When a person decides to become a nurse, they already know that they are signing up for their fair share of education. While there are ways in which one can become a registered nurse (RN) without having to earn a four-year degree, more and more hospitals and health systems are preferring to hire nurses who have such a degree under their belt. Moreover, a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree opens the door up for a variety of options down the line.
Even though you start out as an RN, there are truly no limits to what you can achieve as a nurse if you go on to earn a graduate degree. Such degrees allow you to pursue specific nursing jobs, including those categorized as advanced practice.
Advanced practice nurses have both a higher level of education as well as additional experience and training. You might choose to become an advanced practice nurse so that you can pursue a certain specialty, or you might wish to enjoy the freedom to practice with fewer restrictions than many advanced practice nurses enjoy. Furthermore, the higher-earning potential that is accompanied by such jobs is more than enticing for many RNs.
If you are considering becoming an advanced practice nurse, the road will be long. However, the ability to practice to the degree that you want in your career is well worth it in the end.
With that in mind, here are four types of advanced practice nursing careers that are attainable when you go on to earn a graduate degree.
1. Nurse Practitioner
If you are familiar at all with the field of nursing, then you will have no doubt already become familiar with the concept of a nurse practitioner (NP). An NP is a type of advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) who functions in much the same ways as a family care physician does.
While the regulations placed on NPs regarding practice vary from state to state, there are many cases in which NPs can set up their own practice and work without having to be under the direct supervision of a physician. This means that they can evaluate, diagnose, and treat their own patients just as a physician would. The only exception is that they are not permitted to prescribe certain medications.
To become an NP, you will at least have to obtain your Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. That being said, if you aspire to function independently of a physician, the state in which you practice might require that you also hold a doctorate degree in nursing. The higher level of education ensures that the quality of care administered to patients remains high. You will also need to show your continual professional development through extra training courses and top ups throughout your career to stay at the forefront of your field.
2. Nurse Midwife
Another APRN career option that is quickly growing in popularity is that of the certified nurse-midwife. In this role, the APRN acts either in conjunction with an OB-GYN or independently to administer top-rate healthcare to expectant mothers. They cover everything from pregnancy to labor and delivery to postnatal care for the mother and child.
This role is becoming so much more popular in the United States than it has been in the past because more and more mothers are drawn to the idea of holistic, safe healthcare throughout their pregnancy. Although the care that a nurse midwife offers is comprehensive, it is less invasive and more holistic than that of an OB-GYN.
This is another APRN role that gives you a bit of flexibility when it comes to your graduate degree options. While an MSN is a minimum requirement for certification, you might benefit more from obtaining a doctorate degree instead. The requirements for pursuing this career are laid out by the American Midwifery Certification Board.
3. Nurse Anesthetist
Often touted as the career path in nursing that allows for the highest earning potential, a certified nurse anesthetist’s job is complex and requires a great deal of education and training. With a good career outlook and a salary that ranges between $157,000 and $214,000, this is certainly an APRN career path that many find enticing.
In addition to your BSN, you will have to spend several years obtaining experience in the field of anesthesia. You can then apply to a graduate degree program and earn either your master’s or your doctorate. If you hope to be one of the few who earn at the higher end of the salary range, you will be better off opting for a doctorate degree.
Ultimately, it can take around seven years to become a fully qualified nurse anesthetist. The state will most likely dictate your earning potential you are practicing in, as some pay drastically higher due to the increased demand for these APRNs.
4. Clinical Nurse Specialist
Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) is a more generalized title given to an APRN who has obtained a graduate degree and certification to specialize in a particular area of medicine. While the specific job you would have as a CNS would depend on the type of specialty you go into, you will be expected to fill a number of roles regardless of specialty.
You will have to be able to act as a leader in some fashion as you guide your team to administer the highest levels of care to your patients. You will also be responsible for evaluating and developing a treatment plan for your patients in the clinical setting.
Many clinical nurse specialists also choose to participate in research throughout their careers. This research can contribute greatly to better patient outcomes overall and have a positive impact on the world of medicine in general.
While there are a variety of CNS jobs out there, some of the more common career choices include neonatal care, gerontology, psychiatry, and public health. All of these roles and more are incredibly fulfilling options for and CNS to pursue.