An In-Depth Guide to Advanced Practice Registered Nursing

Being a nurse can be very fulfilling as it is the type of job role many people go into for both altruistic and monetary purposes. Nurses need to possess certain character traits, such as empathy and a desire to help others, to succeed in their role. However, the nursing field can be physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing, and some nursing professionals may find themselves looking to move on to a more financially rewarding role with a wider scope of practice.

Registered nurses who love to learn new things and strive for more responsibility should consider becoming an advanced practice registered nurse. With advanced training and relevant clinical experience, registered nurses can enjoy better job autonomy, career freedom, and higher salaries. Not to mention, there is an increasing demand for advanced practice nurses in healthcare. Here is an in-depth guide to advanced practice registered nursing to help you decide if it is the right career move for you.

What are Advanced Practice Registered Nurses?

Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) are registered nurses who have been educated to an advanced level. ‘Advanced practice’ is in reference to the level of practice the registered nurse has undertaken. To receive APRN status, registered nurses must undergo specialist training, which is dependent on the specialty and job type. With a high level of education and training, some APRNs have the freedom to work autonomously, make healthcare decisions, and examine, diagnose and treat patients without the supervision of a physician.

Different Types of Advanced Practice Registered Nurses

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing states that the APRN status comprises four nursing types. Advanced practice registered nurses with full and relevant training can practice as a nurse anesthetist (CRNA), a nurse practitioner (NP), a clinical nurse specialist (CNS) or a certified nurse midwife (CNM).

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist

Certified registered nurse anesthetists provide anesthesia before, during, and after surgery and offer patients anesthesia-related care. The role also involves monitoring vitals and health, assisting doctors with anesthetic plan preparation, and administering medication to help their patients be more comfortable. From private practices and pain management centers to outpatient facilities and major hospitals, CRNAs can work in a variety of healthcare and medical settings.

Earn more as a CRNA

According to a poll taken by Medpage Today, being a CRNA can be incredibly lucrative. It is the highest paying advanced practice registered nursing role out of the four. With the right level of training and clinical experience, certified nurse anesthetists can earn a median salary of $166,969 per year. However, they are known to gross $203,730 at the high end of the spectrum.

Clinical Nurse Specialist

The role of a clinical nurse specialist revolves around managing, diagnosing, and treating patients. CNSs also encourage their patients to practice good health, and they help to prevent illness and risk behaviors in communities, individuals, and families. These advanced nurse specialists can work in a specialty, possess an expert understanding in clinical health, and work as a consultant for large organizations and other employers to help them improve their systems. As with CRNAs, clinical nurse specialists can work in a variety of settings.

Enjoy a High Job Satisfaction Rate

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, over 91 percent of clinical nurse specialists are moderately or extremely satisfied with their work. In addition to a high job satisfaction rate, clinical nurses specialists can earn a wage that falls between $65,000 to $110,000 per year, depending on the location and specialty they end up working in.

Certified Nurse-Midwife

Certified nurse-midwives specialize in primary care for women. Their services include obstetric care, gynecologic care, and reproductive health. In some instances, CNMs provide treatment for sexually transmitted infections for their patient’s partners. Nurse-midwives can provide care in a plethora of settings such as large hospitals, private clinics, and patient’s homes. CNMs with experience and the right level of qualifications can take on leadership and management positions in an organization, which can eventually lead to roles such as the head of midwifery or the director of midwifery services. Not to mention, nurse-midwives can complete additional training and courses to further specialize their skills. CNMs can pursue specialist careers in home births, high-risk care, and infertility.

Bring New Life into the World

‘There is much more to the CNM role than delivering babies. However, being a certified nurse-midwife is very rewarding for some professionals because of the ability to safely bring new life into the world. Besides delivering newborns, CNMs help new parents and respective families prepare and care for the new addition. Creating a safe place for the entire family to thrive is vital, and the responsibility falls on the CNM to provide the right level of support and advice.

Nurse Practitioner

The fourth advanced practice registered nurse role is a nurse practitioner (NP). As with the previous three types, nurse practitioners have the ability to provide comprehensive care to patients. They act as primary care providers to many of their patients, and they are able to provide preventative care services too. There are many types of nurse practitioner specialties to choose from, and so the responsibilities vary from role to role. Generally, nurse practitioners focus on assessing, diagnosing, and managing a patient’s health, ordering tests, and prescribing and providing medication or treatment when necessary.

Nurse Practitioner Specialties

Registered nurses who want to become nurse practitioners often specialize in specific areas when they are still in education. With specific experience and training, nurse practitioners can gain invaluable knowledge and relevant tools to succeed in their chosen specialty. There are many advanced-level degree programs that can help prepare nurse practitioners for specific professions. For example, a registered nurse with specialist knowledge in family health obtained from a nursing PhD can become a family nurse practitioner. Other popular nurse practitioner specialties include acute care, psychiatric and mental health, neonatal and pediatric.

How to Become an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse

To qualify and practice legally as an advanced practice registered nurse, you must follow a specific framework. Registered nurses with either an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN) need to pursue an advanced degree. An advanced degree is essential to gaining APRN status.

Advanced Degree

A BSN was once considered enough if a registered nurse wanted to apply for an entry-level position in nursing. However, with stiff competition and more and more nurses becoming more qualified, it is now important to further educate yourself to stand out from the crowd. An advanced degree arms registered nurses with specific knowledge in a specialty and enable them to deliver excellent patient care. In turn, they are able to achieve positive patient outcomes. A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree, a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree, and a PhD in Nursing all qualify as advanced degrees. Advanced education provides students with enhanced nursing knowledge and will help them thrive in their chosen professions. However, they are also essential for those who want to pursue leadership roles.

Clinical Hours

Part of becoming an APRN includes clinical hours in a supervised healthcare setting. Clinical hours give prospective advanced practice nurses practical experience, which is incredibly useful in their future profession. Completing clinical hours is a necessity in becoming an APRN, as it helps students become more able in their abilities and more competent as nurses.

National Certification Exam

After achieving an advanced degree and completing clinical hours, prospective APRNs need to pass a certification exam before practicing as an advanced professional. Granted by national organizations, students must pick the relevant certification based on their specialty and type.

State Licensure

The final step to obtaining full APRN status is gaining a state license. APRNs need to apply for the correct license depending on the area they want to provide care in. Individual states grant state licensure, and requirements can vary from state to state.

Key APRN Benefits

Higher Earning Potential

The annual median wage for an advanced practice registered nurse, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is $117,670. As a registered nurse, you can expect an average salary of around $75,330. With over a $40,000 dollar leap, the investment a registered nurse makes in APRN education, training, and credentials can provide a good rate of return in no time.

Positive Career Outlook

In addition to a higher earning potential, advanced practice registered nurses boast a higher than the national average job growth rate of 45 percent from 2019 to 2029. Not to mention, statistics from the U.S. News & World Report reveal that nurse practitioners rank highly as the third best job in the entire nation. Additionally, nurse practitioners come in at second for healthcare jobs, while physicians rank as third. Besides being a highly sought-after job with a positive career outlook, studies show that nurses are the most trusted group of professionals in the United States. They are rated higher in ethics and honesty than other healthcare and medical professionals.

Growing Demand For APRNs

According to data gathered by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), by 2034, there is an estimated shortage of between 37,800 and 124,000 physicians. With a projected deficit of physicians across the country, more uninsured people requiring healthcare services, and an aging population who will need preventative care, APRNs have plenty of career opportunities. Registered nurses who are qualified to provide comprehensive care at an advanced level are an efficient solution to the physician shortage. The growing demand for advanced nursing professionals means that APRNs are more able to negotiate employment contracts that complement their lifestyles. APRNs can negotiate better schedules, higher wages, favorable retirement contributions, and suitable vacations with specialist knowledge and skills.

The Autonomy to Practice Independently

One major aspect of becoming an advanced practice nurse is the fact that they have more authority than registered nurses and can practice independently from a physician, depending on the state. With the ability to perform similar duties as physicians, some advanced practice nurses are able to provide care in their own independent clinics. Advanced practice nurses make it easier for people to access high-quality healthcare.

They are often the first point of call, and a top health provider choice, for millions of people across the United States. Not only can APRNs diagnose and treat patients, they also provide support and advice to help their patients prevent disease and manage their health. They educate patients, promote good health, and can even offer counseling. APRNs help care for the overall health and wellbeing of their patients. Compared to physicians, APRNs can bring a holistic approach to the table and provide their patients with a personal touch.

Leadership Opportunities

Becoming an advanced practice registered nurse is an excellent career move for people who want to step away from the traditional bedside role. With an advanced degree, nursing professionals can apply for leadership opportunities in a variety of settings. Registered nurses must be educated to the MSN level at a minimum to apply for leadership roles, with a DNP or a PhD in Nursing being favorable. APRNs can achieve supervisory and management roles in healthcare and medical settings, such as being nursing administrators. Other critical leadership professions include chief nursing officer, director of patient care services, and nursing department director. Leadership opportunities are also available in other areas, such as research, education, and academia.

Make a Significant Difference to Others

Registered nurses play an integral part in the medical and healthcare system, and they can make a huge difference to the patients they help. If this is a big draw for you, then becoming an APRN can provide further fulfillment. By increasing your understanding of the field and furthering your training, you can go on to deliver a better level of care, achieve excellent patient outcomes and improve existing healthcare practices. With specialist knowledge and skills gained from an advanced level of training, APRNs can take on job roles that can significantly impact the lives of others and people within the community at large.

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