Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) are registered nurses (RNs) who have completed a master’s or doctoral degree to expand their nursing skills and prepare for senior roles in the healthcare industry. Earning a postgraduate degree will help you expand your scope of practice and improve your earning potential and future job prospects.
If you want to take your nursing career to the next level, then here are the seven steps to become an APRN:
APRN is a broad term used to describe nurses who have earned a higher degree to work in advanced nursing roles in healthcare. According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, the following careers are types of APRNs: “clinical nurse specialist, certified nurse-midwife, and certified registered nurse anesthetist.”
You should thoroughly research the role of an APRN to understand the responsibilities that it entails. You might want to talk to someone who is currently in the role as well as someone who decided the job wasn’t for them. APRNs have a higher level of education and often perform many of the same duties as a physician. These will include diagnosing and treating illness and chronic diseases, performing diagnostic tests, and liaising with other healthcare professionals.
Research the role of an APRN thoroughly and make sure that you have a good understanding of what the job entails. It is a good idea to shadow an APRN for at least a day, so that you gain first-hand insight into the field.
The first step to becoming an APRN is to complete a nursing degree. RNs can choose to complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or an associate degree in nursing (ADN). A BSN is considered the gold standard and is the preferred route to qualification for most nurses. According to allnursingschools.com: “RNs who hold a BSN are typically given more responsibility, higher salaries, and senior roles.”
A BSN typically takes four years to complete, although you can also choose to complete it part-time if you prefer. A BSN will introduce you to basic nursing topics like ethics, patient care technology, disease prevention, and quality within the healthcare system.
Once you have earned a BSN, you will need to pass the NCLEX-RN examination before you can apply for an RN license. The exam will determine if you can practice nursing efficiently and safely in a clinical setting.
While RNs can practice with a bachelor’s degree, APRNs must hold a Master of Science in nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree before they can practice at an advanced level. An MSN program will typically take two years to complete, while a DNP will usually take four years to complete from the BSN level.
Many nurses who hold an MSN choose to enroll in an MSN to DNP program to advance their skills and education level. When you complete an MSN to DNP, you’ll achieve the highest qualification offered in the nursing field. You should be taught to a high standard so that you can provide outstanding patient care and help to transform the healthcare industry. Having a DNP certification will give you a significant advantage when applying for senior roles.
In addition to an advanced degree, you will also need to gain the required clinical practice experience to become an APRN. The number of clinical hours required will depend on the specialty that you choose. For instance, nurse practitioners typically need at least 500 hours, whereas certified registered nurse anesthetists must have at least 2,000 hours of clinical experience before they meet the criteria for APRN status.
Clinical experience will allow you to put what you learn on your advanced degree into practice and test your professional competencies in a practical setting. Check what clinical experience is required in your area of specialization. It may take you several years to build the necessary experience to practice as an APRN.
Working as an APRN will allow you to specialize in an area of nursing care that you enjoy and feel passionate about. APRNs can choose to specialize in several areas of clinical practice such as family health, pediatrics, women’s health, and mental health.
Think carefully about which area of nursing you are most passionate about and choose a field that suits your skills, expertise, and career goals.
All APRNs must pass a national certification exam before they can apply for a license to practice. The exam you sit will depend on your APRN specialty. There are various accredited organizations that offer certification exams for APRNs.
The APRN exam is designed to test you rigorously. You should revise for several months and complete practice papers to help you prepare. Once you have passed the APRN exam, you can apply for a license to practice as an APRN in your specialty.
You can start applying for APRN roles as soon as you receive your state license. APRNs are in high demand, so there should be a lot of job opportunities available to you. As in any profession, there will be competition for the most desirable roles – whether these are higher paid or in a better clinical setting. Try to do things that will make you stand out in your field.
Make sure you write an impressive APRN resume that will attract the attention of prospective employers. You can use a free nurse practitioner resume template to help you draft a strong resume and land interviews.
If you want to elevate your nursing career, then you might want to look at the role of an APRN. This position has plenty of benefits including high earning potential, field specialization, high job demand, and job flexibility.
That’s said, meeting the standards to become an APRN is a big commitment. Research the route to becoming an APRN and make sure that it is the right option for you and your career.