Different factors go into selecting a career. However, the ever-changing nature of various industries means career choices do not have to be permanent. Professionals switch career paths for various reasons, from changing interests and circumstances to new developments and opportunities.
This point also holds true regarding the healthcare industry. Nursing, in particular, incorporates several careers, most of which feature similar transferable skills. So, it’s pretty straightforward to switch between careers in nursing. The switch from working as a registered nurse (RN) to a nurse practitioner (NP) is often a complex and stressful, albeit exciting, process.
Nurse practitioners serve primarily as autonomous caregivers and face new responsibilities, which may present fresh challenges. Regardless, transitioning from RN to NP is one of the best decisions a nurse could make. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the nurse practitioner job is projected to grow by 40% between 2021 and 2031. While the role might be demanding, nurse practitioners are some of the most in-demand professionals across the nursing sector. So, there are several reasons why you should consider the transition.
What is an NP?
Nurse practitioners are advanced practice registered nurses (APRN) that have obtained either a master’s or doctorate in nursing in addition to passing a national licensure examination. These educational qualifications and hands-on clinical work provide registered nurses with the knowledge and experience required to become leaders and carry out their responsibilities autonomously.
Nurse practitioners can work in a wide range of specialized fields, including family care, acute care, pediatrics, mental healthcare, women’s care, and primary gerontology care, among other specializations. An NP will work directly with patients to develop diagnoses and treatment plans. Other typical responsibilities include:
- Requesting, conducting, and translating various diagnostic tests.
- Addressing chronic and acute illnesses, injuries, and infections.
- Prescribing medications and informing patients of the side effects and other possible interactions.
- Accessing medical history and accurately recording patient symptoms.
- Developing treatment plans and giving patients counsel regarding their health.
- Making recommendations for a healthier lifestyle, as well as preventive methods for diseases and injuries.
One critical aspect of a career as a nurse practitioner compared to other career paths is autonomy. They are free to meet with patients independently; however, it’s not uncommon for them to work alongside physicians.
Registered Nurse vs. Nurse Practitioner
There are no better career moves in nursing than the transition from RN to NP, especially for professionals seeking more autonomy and responsibility regarding face-to-face patient care. But how exactly do both career paths differ?
In truth, RNs and NPs are similar, and in most cases, the experience obtained as a registered nurse is a prerequisite for a position as a nurse practitioner. However, the most significant difference between a registered nurse and a nurse practitioner lies in the scope of practice. The scope of practice for the RN and NP may vary slightly depending on the state, but different nursing organizations define their foundational responsibilities.
According to these associations, RNs and NPs develop relevant knowledge and skills to systematically organize patient care through physical diagnosis, development of treatment plans, and outcome evaluation. The notable difference in the standard of practice between both career paths involves nurse practitioners learning more advanced assessment skills to develop specific medical diagnoses.
These advanced skills aid NPs in engaging in extensive diagnostic and treatment options, thereby incorporating the responsibilities of RNs and more. Nurse practitioners also train to accurately interpret testing and perform other related procedures within the scope of practice to recognize a patient’s results independently.
The responsibilities of both career paths are very similar. However, the autonomy to develop, apply and modify treatment plans based on the patient’s condition illustrates the notable contrast in the scope of practice between an RN and NP.
Becoming a Nurse Practitioner
Education and licensing are among the most important aspects to consider when transitioning to an NP role. The minimum educational requirement to become a nurse practitioner is a master’s degree. Most registered nurses hold an RN license and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. These qualifications, along with a master’s degree, are the minimum requirements to become an advanced practice nurse.
However, there are alternative pathways to make the transition from RN to NP easier. Professionals can enroll in RN to MSN or ADN to MSN programs. Various nursing education commissions, such as the CCNE or ACEN, accredit the institutions offering these programs.
Following the completion of an MSN degree, a nurse practitioner must obtain an advanced practice nursing license from their selected state of practice. The licensure examination and requirements differ from state to state. In the United States, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) and the American Nursing Credentialing Center (ANCC) offer certification programs that are recognized nationally. NPs must renew their certification every five years through continuing education courses and a specific period of clinical practice, which is typically about 1,000 hours.
Benefits of Transitioning to a Nurse Practitioner
The nurse practitioner’s role is growing massively, as is the demand for professionals looking to advance from RN to NP. Several benefits are open to professionals interested in transitioning from working as registered nurses to nursing practitioners, from career autonomy to higher job satisfaction and a better career outlook.
In 2022, the World Report ranked nurse practitioner practice as the second-best job in the United States and the best in the healthcare sector. These statistics illustrate how profitable an NP career is. Here are some benefits of transitioning to an NP role:
Career Growth and Opportunities
As you sift through the specialization, as well as the field and scope of practice of nurse practitioners, it’s evident there is no shortage of job opportunities. In fact, the growth rate of NPs is five times more than other professions, with a projected increase of 28% by 2028.
The United States currently faces an anticipated shortage of about 50,000 healthcare professionals by 2030. With nurse practitioners focused squarely on primary healthcare, the demand for these professionals is bound to increase.
The shortage of primary healthcare professionals has been a topic of discussion for some time. Across various studies, family nurse practitioners, in particular, have been identified as the answer to the physician shortage problem. A significant reason for this is the FNP’s ability to treat a wide range of patients, despite their age.
Additionally, the ability of nurse practitioners to work in a wide range of medical environments also makes for a significant career growth opportunity.
Flexibility and Autonomy
Nurse practitioners enjoy more independence and flexibility than most nursing professionals. Autonomy is the cornerstone of an NP practice. It is a vital aspect required to succeed as a primary care provider and grow in nursing.
Transitioning to an NP offers more career autonomy and a broader selection of clinical duties. Most states also provide full practice authority, meaning NPs can operate independently and, if need be, establish their clinical practice. In addition, becoming a nurse practitioner helps develop the skills and experience required to carry out clinical judgment and practice without the restrictions of professional collaboration.
Another significant reason to consider the transition from RN to NP is the boost in salary potential. Nurse professionals represent one of the top practices in nursing, and the income potential reflects this.
In the United States, NPs earn an average annual income of $109,820, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is much more substantial than the income of registered nurses, which is about $73,300. The pay of NPs is flexible as more experienced practitioners enjoy increased salaries with time. The specialization and medical setting can also impact the salary.
Opportunity to Specialize
It’s no secret that nurse practitioners practice in many specializations, from family NPs to mental healthcare, women’s care, and gerontology care, among others. Transitioning to an NP offers the opportunity to specialize in the discipline you feel most passionate about.
The benefits of specialization are apparent, especially in a critical field such as healthcare. Discipline fosters increased focus and knowledge in a specific area of practice, which is essential for quality healthcare. For professionals looking to establish their own practice, value-based services can be offered through specialized clinical procedures and agencies.
Technophobia in the healthcare industry is not far-fetched. Technological advancements have made it possible for machines to carry out some medical processes much more effectively. With these latest developments, many healthcare career choices are slowly becoming a thing of the past.
However, careers such as nurse practitioners are expected to always remain in demand. The human factor plays a crucial part in the NP scope of practice, making it an irreplaceable career path. The profession also remains relevant regarding telehealth, which has helped to advance healthcare equity. Professionals transitioning to NPs can expect career longevity for as long as they wish to practice.
Tuition Assistance Programs
As with most industries, high-demand roles typically offer employer tuition assistance programs for professionals seeking to train and qualify for the position. Most healthcare institutions have programs to prepare registered nurses for advanced nursing practice’s intricacies. This is a significant benefit because it not only helps professionals develop but also offers a guaranteed job as an NP upon graduation.
Evidently, there are several reasons to consider the switch from an RN to NP. Higher-income, unique career growth opportunities, more autonomy, career longevity, and the ability to specialize and provide quality primary care all contribute to a fulfilling career.
While there are challenges to transitioning from a registered nurse to a nurse practitioner, it remains an exciting journey and one that is sure to offer many benefits for those who dare to dream.