No career is medicine is easily attainable, and becoming a nurse practitioner is no exception. As a type of APRN (Advanced Practice Registered Nurse), nurse practitioners need to devote a lot of time and energy into education and training.
If you want to know how to become a nurse practitioner, this guide will offer a breakdown of all the steps you need to take. Even though there are various types of nurse practitioners, here are some general guidelines for pursuing this career:
1. Obtain a BSN
A Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing (BSN) is the first step towards becoming a nurse practitioner. It’s useful to gain experience with volunteering in hospitals, as it looks good in your college application.
Even though there are other degrees similar to BSN, this kind of a 4-year program is your safest way to make sure you have what it takes to advance to higher stages of education.
Aside from classroom work, you can expect different programs that will let you apply your knowledge to real-life situations. Over the course of four years, you will obtain many of the basic skills you’ll need for becoming a nurse practitioner.
It’s important to note that not all institutions provide the same quality of knowledge or the opportunities you need to build a successful career. Your college of choice should be accredited by ACEN (Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing) or AACN (American Association of Colleges of Nursing) in order to provide you with the kind of degree that you need so you can get your license.
2. Become a Registered Nurse
During the final years of your bachelor’s program, you should get your RN license. This lets you gain the experience you’ll need before you can earn higher degrees. Becoming a Registered Nurse isn’t hard, and most people do it during their 3rd or 4th year of college.
All you need to do is complete a program and have the proof of completion, and pass the NCLEX-RN (National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses). Once you have your license, you can choose your preferred field and start gaining experience.
3. Obtain a Graduate Degree
Upon graduating college, you can start working on the degrees you’ll need as a nurse practitioner.
Research from the American Association of Nurse Practitioners shows that 99.1% of all nurse practitioners have graduate degrees. While it takes a lot of work to obtain higher degrees, it helps you become a successful nurse and compete with others in your field.
To qualify for nursing graduate programs, you need to hold a bachelor’s degree as a registered nurse, and pass the exams that come with your specialty.
First, you can work on getting a master’s degree and so obtain the title of MSN (Master of Science in Nursing). This could be enough to build your career. But you can also choose to become a DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice). It takes two years to become an MSN, and additional four to obtain a DNP degree.
Your graduate program will contain both classroom and clinical work, covering a wide range of subjects, such as family or primary care, gerontology, and pediatrics. Once you’ve completed the program, you can advance to the next stage of becoming a nurse practitioner.
4. Get Your License and Certification
In the US, you can’t work as a nurse practitioner without a license. There are two types of licenses you need to have: national and local.
To receive a national license, you’ll have to go through the ANCC (American Nurses Credentialing Center) Certification Program. To apply for a license, you need to be a registered nurse, have at least an MSN, and have proof of more than 500 faculty-supervised clinical hours.
In addition to this, each state has its own licensing requirements that you need to meet before you can receive a local license. The requirements can vary, but you still need to have completed your graduate-level program and become a RN before you apply. You also need to have a national license before you apply for the local one.
5. Go Through Advanced Specialization Programs (Optional)
Once you have all the necessary certifications, you’re ready to start your career as a nurse. Still, many nurse practitioners decide to go a step further by obtaining additional credentials through specialization programs.
Even though this isn’t necessary, it can certainly look great on your resume and give you an advantage over other candidates for the job you’re pursuing. It also shows that you’re truly devoted to building a successful career as a nurse practitioner.
There are many specialization programs you can choose based on your area of expertise. These include PNP (Pediatric Nurse Practitioner), FNP (Family Nurse Practitioner), ACNP (Acute Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner), and others.
Should Your Go for Online Programs?
Since you need to devote many years to education and training if you want to become a nurse practitioner, many people wonder if online programs are a good way to go.
The answer is yes, but only if you enroll in a high-quality program that’s comparable to traditional education formats. You need to make sure the program is offered by an accredited institution and that the degree you’ll receive is respected in the medical community.
Once you’re certain this is the case, you can start an online program. This can be just as challenging as completing a degree in a brick-and-mortar school, but you can make full use of the convenience and flexibility of online learning. It can let you gain more experience that the time limitations of traditional college wouldn’t allow.
Now that you know how to become a nurse practitioner, you can decide whether this is the journey you want to embark on. If so, make sure you’re ready to put in the necessary time and effort into pursuing this career.
Many nurse practitioners will tell you that the path towards their career wasn’t easy and that it required a great deal of sacrifice. However, they’ll also tell you that it was worth it, as caring for people can be one of the most rewarding career choices you can make.