organizational management and consider the complex relationships between quality, safety, access to care, and resource allocation.

Areas of Specialization

At Regis College, students may choose from five areas of specialization: pediatrics, family practice, women’s health, psychiatric mental health, and adult-gerontology. Students in the online Master of Science in Nursing can focus their degree in one of these areas. Registered nurses seeking to become nurse practitioners or students who already have a master’s degree can hone their expertise in one of these five areas through the school’s online post-master’s certificate programs. These programs are designed to help students build their expertise, expand their opportunities, and become leaders in their fields.

Pediatrics

In a 2019 report, the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners predicted a critical shortage of pediatric nurse practitioners (PNPs) over the next decade. Of 270,000 nurse practitioners in the U.S., less than 8% are certified as PNPs. In the health care industry as a whole, there are less than 50,000 primary care pediatricians. In contrast, the U.S. child population is already more than 74 million, and the U.S. Census Bureau estimates the number of children will grow to more than 76 million by 2030.

In light of this, PNPs will be essential to providing health care services to children across the U.S. These professionals address this growing need by providing expert care — including primary, hospital, outpatient, and specialty care — to all children. They are knowledgeable about needs specific to children, including immunizations and common illnesses such as chickenpox or croup. They also serve as advocates for children in the health care facilities at which they work.

Family Practice

According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), more than 60% of nurse practitioners specialize in family practice, and those numbers are projected to grow. To combat the challenges of rising health care costs, growing rates of chronic illness, and an aging population, many states have enacted legislation that allows family nurse practitioners (FNPs) to work more independently. This is great news for future FNPs. Not only are there more opportunities in the field than ever before, but the changing scope of work allows them to apply the full extent of their expertise to their practice. The FNP program is structured to prepare students to make the most of these opportunities and work as autonomous, primary care providers.

Women’s Health

Women make up more than half of the U.S. population. That alone is enough reason to make women’s health care critically important. On top of that, large percentages of women suffer from both physical and mental health issues. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 41% of women over the age of 20 are considered overweight, and almost 34% of women in the same age group have hypertension. In addition, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that depression is nearly twice as common in women as it is in men. To address these challenges, women’s health nurse practitioners provide care related to women, including gynecological care, mental health care focused on challenges women face, and neonatal care.

Psychiatric Mental Health

Mental health issues impact people of all ages, making this a particularly complex field. In fact, the National Alliance on Mental Health estimates that one in five adults (more than 46 million people) experience mental illness in a given year. And more than 20% of children ages 13-18 experience a severe mental disorder. This creates an interesting landscape for psychiatric mental health providers.

In addition to serving an extremely diverse population, care providers must have a comprehensive understanding of many different issues, from anxiety disorders and depression to Alzheimer’s and dementia. The Regis College online degree program is designed to help students develop their therapeutic expertise, emotional intelligence, and communication skills, enabling them to provide competent, ethical care to people of all ages and backgrounds.

Adult-Gerontology

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 20% of the U.S. population will be older than 65 by 2030. Moreover, “By 2035, older adults will outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history.” The health care system must adapt now to be able to meet this growing demand and support patients through complex age-related illnesses. The Regis College Adult Geriatric Nurse Practitioner specialization is designed to help students gain expertise in this rapidly growing field, empowering them to help patients live healthy and rewarding lives.

Lead the Next Generation of Advanced Practice Nurses

Health care as a service sector and employment segment is always evolving, spurred by changes in policy, national trends, and population growth. As the demand for health care across the U.S. increases, there is more need for nurse practitioners than ever before. Regis College’s online Master of Science in Nursing and online post-master’s certificate programs are designed to stay ahead of these growing trends and help put students at the forefront of the health care industry.

Learn more about all Regis College has to offer, and prepare to start your career as an advanced practice nurse leader in the health care industry.

Recommended Readings

What Degree Does a Nurse Practitioner Need? Why Advanced Programs Are Critical
Nurse Practitioner Careers: Duties, Job Growth, the Average Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Salary
Comparing Career Tracks: Nurse Practitioner vs. Nurse Anesthetist

Sources

American Association of Nurse Practitioners, “Nurse Practitioner Role Grows to More Than 270,000” American Association of Nurse Practitioners, “Scope of Practice for Nurse Practitioners” Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, “Women’s Health” ICN Nurse Practitioner/Advanced Practice Nursing Network, “Definition and Characteristics of the Role”,Mental Health First Aid, “5 Surprising Mental Health Statistics” National Alliance on Mental Illness, “Mental Health by the Numbers” National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, “Critical Shortage of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners Emerging Over Next Decade” United States Census Bureau, “Demographic Turning Points Population Projections for the United States: 2020 to 2060” World Health Organization, “Gender and Women’s Mental Health”