The Pathway to Becoming a Nurse Practitioner

Whether you are already working as a nurse or are considering a career in nursing for your future, there are many different career opportunities in this field. Nursing is a hugely diverse career and once you have earned your BSN, you will have countless opportunities for specialisation in various areas of nursing, working in nurse management and leadership, or working as a family nurse practitioner. The nurse practitioner position is in higher demand than ever before, for a variety of reasons. In most states, nurse practitioners have the authority to diagnose conditions and prescribe medication to patients without the supervision of a physician, meaning that they have become the ideal healthcare professional to fill the gap caused by the current shortage of primary care physicians across the US. If you are considering a future career as a nurse practitioner, here’s what it’ll take for you to get there.

What Does a Nurse Practitioner Do?

First things first – what exactly is the nurse practitioner role? Nurse practitioners are advanced practice registered nurses who have received advanced education and training, often in the form of a post masters FNP degree program. In the majority ofareas, nurse practitioners are permitted to work independently and do not require the supervision or authority of a primary care physician to carry out tasks such as diagnosing their patients and prescribing medication.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Nurse Practitioner?

The length of time that it will take for you to qualify as a nurse practitioner will depend on your current nursing qualifications and the pathways that you decide to take. From start to finish you will need to complete a bachelor’s degree in nursing, gain experience in the field, and achieve a master’s degree in nursing before going on to get a nurse practitioner certification. The length of time that this will take will depend on whether you decide to study full- or part-time, for example, and how long you wait between enrolling in programs.

Getting Started – Becoming a Registered Nurse:

The first step that you will need to take on your journey to becoming a nurse practitioner is qualifying as a registered nurse. This will usually involve getting a BSN, which takes four years. However, if you already have a bachelor’s degree in a different subject, you may be eligible to take an accelerated BSN degree, which allows you to get qualified in half the time.

Getting Work Experience:

Once you have gained your BSN, you will need to pass the NCLEX-RN exam to start working as a registered nurse. Although it may be possible for you to explore graduate degree options now, it’s worth bearing in mind that many will require you to have gained a certain number of years’ experience working as a nurse, especially when it comes to nurse practitioner programs. In addition, gaining work experience by working in a variety of different healthcare settings can help you decide on the type of work that you might like to do as a nurse practitioner in the future. Family nurse practitioners work with the general population and treat people of all ages, while adult-gerontology nurse practitioners tend to focus on older people. If you have an interest in mental health, you may decide to work as a psychiatric nurse practitioner, while those who want to work with infants could consider a career as a neonatal nurse practitioner. The experience you gain after qualifying as a registered nurse will help you determine where your interests lie and if there are any specialty areas that you’d prefer to get into throughout your career.

Getting a Graduate Degree:

With some experience behind you, you’re in a good position to determine what kind of graduate degree you might like to take on in your journey to becoming a nurse practitioner. Some nursing master’s degree programs will qualify you to work as a nurse practitioner while others will require you to take an additional nurse practitioner program once you have graduated, so do plenty of research to find the best option for you. The minimum academic requirement to work as a nurse practitioner is a master of science in nursing, and there are hundreds of programs available for this degree. Consider whether you want to study on-campus or online and if you would prefer to study for a program that focuses on a certain area of specialisation or on nursing in general.

Licensing and Certification:

Once you have gained the qualifications that are required to work as a nurse practitioner, you will need to gain certification and licencing. Bear in mind that not all areas have the same rules when it comes to working as a nurse practitioner and depending on where you live, you may be required to work under the supervision of a doctor. In the US, for example, each state has licencing requirements for nurse practitioners that are controlled and governed by the state Board of Nursing. You’ll need to pass a national certification exam before you can start working as a nurse practitioner. You can get this from a range of examining bodies including the National Certification Corporation, the American Nurses Credentialing Centre, and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners National Certification Board.

Specialty Routes:

Once you have qualified as a nurse practitioner, your career journey does not have to stop there. There is a range of specialised education and training programs available designed to help nurse practitioners get the ideal career for them. Whether you would like to focus on a certain condition, run your own clinic independently or work in healthcare research or education, there are plenty of options for nurse practitioners to consider if they want to take their career even further.

Nurse practitioners are in higher demand than ever before due to the shortage of both nurses and primary care physicians. Whether you’re already working as a nurse or have decided that nursing is the ideal future career for you, becoming a nurse practitioner is one of the highest achievements in the field.