Nursing is one of the most rewarding and fulfilling occupations you can have. There are a lot of different areas of nursing that may be of interest to you. Specializing allows you to hone your skills in a specific medical area to provide patients with the highest care possible.
If you are a nurse with at least a few years of experience, you might wonder what the next step should be in your career. An advanced degree can allow you to attain higher-level positions and command a higher salary. There is no reason why you cannot continue to take your nursing career as far as you wish it to go.
As a nurse practitioner, you can enjoy a higher level of autonomy. You can do much of the work that a regular medical doctor provides to their patients.
It is a smart move to explore the different specializations that are open to you. Here are three of the most in-demand occupations for nurse practitioners.
Family nurse practitioner
There is a major shortage of primary care providers in the US. The main reasons for the lack of primary care providers include a large population of aging adults needing increasing levels of care, more people having health insurance coverage, and fewer qualified medical professionals entering the workforce.
Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) can take care of many primary care tasks, including community preventive care. Preventative maintenance is often overlooked by people who see it as a series of unnecessary medical appointments. However, preventative maintenance reduces the cost of healthcare and improves patients’ quality of life because conditions are often caught before they become serious.
As an FNP, you will diagnose and treat patients of all ages. FNPs make referrals to specialists and other medical professionals when patients require more extensive treatment that cannot be provided at a primary care medical office. FNPs work with other medical professionals to form comprehensive treatment plans and follow-up care.
Some FNPs may work at urgent care clinics lacking regular doctor’s offices in communities. Urgent care clinics are more widely used than ever because they are less expensive than hospital emergency rooms. It is often much faster to receive treatment at an urgent care center for serious but not life-threatening conditions.
FNPs also work at schools, universities, correctional facilities, and hospitals.
Psychiatric nurse practitioner
Meeting the mental health care needs of the population has become increasingly challenging. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, cases of mental illness continued to rise. The effects of isolation, lockdown, the economy, and more have been hard on the general population’s mental health. Social distancing led to many people forgoing care to stay home.
Substance abuse is a major problem that has contributed to many cases of declining mental health. For some people, mental illness is brought on by the use of substances, while for others, the substance is being used as a coping mechanism for underlying mental illness.
Mental health nursing is one of the most in-demand specializations. Mental health nurses help patients by diagnosing mental problems and working to create a treatment plan with reasonable expectations and milestones.
While mental health nursing can be challenging, it is also incredibly rewarding because your support and treatments can make a huge difference in the quality of someone’s life and their loved ones. Good mental health reflects physical health in a major way.
Psychiatric nurses may work in various locations, including major hospitals, specialty clinics, mental health hospitals, and outpatient or in-patient recovery centers.
Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners only make up a small number of licensed nurse practitioners in the US, but there is an overwhelming requirement for more mental health services. Now is a great time to consider a career as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner regardless of the area you want to practice in because demand is strong practically everywhere.
Adult-gerontology nurse practitioner
There is a record number of aging adults throughout the world. In North America, the numbers are truly staggering, and it is starting to have a major impact on the availability of healthcare. Over the coming decades, demand will increase even further. This means there is a great need for FNPs specializing in adult care.
In this specialization, you will treat a lot of patients who are over 50 years old. Diagnosing and creating treatment plans for chronic conditions will be common.
While you will also treat conditions and illnesses common to all, such as flu, bruises, and cuts, it will be done emphasizing what this means for an older adult. For example, respiratory illnesses may be more likely to lead to pneumonia in older adults. Cold and flu cases often must be treated with medications acceptable for those with high blood pressure or diabetes.
Assisted living and nursing home construction is increasing due to the demand for higher levels of care as adults age and want to maintain as much independence as they can for as long as possible. It is common for older adults to enter assisted living and transition to full nursing care as they age. As an FNP, you may work at a facility such as this, offering a wide range of care. Many care centers have units for those with dementia or declining cognitive ability, which can be challenging as patients cannot reliably tell you what they are experiencing.
Caring for older people is rewarding, and you meet many interesting people. Nursing home patients often have plenty of family and friends who visit. You will, therefore, need to be comfortable interacting with many people at times, as it is inevitable that they will have questions.
Why should you consider becoming an FNP?
The job outlook for FNPs is excellent. Many nurses looking for a good way to advance their career are considering a degree that leads to an FNP certification because it allows them to take on many of the duties of an MD without spending as long in school or residency. For comparison, it takes around six years for a person to go from no education to being an FNP, instead of the 10 to 12 years it can take an MD to gain all the education and residency requirements needed to be considered a fully trained and practicing physician.
FNPs help bring care to communities in serious need.
Not every place is lucky enough to have good healthcare available to all. FNPs help to bring quality healthcare options to communities. A good example is the previously mentioned urgent care clinics. Many clinics are opening all over the place to meet the immediate healthcare needs of the general population. Groups of people, such as those who do not speak English or are recent arrivals to the US, often have no primary care provider. They may be nervous about using private doctors or visiting a hospital emergency room. As an FNP, you can help ensure everyone has access to care.
FNPs earn a great salary.
As an FNP, you will command a higher salary than a registered nurse (RN). This will vary based on where you wish to practice. As FNPs are in such high demand, you can enjoy some freedom in where you choose to work. When you search for an FNP position, you may find that you can get the position you want more easily if you relocate. Some medical facilities in serious need of FNPs may offer sign-on bonuses and help with relocation expenses.
You believe in the power of preventive care.
Fewer people are seeking out preventive and routine care. This is troublesome because it can have such a major impact on their lives and their longevity. Nurse practitioners should be passionate about educating others on the importance of preventive healthcare visits and testing.
FNPs get to meet and interact with a lot of interesting people
FNPs work in a lot of different types of facilities and institutions. If you love to meet and interact with people from various backgrounds while helping them, you should consider advancing your career and becoming an FNP.
You are more likely to work standard hours.
Paying your dues as an RN often means working odd shifts and hours. As an FNP working anywhere but in a hospital, you are more likely to get hours closer to a nine-to-five schedule. Some clinics may be open as long as 12 hours per day, so while you may work 12-hour shifts in some cases, they will be during daylight hours for the most part.
FNPs take on different duties from RNs
An FNP has more freedom to practice than an RN. While RNs concentrate on assisting and caring, FNPs see patients and make diagnoses. FNPs also have the authority to prescribe most medications, and those they are not authorized to prescribe can be under the approval and license of a physician they are working under. While FNPs’ practice is charged differently depending on the state where they work, there is no question that they take on more of the duties associated with an MD than a nurse.
You can earn your FNP degree online while working as an RN.
In the past, it was much harder to return to school to earn an advanced degree or any certifications. Thanks to online education, you can complete RN to MSN programs online in your chosen specialization through Wilkes University. Of course, you will have to complete the necessary clinical placement hours at the end of your degree program to graduate and qualify for any testing and certifications required to be a licensed FNP in the state you choose to practice.
Through Wilkes University’s programs, you will learn the technical skills and knowledge needed to excel at your chosen specialization. Graduates have much higher than average pass rates for exams and great job placement rates within their specialty.
Nurse practitioners often have more reasonable numbers of patients
Working as a nurse practitioner can be more relaxed than working as an RN. Patient loads for nurse practitioners are more predictable on average. There are fewer times when you will be expected to treat very heavy patient loads, making it a good change of pace for mid-career nurses.
Becoming an FNP is a great way to take the next step in your nursing career. Specializing in an area you are passionate about can help you land the job that will make you feel most fulfilled. You can earn an FNP degree largely online. Clinical placements occur at the end of the degree program and must be completed in person.
With the demand for primary care providers for people of all ages and the critical need for better access to mental health services, more people need to train to be advanced nurses. By becoming a nurse practitioner, you can bridge the gaps in healthcare that are all too common.