You want to become an advanced practice nurse. You’re in the right place.
Becoming a registered nurse (RN) is such a stable and often lucrative career path, yet many nurses face burn out after just a few short years.
So what next? Should you throw in the towel and pursue a different career path? Most choose not to… especially when there are so many great opportunities for advancement within the nursing profession
One great option is to go to graduate school and become an Advanced Practice Nurse or an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) (though most people don’t use the term often, as it’s more of an umbrella term). So… what is an APRN?
An advanced practice nurse is really just a registered nurse who continued their nursing education beyond the bachelor’s degree level.
Choose from these 4 types of advanced practice nurse career paths:
- Nurse Practitioner (NP),
- Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS),
- Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM), or
- Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA).
Of the four types of advanced practice nursing, nurse practitioners are definitely the most common.
Becoming a Nurse practitioner is much like becoming a family practice MD…, only… without the massive amounts of student loan debt, it takes WAY less time, and you don’t have to spend years in residency. It also doesn’t pay quite as much as you’d make as an MD, but life is about compromises, right?
As a nurse practitioner, you’d see patients every day just like an MD would. True, they’re going to be your “run of the mill” patients (the MD on staff would take the more difficult cases). You’d see a lot of routine issues, prescribe medications, give patients their annual physicals, checkups, run tests and interpret the results, etc. My “primary care doc” is actually a nurse practitioner. She does a great job. I wouldn’t ever know the difference (If it weren’t for the title on her business card).
As a side note, not all NPs see patients. If patient interaction isn’t your “thing”, you can choose patient advocacy work or research.
Lastly, depending on the state you live in (licensure and certification requirements vary a lot state-by-state), you could either work independently of or work closely with an MD. Typically though, you’ll have a great deal of professional autonomy and independence as an advanced practice nurse.
How do you become a nurse practitioner?
All you need to do to become a nurse practitioner is complete a graduate degree program (I’m not going to lie… it’s not super easy… but when you compare it to the arduous path of becoming an MD, it’s not so bad). You’ll need to take coursework in differential diagnosis, clinical decision-making, pharmacology, and medical-therapeutics. In addition, you’ll spend more than 500 hours in a clinical setting, supervised by physicians and experienced nurse practitioners.
You’ll need to become certified and licensed before you begin to practice. This means you’ll need to pass a national certification exam in an area of specialty. Family Health (FNP), Pediatrics (PNP), and Adult Health (ANP) are some of the most common areas of specialty.
Salary of a nurse practitioner
Nurse Practitioners earn an average of $100,000. Salaries range from $86,000 to $116,000. Part-time NPs earn an average hourly rate of $50.
Clinical Nurse Specialist
The second type of advanced practice nurse is the clinical nurse specialist.
Clinical Nurse Specialists are not quite as common as NPs. In fact, just 2% of RNs hold the certification. If you choose this path, it’s more likely that you’ll end up in a management role, as an educator, or in research or facility administration.
Becoming a clinical nurse specialist means becoming an expert in a smaller branch of nursing, such as:
- a population,
- a setting,
- a disease or medical subspecialty,
- a type of care, or
- a type of health problem.
Pediatrics, Adult Health, and Public/Community Health are common areas of specialty.
Though most CNSs take on some sort of leadership roles, many provide direct patient care, including diagnosing and treating specific health problems.
How to become a Clinical Nurse Specialist?
Just like all of the other advanced practice nursing certifications, you’ll need to get your master’s or doctorate degree (the doctoral degree will be required of all those who graduate in the year 2025 or later).
Salary of a Clinical Nurse Specialist
$98,000 is the median salary for Clinical Nurse Specialists. Salaries range from $89,000 to $107,000 depending on the clinical specialty and geographic location.
Midwifery is one of the oldest professions there is. The task of bringing a baby into the world is as old as humankind, but the designation of a “certified nurse-midwife” is much newer.
If you choose to become a CNM, you have the option to work in a hospital, a medical clinic, operate a birthing center or attend at-home births.
Regardless of where you wind up working, you will likely have two types of days: regular days and on-call days. On a regularly scheduled day, you would have a line up of prenatal visits, postpartum checkups, and annual exams. An on-call day includes all of this, with the addition of the middle of the night calls for women going into labor.
In fact, a nurse midwife is to a healthy pregnant woman what a nurse practitioner is to a healthy patient. A nurse midwife will handle the majority of the healthy women who come into the labor and delivery room; the OB takes care of all of the high-risk and complicated pregnancies.
It is absolutely necessary that you get your Masters or Doctorate degree if you want to be employed by a hospital as a certified nurse midwife (CNM). However, there are many other paths to this profession.
I personally hired a midwife to help me birth my two babies at home years ago. She was extremely skilled and proficient at her job, yet did not hold a certification or an advanced degree. She (like many midwives around the world), had been trained by another midwife. In fact, more than two-thirds of babies around the globe are delivered by midwives.
Certified Nurse Midwife Salary
$101,000 is the median salary for Certified Nurse Midwives in the United States. Salaries range from $85,000 to $126,000.
And finally, the career you’ve all been waiting for…
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists
Find all about how to become a nurse anesthetist by clicking on the link below.
Read about How to Become a CRNA.
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This page was updated August 19th, 2017.