Nurses have been essential to the effective delivery of health services. While these impactful medical professionals continue to deliver mission-critical clinical and administrative workflows, the nature of their work is rapidly changing.
Healthcare systems and practices everywhere are asking nurses to take on broader tasks due to various industry developments, including a growing physician shortage. In 2021, the Association of American Colleges of Medicine (AAMC) projected a shortage of up to 124,000 physicians by 2034. This has catalyzed the emergence of multiple advanced practice roles within the nursing profession, most notably registered nurse (NP).
NPs handle many sophisticated clinical tasks previously reserved for physicians. Their duties may include evaluating patients, ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests, offering diagnoses, creating treatment plans, and prescribing medications. These highly trained medical professionals, most of whom work with families, touch every stage of the health care delivery process.
Get advanced credentials that focus on this type of care, such as aPost Master's Certificate (PMC) in Nursing, is a crucial step for anyone who wants to become a practical nurse.
how to become a nurse
More than 355,000 NPs are licensed to practice in the US, according to American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) survey data released in 2022. In 2020, nearly 70% of NPs held certifications in family nursing asfamily nurses(FNP).
While their specific roles vary by state, in most cases, NPs can perform roles similar to physicians. For example, the AANP reports that 96% of NPs prescribe medication, and all 50 states and the District of Columbia allow the practice, although some require a physician's supervision. Other responsibilities may include the following:
- patient assessment
- Request for diagnostic tests
- make diagnoses
The path to practice this advanced nursing role includes obtaining undergraduate and graduate credentials, as well as obtaining a license. Following are the main steps to becoming a nursing professional:
Step 1. Get a Nursing Degree
A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree is usually required for enrollment in graduate nursing programs that prepare students for NP careers. Some BSN programs offer accelerated programs for individuals with a bachelor's degree in another field and for registered nurses (RNs) with associate degrees.
Step 2. Pass the NCLEX and receive an RN license
Future NPs who are not yet RNs must take the National Board Licensing Examination (NCLEX). Passing this certification exam is usually a requirement for state licensure as an RN. State boards of nursing are responsible for licensing RNs.
Step 3. Apply to a Graduate Program
Master of Nursing (MSN) programs build on the education nurses receive in BSN programs, typically allowing students to focus on a specific NP specialty. In addition to an FNP, some other examples of types of NP areAdult Gerontological Intensive Care Nurse(AGACNP) and Psychiatric Nurse in Mental Health (PMHNP).
These programs cover a variety of essential topics, including:
- The role of data in modern healthcare
- Legal and ethical issues arising in the provision of care
- The evidence is based on practice
- Advanced pathophysiology and pharmacology
Students in an MSN program also complete clinical practices, which are hands-on learning experiences where they have the opportunity to apply what they've learned in the classroom in real-world environments.
Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degrees, which extend the MSN education, are another option for nurses looking to improve their skills. For MSN holders who want to broaden the focus of their work or target a new area of expertise, PMCs are another route to postgraduate study.
Step 4. Pass the National NP Certification Board exam and obtain the NP license
After completing the graduate program, registered nurses must pass the national board certification exam for their chosen specialization. The American Nurse Practitioner Certification Program (ANCC) and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board (AANPCB) are two examples of certification bodies for NP.
After passing the exam, to begin practicing as a NP, registered nurses must apply for their state's license.
How long does it take to become a professional nurse?
Six to eight years is usually how long it takes to become a registered nurse. The following is a breakdown of the time required for education, training, and other requirements to become a registered nurse:
Becoming an RN
The education and testing required to become an RN usually takes two to four years, depending on educational credential. A diploma or associate degree can take about two to three years to complete. A BSN degree, usually a postgraduate admission requirement for prospective NPs, can take up to four years.
Duration may vary depending on the program format and whether the student is taking courses full-time or part-time.
Earn a Graduate
The time required to earn a graduate degree also varies. MSN programs can take two to three years to complete, depending on format and full-time or part-time status. For nurses seeking PMC, the time to completion can be anywhere from 1⅓ to two years. DNP degrees can take anywhere from one year to just over three years to earn.
Obtain National Certification
Obtaining the national certification and state license required to become an NP usually takes less than a year. This time depends on factors such as the time required to prepare and pass the exam.
The NP Experience
What is the average day for an NP? These medical professionals may begin their shifts in a variety of locations, including community clinics, hospitals, private practices and urgent care centers.
Approximately 59% of NPs see three or more patients per hour, according to a 2020 AANP survey. Most of these visits involve assessing patients, offering diagnoses, ordering tests, and ultimately prescribing medications or regimens. Most NPs focus on family care, working with patients from infancy through adulthood. Others browse medical specialties such as critical care, gerontology and pediatrics.
The rise of NP: a brief history of the nurse
The role of NP did not exist before the 1960s. Primary care physicians and specialists dominated the clinical landscape. However, population growth and the consequent decrease in hospital space have forced actors in the health sector to seek strategies to increase access to care. For example, hospital beds per 1,000 patients dropped from 9.2 to 7.9 between 1960 and 1970, according to 2019 data from the World Bank.
Nursing educator Loretta Ford and pediatrician Dr. Henry Silver proposed a possible solution: training nurses. Nurses were numerous at the time, and Ford and Silver believed that with a little additional education, these professionals could move into more advanced roles. Once they became nurses, they believed, nurses could take over some of the tasks that belonged to doctors. The two launched the first graduate NP program in 1965, according to the AANP.
By 2022, of the 355,000 NPs in the US, those in 28 states and territories and the District of Columbia had full authority to practice. In this practice environment, NPs can assess patients, order diagnostic tests, make diagnoses and prescribe medications, including controlled substances.
In all other US states and territories, NPs are subject to restricted practices that prevent them from performing one or more industry standard roles. In highly restricted areas of practice, NPs must also adhere to strict health care provider oversight bylaws.
Despite these and other hurdles, NPs have an immense impact on patient populations, particularly in rural areas where physicians are few and far between.
Therefore, American healthcare providers are increasing their PN recruitment and recruitment efforts to minimize or prevent declines in service availability and quality. Because of this, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that employment in the NP will grow by 46% between 2021 and 2031, adding nearly 113,000 jobs during that period.
Advance your career by becoming a nursing professional
If you are interested in taking your nursing career to the next level, consider pursuing an advanced nursing degree. If you already have an MSN,Bradley University Online Post Masters Certificates in Nursingmay be an ideal route. With options that focus on the popularPNF specialty, as well as in other areas of expertise, the certificate can offer you the opportunity to develop your career and serve patients in new ways.
Find out how Bradley's Online PMCs in Nursing can help you achieve your career goals.
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Educational degrees: MSN, PhD, DNP. Licensure and state designation: APRN, ARNP, NP. National certification (primary care roles): FNP-C, A-GNP-C, NP-C. Example of credentials for AANPCB-certified NP indicating population focus: Jane Doe, MSN, APRN, FNP-C.How do I write MSN FNP RN credentials? ›
Educational degrees: MSN, PhD, DNP. Licensure and state designation: APRN, ARNP, NP. National certification (primary care roles): FNP-C, A-GNP-C, NP-C. Example of credentials for AANPCB-certified NP indicating population focus: Jane Doe, MSN, APRN, FNP-C.Is MSN enough to be a nurse practitioner? ›
In order to become a nurse practitioner, you'll need to obtain at least a BSN and MSN, pass certification exams, perform clinical research, and apply for licensure within the states you wish you to practice.Can you practice as an RN with an MSN? ›
Earning an MSN in a clinical specialty can prepare RNs to become advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), such as a nurse practitioner (NP), clinical nurse specialist (CNS), certified nurse midwife (CNM), or certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA).Is MSN and FNP the same? ›
FNP, you must understand what each program entails. An MSN degree is the standard master's level nursing award, designed for those looking to enhance their nursing careers. An FNP program is more specialized in nature, in that it prepares nurses to become nurse practitioners and work in primary care settings.