When you ask many nurses why they chose to pursue that career path, the answers often include a desire to make a real difference in the lives of others. That is certainly what nursing professionals do every working day in a diverse range of settings and situations. They help patients toward positive healthcare experiences and outcomes.
However, perhaps less appreciated is the exponentially greater contribution these healthcare professionals make to other people’s lives when they qualify as Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) and pursue one of the top career paths open to them.
Table of Contents
- 1 What is an APRN?
- 2 First, vital qualifications for advanced nursing
- 3 Why online?
- 4 Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)
- 5 The scope of FNPs is wide
- 6 Adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner (AGPCNP)
- 7 Psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP)
- 8 What your employment options could be
- 9 Rewards of qualifying for advanced posts in nursing
- 10 Countless benefits
- 11 All career pathways lead to greater impact
What is an APRN?
Advanced practice nurses not only impact countless patients’ experiences and outcomes but also deliver a range of other benefits supporting patients’ families. They are also important to their colleagues (especially physicians) and employers.
In addition, APRNs generally enrich the quality of healthcare provision, and in some situations, they provide a transformational influence. This is because advanced nurse practitioners fill decision-making and leadership roles in multi-disciplinary teams.
This is so crucial that it is a widely held belief that advanced practice nurses are at the heart of the work to continuous improvement of healthcare in the US and beyond.
The Royal College of Nursing in the UK sums up much of the impact of advanced practice nurses by saying, “They have the freedom and authority to act, making autonomous decisions in the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of patients.” However, even that doesn’t completely explain how vital APRNs are and what a difference they make while part of multi-professional teams.
Modern healthcare provision has found ways of channeling that high level of expertise into influential and impactful career paths, including leadership roles in nursing. There are also dynamic and in-demand job roles for anyone who chooses to become an advanced practice registered nurse.
Let’s explore the most popular career paths for APRNs to illustrate just what a remarkable job they do.
First, vital qualifications for advanced nursing
As you will see in the summary of high-level nursing roles below, there are essential personal and professional skills that are required to take up any advanced position in the nursing sector.
That’s because as you progress through the ranks in this healthcare profession, naturally there is an even greater need for mature clinical abilities and knowledge. You also need to have stronger personal strengths (or soft skills) to underpin the key traits of leadership and communication.
So, before considering the options for advanced nursing careers, it is important to find the best qualification route to add to your nursing experience and your BSN degree. For many candidates, that means finding a way to do a post-graduate certificate for Advanced Practice Registered Nurses online.
Among the many advantages of doing post masters NP programs remotely is that you can fit your studies around gaining valuable work experience, including clinical placements facilitated by your university. Wilkes University’s Post-Graduate APRN certificate program is also an affordable way to strengthen both your theoretical and practical skills and to build on your existing graduate status. In addition, this post-graduate degree program is 100% online; you can get through your studies in a streamlined way while still benefiting from conveniently located clinical rotations.
Online learning is a superb way to gain qualifications while managing an existing career and any family commitments. You also get support to progress your career as a nursing professional and to reach the required level of personal and professional ability. The tutor, mentor, and peer support provided by your university are crucial in this.
Armed with this highly-respected degree – and your already-relevant resume – what sort of authoritative and sophisticated posts are available as an APRN?
Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)
There are various types of advanced practice registered nurse, and you can start to focus on one of the most in-demand and fulfilling options as part of your degree program.
That includes deciding to specialize as a Family Nurse Practitioner, which is an especially prolific job opening for nurses with advanced qualifications.
Significantly, the need for FNPs is set to grow, making this an even more exciting career prospect. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, posts for FNPs are set to increase by a stunning 45% in the decade from 2022 to 2032. That is vivid evidence of how vital this category of advanced nurse practitioners is in supporting both current and future healthcare delivery across the country.
As the title suggests, FNPs work with patients of all ages – from newborn to the elderly – often in a community setting and over several years. That is because many family nurse practitioners are based in local doctors’ offices and community healthcare providers. Some are mandated to deliver home visit healthcare services too, for example.
The high level of clinical skills and knowledge required to be a family nurse practitioner enables this nursing professional to fulfil tasks traditionally associated with physicians. This can be especially vital in rural areas, for example, or in busy urban clinics, when there are not enough family practice doctors.
This means advanced nurse practitioners play a vital part in making quality healthcare support available more quickly and to more of the population, often supporting the transformation of local services.
The scope of FNPs is wide
An FNP could be in a setting that provides either primary and secondary care, where they would assist with both diagnosis and treatment services. However, as an advanced nursing professional in this niche, you may also be involved in preventive care and educational projects, as well as helping patients with long-term medical issues to manage their condition.
Clearly, it requires adaptability, problem-solving abilities, and excellent communication skills, alongside the compassion and trust-building that are vital components of all nursing career paths.
One of the best things about working within family practice health care as an advanced practice registered nurse is that you can choose to find a sub-specialty if you wish. So, for example, from the basis of being an FNP, you may decide to further progress into being a nurse practitioner in surgery, emergency medicine, cardiology, or oncology.
Adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner (AGPCNP)
Some of the skills mentioned above apply to all nurse practitioner roles, especially excellence in communication and critical thinking. Assured decision-making and confident collaboration will also enable highly qualified nurses to be versatile and adapt to the age and needs of any patient.
However, as already referenced, you can choose to focus on a particular specialty, such as becoming an AGPCNP.
An adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner provides often long-term healthcare to adolescents, adults, and older adults, including supporting patients who are critically ill.
As you can see in a list of knowledge areas needed to be an AGNP, though you are concentrating on the medical needs of older patients, the range of things you need to know is extensive. Your tasks could include anything from thorough patient assessment and screening, clinical decisions, and insights into different therapies, to dispensing age-appropriate pharmacological solutions.
The responsibilities of an adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner may also include helping elderly or critically ill patients to transition to end-of-life care.
These advanced nurse practitioners are sometimes in situations that require crisis management skills, too, and even disaster preparedness and public health emergency response may come under your job description.
Partnering with older patients to deliver long-term care can be extremely rewarding as you create a relationship of trust and respect that enables you to deliver preventative healthcare advice too. You can also play a valuable role in helping adult patients to self-manage chronic health conditions, providing a safety net for when they require specialist help and support.
For that reason, the sort of places that you would work as an adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner include primary care centers and within specialist providers of geriatric and oncology healthcare services.
Psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP)
This is another potential career path that relies on the fundamental combination of personal and professional skills that are enhanced when you opt for a post-graduate qualification in nursing. However, students who choose to specialize in this field will focus especially on assessing, diagnosing, treating, and supporting patients with mental health needs and behavior issues. They may well also get involved in supporting their patients’ families too.
Using their sophisticated clinical knowledge and experience, a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) would work with patients to formulate a diagnosis and would then have the skill and authority to formulate an effective treatment and care plan. This holistic help could include therapies and medications associated with mental health support, as well as self-management and self-regulation techniques and tips.
In some situations, and states, advanced practice nurses who qualify with specialist knowledge and skills in mental disorders and behavioral problems have only low-level supervision from physicians.
This category of advanced nurse practitioner would also often be involved in the delivery of emergency psychiatric care, stepping in to help patients during a crisis. This clearly demands all the empathy, calmness, and trust-building acumen that underpins the nursing profession.
What your employment options could be
If this is an APRN career path of interest, it’s important to note that your employment options include a diverse range of settings, including hospitals and private medical practices. One of the common denominators is that many will require their psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners to work shifts and periods of being on call.
Also, though you specialize in mental health, your grounding in general advanced nursing practice will be invaluable. As the American Association of Nurse Practitioners says, “The psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP) role serves every facet of health care because health cannot exist without mental health.”
Rewards of qualifying for advanced posts in nursing
Having covered some of the career paths available to grow your professional nursing experience and impact, it is worth finishing with a quick summary of more reasons for nurses to decide to take this direction with their career.
Firstly, this can be an affordable way to develop your expertise, professional judgement, and leadership skills in nursing. It will help you boost your job satisfaction and challenge yourself more during your working life.
However, if cost does seem to be one of the hurdles to taking qualifications to progress upward, keep in mind there are various options for getting student loans, even without a cosigner.
This also needs to be viewed in the context of the salary packages for advanced nursing posts. Choosing any of the available career paths as an APRNP will always lead to excellent pay and benefits that are designed to compensate you for any costs to get to that level.
Advanced nursing roles often bring greater stability too, and you can potentially have more control over your work schedule. This enables you to create a better life/work balance.
The fact that advanced nursing practitioners are so vital and in demand also enables you to be in a strong position to negotiate with employers about your work patterns in some of the roles available to advanced nurse practitioners.
Taking advanced nursing pathways also opens possibilities to move to another state or even another country. The qualifications and experience are both highly sought after and highly transferrable, so you can take your pick of nursing jobs requiring post-masters nurse practitioner qualifications.
All career pathways lead to greater impact
Setting aside the personal enrichment that can come from qualifying as an APRN and progressing one of the many career pathways, there is something else that is vital to consider.
Taking your nursing career forward in this way leads to improvements in your capacity and capabilities to improve the lives of your patients and to help even more people. That’s the most compelling motivation of all.