Careers in health care branch off into many different fields and specializations. Doctors and physicians are the highest level of clinical health care providers, but other professionals such as nurse practitioners (NPs) are equally important to health systems. Nurse practitioners are advanced practice registered nurses who provide specialty health care services to patients. Depending on their education and professional certifications, nurse practitioners may also be qualified to provide primary care services.
Nurse practitioner career options can reach advanced levels that feature more responsibilities and higher earning potential. For individuals who are interested in a medical career but don’t wish to pursue medical school, an online BSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice program offers opportunities to specialize in a particular area of health care and move up the health career ladder.
Becoming a Nurse Practitioner
To become a nurse practitioner, nursing professionals need to have earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), followed by a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). After completing their postgraduate education, they then need to pass a national certification exam. The required certification depends on the desired area of specialization and the state granting the license.
Another avenue for becoming a nurse practitioner is to earn a terminal degree, such as the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), which can expand nurse practitioner career responsibilities even further. This advanced degree potentially allows nurse practitioners to educate other nurses, manage larger nursing departments, develop and maintain nursing informatics systems, help draft health policy, and provide executive-level nurse leadership to medical organizations.
How Can Nurses Advance in Their Field?
The benefits of becoming a nurse practitioner by earning a DNP are significant. As the complexity of health care continues to expand, DNPs can apply their depth of scientific expertise to increase the potential for better health outcomes. DNPs also are instrumental in addressing the ongoing shortage of physicians, and their ability to educate nurses can help alleviate the ongoing nursing shortage.
During their course of study, DNPs also have a unique opportunity to learn about topics that can help advance their careers. For example, DNP students can broaden their expertise by studying nursing leadership, health care informatics, and cultural aspects of health care. Having that expertise can expand nurse practitioner career options to include leadership roles at health care organizations.
Different Nurse Practitioner Career Options
Nurse practitioners play a crucial supportive role in the health care landscape and have multiple options for specialized practice. As discussed below, nurse practitioners’ career options include an array of specialized, nonclinical occupations.
The most experienced nurses are equipped with tools to teach other nurses how to improve their practical skills and technical knowledge. A nurse educator may be a professor in a university or the director of a nurse education program in a medical institution.
Nurse informaticists specialize in managing the information technology that nurses use to process patient health information and communicate with care teams. With a DNP education, nurse practitioners can learn how to innovate in this field and optimize these information systems.
Nurse Policy Specialist
Health policies govern health organizations and help societies achieve specific health objectives. DNP graduates have a deeper perspective of how local, state, and federal health systems interact with one another, allowing them to offer valuable input to these policies. In turn, these graduates are equipped to take on professional roles involved in creating health policy.
Chief Nursing Officer
This is arguably the highest level of nursing professional. This role involves directing the operations of nursing staff in a medical organization. In some cases, a chief nursing officer or chief nursing executive may have some involvement in advocating for the nursing profession by developing, analyzing, and proposing various health and professional policies.
Nurse researchers help create and expand the scientific basis for the practice of nursing. They focus on clinical research, research on health systems and outcomes, and research on nursing education. For example, they may study how to improve the ways in which patients respond to health issues, and how to address social and behavioral aspects of health.
Nurse administrators fill management and leadership roles in health care organizations. They manage nursing teams, nursing units, a department, or nurses throughout an entire health system. With their expertise in administrative procedures, they are well suited to roles as executives and policymakers.
Climbing the Nursing Career Ladder
Registered nurses who wish to advance in the profession often look into nurse practitioner career options. Many find that nurse practitioner graduate programs can lead to career advancement, greater autonomy, and leadership roles.
Individuals who are interested in nursing career advancement can explore the Regis College online BSN to Doctor of Nursing Practice program to learn more.
Position yourself to climb the nursing career ladder today.
American Association of Colleges of Nursing, DNP Fact Sheet
American Association of Colleges of Nursing, Master’s Education
American Association of Colleges of Nursing, Nursing Research
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners
American Associations of Nurse Practitioners, What’s a Nurse Practitioner?