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Nurse practitioners and specialized nursing occupations have a tremendously bright future in the U.S. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners (also known as advanced practice registered nurses or APRNs) is expected to grow by more than 30% over the next 10 years, which is much faster than the average growth expectations across all occupations (BLS, 2012).
Due to the high demand for this career, nurse practitioner schools across the country are now offering programs that allow nurses to further their education and prepare themselves for this rewarding career. Many of these programs provide a pathway to nurse practitioner status for a variety of nurses who may have different levels of prior experience including those who are already RNs, BSNs, and MSNs. For working nurses, online nurse practitioner programs that allow students to choose their own pace and work around their busy nursing schedules to complete training are a convenient option.
To find out which educational pathway might be right for you, check out the subspecialities and FAQs listed below.
APRN programs exist at some of the top nursing schools in the country. Most programs require that the incoming student determine their track upon application or matriculation, but prior to beginning coursework. This means that incoming students must declare their intention to study in a nurse practitioner program specifically (as opposed to any of the other types of APRN programs). In addition to choosing a nurse practitioner school, many nurses choose a subspecialty within that track.
Some of the most common nurse practitioner specialties are listed below.
Students in nurse practitioner programs specialize in areas as varied as adult care, mental health, pediatric care or even emergency care. Clinical hours provide them with the training they need and allow them to gain deeper assessment, diagnosis and treatment skills in their specialty area.
Pediatric nurse practitioners are trained to care for children and childhood diseases as well as to interface with their patients' parents for holistic care.
The certified acute care nurse practitioner specialty was developed to create a role that offers patients with acute illness comprehensive care that addresses needs both apart from and including the prevailing illness.
A psychiatric nurse practitioner is also known as a mental health nurse practitioner. He or she will work to examine, diagnose, and treat patients with mental illness as well as interface with patient families.
An adult gerontology nurse practitioner, also referred to as an Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner or AGNP, works with patients from adolescents to older adults in many different settings including hospitals, community clinics, and even in homes.
An emergency nurse practitioner is a quick thinker who is calm under pressure. These nurses work in hospital emergency rooms and urgent care centers.
A family nurse practitioner works as a primary care nurse to a range of people and are often the first to diagnose or refer patients with serious conditions. Family nurse practitioners often work with a patient through his or her entire life.
Those nurses who may be unsure that they want to purse a nurse practitioner track should also feel free to explore the other APRN programs, like one of those listed below.
Training programs for certified nurse midwives includes extensive training in gynecology and newborn care as well as general women's health issues.
Clinical nurse specialist programs may focus on a number of different areas of nursing, including treatment of certain age groups, certain illnesses, or a specific type of health problem, such as stress or pain.
A certified nurse anesthetist program teaches the intricacies of providing anesthesia to surgery patients in a variety of settings.
Nurse practitioners are highly trained medical professionals that work closely with patients. No matter what his or her specialty, a nurse practitioner will likely spend the majority of time at work assessing, examining, diagnosing, and treating patients. Nurse practitioners will also order medical testing and prescribe medications. In some but not all states, nurse practitioners are required to have a supervisory contract in place with a physician. Nurse practitioners may work in doctors' offices, community clinics, hospitals, or virtually any medical setting.
Nurse practitioners must receive formal training, past the typical registered nurse education. Due to their extensive training, nurse practitioners can command a higher salary than a standard registered nurse. As of 2012, the mean annual wage for nurse practitioners in the U.S. is $95,070 (BLS, 2012).
As of 2015, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) will require that anyone seeking training as an APRN will be required to complete coursework necessary for a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. Until 2015, only a master's degree was required. Adoption of the DNP as the new standard may mean increased course loads and a longer training period for new nurse practitioners, but the result will be an even stronger foundation for nursing practice upon graduation. That said, adoption is not yet mandatory and so there are still nurse practitioner programs that culminate in a Master's rather than a Doctoral degree. Get more information on this new requirement, and find answers to other frequently asked nurse practitioner questions, below.
The NP Education Blog is a great resource for those considering applying to nurse practitioner school in the near future. The blog offers more detail and information about the types of programs that are available across the country, including accredited online programs. If you are even considering a career as a nurse practitioner, the NP Education Blog can provide you with tips on how to prepare for school, how to choose the right nurse practitioner school, and which programs might set you on the right path to fulfilling your nursing career goals.
Phyllis Kupsick, President of the WOCN® Society™, discusses how published WOCN guidelines might lead to improved care, especially once understood and applied by skilled nurse practitioners. Kupsick also discusses WOC certification, WOC continuing education for advanced nurses, and the relatively long history of the WOCN Society.