Deciding to attend graduate school is not always easy, especially if you are working in a nursing career where you have so many different options to choose from when it comes to career progression and advancement. If you have decided that you want to pursue a role as a nurse practitioner, this is an excellent choice to make with several benefits of working in this role including full practice authority in twenty US states, additional responsibility and autonomy in your career, a very high demand for these professionals, and a generous and competitive salary.
Choosing the right program to study to become a nurse practitioner is not always an easy choice. You can become a nurse practitioner by getting an MSN or take a postgraduate program like the RN to FNP programs that are designed to get registered nurses into a specific nurse practitioner career. The program that you choose is going to have an impact on your future role and the work that you will do as a nurse practitioner, the patients that you work with, and the knowledge and skills that you develop. If you’ve decided that your main career goal is to become a nurse practitioner, here are some of the main things to consider before choosing the right degree program for you.
Making a decision regarding the workplace setting that you want to work in – whether you’d prefer to be in a clinical setting, in an office, or a research facility will help you decide whether a primary care or acute care program is going to be a better option for you when training to become a nurse practitioner. A master’s degree that is focused on primary care will likely be the better option for you if you want to become a family nurse practitioner and work alongside a primary care physician or even run your own clinic.
You can also find online post master’s certificate nurse practitioner programs that are designed specifically to prepare you for the role of a family nurse practitioner. On the other hand, if you want to continue working in a hospital setting, you may consider a program that is designed to prepare you for a role in acute care as a nurse practitioner, including working in the ICU or the operating room.
Nurse practitioners will often able be able to choose the type of patients that they want to work with to some extent. Family nurse practitioners will usually work with the general public and treat a wide range of different patients. On the other hand, pediatric nurse practitioners work exclusively with children while adult-gerontology nurse practitioners will usually work with senior patients. Neonatal nurse practitioners work with babies. As a family nurse practitioner, you may also be able to specialize the care that you provide even further, for example, by focusing on women’s health.
In addition to thinking about the patient populations that you would rather work with in your career as a nurse practitioner, it is also worth considering if you would prefer to work with patients that are suffering from certain diseases or health conditions. For example, an oncology nurse practitioner works mainly with patients that have cancer, while a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner will work with patients suffering from a range of mental health conditions.
Whether you would prefer to study full-time or part-time is also an important factor to consider when you decide to take an advanced degree to become a nurse practitioner. There are various programs available to consider in this career, and how you prefer to study will largely be down to your personal circumstances and what is going to work best for you. If you are currently working full-time as a registered nurse, for example, then studying part-time might be the better option for you since you will be able to easily fit it around work compared to studying full-time, which can often be much trickier to juggle.
Online or Offline?
Today, registered nurses who want to become nurse practitioners will have the option to choose to study either online or on-campus. Online programs are becoming an increasingly popular option for nurses who want to study to become a nurse practitioner and be able to fit their education around their other commitments in a way that is easier and more flexible.
Studying online is more self-led since rather than being required to be present at lectures and classes at certain times and dates, you will be able to decide when you want to study from home based on what works best for you instead. In addition to the extra flexibility, the option to save money by studying an online advanced nursing degree to become a nurse practitioner is also very appealing.
Many nurses who are still repaying student loans from their BSN or don’t want to spend all the additional costs that will be associated with going to college such as commuting will often find that studying online is more cost-effective overall, even when tuition fees are no different between the online and on-campus programs.
Getting Relevant Experience:
Since the role of a nurse practitioner is highly specialized and skilled, there are usually strict entry requirements in place when it comes to the qualifications and experience that registered nurses have gained before they will be permitted to enroll on a nurse practitioner training program.
When applying for an advanced degree to prepare you for a role as a nurse practitioner, there will be a lot of different factors that are taken into consideration including your GPA, reference letters, your admissions essays, and the previous experience you have gained as a nurse. Most of the time, you will need to gain experience in the area of specialty that you would like to get into as a nurse practitioner.
Working in areas of healthcare where you will come into contact with patients of all ages and a range of diseases, injuries, and conditions such as the ER is a good way to get the diverse range of experience that you may need to become a nurse practitioner and also figure out where you might prefer your area of specialty to be.
Choosing the Right School:
The school where you gain your advanced degree to become a nurse practitioner is also an important factor to consider. The specifics that you take into consideration when making your choice may depend on a number of other factors including whether you are planning to study for your degree online or offline. If you want to study on-campus, consider the facilities such as the library, teaching environments, and clinical placement opportunities. On the other hand, if you feel that online study is going to be the best option for you as you prepare to become a nurse practitioner, you’ll need to consider factors such as the quality of the delivery of online education, how experienced the school is in providing distance learning options, and their overall reputation as an online learning provider.
However you decide to study, it’s a good idea to visit on-campus or virtual open days to get a better look at what the college provides and determine if it’s the right option for your needs.
Meeting the Admissions Requirements – What to Consider:
While specific admissions requirements to get onto most advanced degree programs where you can train to become a nurse practitioner, the same factors will most likely be considered by admissions tutors on the majority of advanced degree programs and other nurse practitioner training programs. Once you have decided on the best programs for you to consider, it’s important to spend some time looking into the specific entry requirements for each and make sure that you meet them or will be able to meet them before you apply. Some of the main factors to consider include:
Most of the time, nurses who want to apply for a master’s degree or a family nurse practitioner training program will be required to have a minimum of a bachelor of science in nursing. If you are currently working as a registered nurse and have an associate degree in nursing, you may need to achieve a BSN before you will be able to take your career further by studying to become a nurse practitioner. The good news is that if you already have an ADN you will not usually be required to complete a full, traditional BSN taking four years.
If you are in this situation, the best option for you may be an ADN-BSN bridge program, which is designed to allow you to build on what you already know based on your previous qualification and experience to get your BSN faster. This program is also often offered online.
Your GPA will usually be considered when you apply and there is often a minimum average GPA requirement. Your GPA not being the best might impact the decisions of the admissions faculty when you are considered as an applicant. However, don’t panic if your GPA is not excellent, as there are several things that you can do to offset this and show your worth. For example, you might consider pursuing other professional nursing training programs that will demonstrate your commitment to further learning and improving your skills and grades.
When applying for an advanced degree to study to become a nurse practitioner, it’s important to carefully consider who you are going to ask for a letter of reference. It’s important to be very clear on the requirements for your letters of reference and bear in mind that every program and school will be different. There are usually some criteria in place when it comes to who you can ask to write your letters of reference. Most of the time, they will usually need to come from somebody who holds a doctorate degree in nursing or similar healthcare subjects such as another nurse practitioner, your employer, or a previous tutor.
Depending on the program that you choose to apply to, you will typically need to write at least one admissions essay as part of your application to the program. If you need to write an admissions essay, bear in mind that this is an opportunity for the admissions tutors to get to know you better and the information that you include in the essay will likely be taken into a lot of consideration when it comes to whether or not you will be invited for an interview.
Because of this, it’s important to be proactive about getting started early when writing your admissions essay to give yourself plenty of time to perfect it. While admissions essays are often more flexible than other aspects of the application as it’s the chance for you to describe why you’re choosing this program and what you can bring to it, a rushed admissions essay could derail the whole application.
Some advanced nursing degree programs and nurse practitioner training programs will be interested in hiring nurses who have done a lot to demonstrate their commitment to this career. Many admissions tutors are looking for applicants who have gone the extra mile to get experience in different areas of nursing. You may stand out more as an applicant if you have been a nurse in the military, for example, or if you have spent time working as a travel nurse. In addition, joining and being active in professional nursing organizations or getting involved in healthcare policy can boost your application by adding more interest and helping you demonstrate your passion for this career path.
Working as a nurse practitioner can be an excellent choice of career for nurses who are interested in more autonomy, responsibility, and improving patient care in a role that is in very high demand. Choosing the right program to take on your path to become a nurse practitioner is an important part of the process that will have a huge impact on your future career.