Modern nursing has advanced considerably since the early development of the profession and has experienced particularly rapid change in recent times. This is largely to meet the demands of healthcare today.
Medical science has created a far deeper understanding of the human body and experience, and new treatments and technology are constantly being developed. We are all living much longer, too, putting added pressure on healthcare systems.
The role of a nurse practitioner was created to close the gap between what is now possible, and the potential for physicians and other specialists to meet the needs of growing patient numbers.
Thanks to advanced training for nurse practitioners, they have the clinical knowledge and skills required to perform a wide range of tasks that were traditionally only the purview of doctors. For instance, they are qualified to perform physical examinations of patients and to carry out diagnostic tests and investigations. They deliver treatments and can help patients to manage chronic health conditions too.
Clearly, as the role and responsibilities of nurse practitioners are so significant to modern health care, it is vital that they have a high level of education and training. With this knowledge base, they can then choose a specialty.
What are the most popular roles that nursing practitioners can choose from, and what are the specific community health benefits they provide?
The starting point for specializing
Before exploring some of the most common career options for nurse practitioners, it’s worth looking more closely at what makes those different opportunities a practical reality.
Graduate nursing professionals can choose from a wide range of job roles, due to the caliber and depth of the education and training they now receive.
How do you become a nurse practitioner?
If you already have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), you are well on your way to earning the qualifications needed for this popular nursing specialization. Your next step would be to find an educational institution where you can complete a Master of Science in Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner (MSN-FNP) course.
Reputable institutions such as the University of Indianapolis offer a range of online nursing programs, including BSN to MSN FNP online programs. This is an excellent way to advance your career to the level of nurse practitioner in a highly inclusive and supported way. With 100% online courses, you can gain the education you need to progress while continuing to meet your existing commitments.
Clinical placements still form a key part of your studies, even when you choose to earn an MSN-FNP degree online. This allows you to put your new skills and knowledge into practice and get a real taste of what a varied and fulfilling career this is.
Popular nurse practitioner workplaces
This career path is always going to be patient-centered and even when you take on a leadership role, as a nurse practitioner the primary aim will always be to provide the highest possible standards of patient care.
Where this takes place depends on the specialty you choose.
For instance, you may want to pursue a nurse practitioner position working in a hospital setting. This could involve working in a variety of different departments, from a high-pressure emergency department, to being a nurse practitioner in a neonatal unit or within a hospital pharmacy team.
Alternatively, your career preference could be to deliver your skills and experience in physicians’ offices or a social care organization. Perhaps you would prefer to be community based as a family nurse practitioner.
Whatever workplace you choose as a nurse practitioner, the tasks you do are likely to overlap with those carried out by registered nurses. This includes talking to patients to build medical histories and guide them on any treatments they require.
However, your role will also include more advanced duties in your chosen workplace, potentially including helping patients to protect their health and prevent disease, as well as providing diagnosis and treatment services.
Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners
As being a nurse practitioner does present so many different career options, much depends on your personality, and the sort of long-term aims and preferences you have.
Earning a degree as a nurse practitioner can also help you to launch a career in a particular medical field that interests and inspires you.
One of the most common career paths for nurse practitioners is to focus their skills and experience on mental, rather than physical, health.
As a psychiatric nurse practitioner, you could be working with adults, children, young people or whole families. It involves helping to diagnose or treat a wide range of mental health disorders or conditions, including depression, anxiety and other mood disorders, as well as phobias and dementia.
Psychiatric nurse practitioners also work within hospitals and specialist centers to support people who have substance use disorders, such as within rehab facilities that assist people to recover from alcohol or drug addiction
Nursing an aging population
It is a widely publicized fact that the population of the US is aging, not least thanks to advances in medical science. By 2030, it is predicted that one in five Americans will be aged 65 years old and over. By 2050, projections suggest that there will be around 90 million people living in the US who are 65 and over.
Naturally, this is leading to high demand for nurse practitioners who specialize in healthcare for the elderly.
You may see geriatric nurse practitioners referred to as adult gerontological nurse practitioners. This means they are trained professionals with particularly strong knowledge of the healthcare requirements and issues linked to aging.
They are trained regarding a range of common age-related diseases and medical issues, including dementia-causing conditions such as Alzheimer’s Disease.
Being a specialist in nursing the elderly can mean taking up a post in a hospital, physician’s office or long-term care facility. However, as a geriatric nurse practitioner, you may increasingly be helping patients within their own homes. There is a big push these days to enable seniors to retain their independence and dignity and live out their Autumn years in their own home.
Focusing on the elderly and their homecare needs means providing patient-centered care. That means getting to know your patients as individuals; not just their health status and medical risks but also any lifestyle factors or personal preferences and beliefs that have an influence on their nursing requirements.
For nurse practitioners actively involved in helping the elderly to live independently and safely in their own homes, it can be a very rewarding job. Some professionals in this role feel particular job satisfaction because they are the advanced care nurses who help patients to pass away with dignity, in a painless and stress-free manner.
Family nurse practitioners (FNP)
This is certainly one of the most popular specialties a nurse practitioner can choose. Not least of all because there are many vacancies for this nursing role state- and country-wide.
What does a family nurse practitioner do?
One of the reasons it is common to choose this career option is that once you have qualified as an FNP, you typically work with the same individuals or whole families for many years, supporting them through all sorts of milestones and medical issues.
The long-term relationship with patients can be very rewarding, as can the variety of the tasks you perform as a family nurse practitioner.
From a community health perspective, FNPs provide an invaluable service. This includes establishing an important relationship with patients and providing continuity of care. One of the benefits this provides is enabling younger patients to feel more comfortable addressing their health concerns and issues with someone they know and trust.
FNPs also play an important role in preventative healthcare, and work with patients and physicians to spot medical issues early, making successful treatment more likely.
Some family nurse practitioners become community advocates too, and champion health care improvements and better resources in their local areas. This is another reason that this is such a popular route for anyone seeking a career in an advanced nursing profession. Basically, FNPs are helping to shape the future of healthcare in America.
Working with children and babies
If it is working with younger patients that most appeals to you when choosing a career in nursing, then you may want to choose another popular specialty, which is pediatric nurse practitioner.
Responsibilities include everything from regular wellness checks and immunizations, to diagnosing childhood illnesses, and helping young patients to manage injuries or acute and chronic illnesses and conditions.
Also, anyone who wants to specialize in child health as a qualified nursing professional could follow the popular path of becoming a neonatal nurse practitioner.
This means working with premature or sick babies. It can be both heartbreaking and deeply fulfilling. Healthcare professionals in this role may also become involved with helping to deliver babies, though this is often left to certified nurse midwives. Certified nurse midwives are nursing professionals with advanced qualifications who take on some of the roles and responsibilities traditionally associated with obstetricians.
Nurse practitioners and women’s health
Rather than focusing on the health of newborn babies, some qualified nurse practitioners prefer instead to provide important healthcare services to their mothers.
This is part of the extensive range of nursing jobs associated with women’s health. The female reproductive role and anatomy, including the hormonal changes they go through, leads to substantial demand for nurse practitioners to work in this field.
Many who qualify in this sector of nursing choose to be obstetrics/gynecology nurse practitioners. They are tasked with a multitude of healthcare activities linked to women’s sexual and reproductive health. This includes providing advice on birth control, and administering HPV vaccines, as well as carrying out pap smears, sonograms and hormonal treatment programs.
OB/GYN nurse practitioners can also be essential healthcare providers when women undergo surgeries, such as hysterectomies, and help their patients to manage the symptoms of menopause.
Aesthetic nurse practitioners
Another place you commonly find nurse practitioners is in healthcare settings that deliver cosmetic procedures.
An aesthetic nurse practitioner helps patients to prepare for their surgery or procedure and may be responsible for taking a detailed medical history and performing an initial examination. They are often also the healthcare professional who does all the last minute checks to ensure a patient is prepared to complete their treatment on the day.
They also assist patients with their aftercare.
Many other exciting roles for NPs
These are just some of the many career paths for nurse practitioners, and the most common roles that advanced nursing professionals choose to pursue.There are many other opportunities to select from too, such as becoming an orthopedic nurse practitioner who specializes in helping patients to recover from muscle, bone, joint and connective tissue diseases and injuries.
A trauma or acute care nurse practitioner is a trained professional who works within facilities that deal with serious illnesses or injuries. They provide healthcare services in an emergency department, but also help patients who are facing life-changing surgeries and illnesses.
The list of options is long, and the first step is to find a specialty that interests and inspires you. Then you can choose a nurse practitioner course that prepares you to achieve your career goal.