If you currently have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, you may be looking toward the next step in your career. With the nursing profession projected to grow 31 percent by 2026 according to the U.S. Department of Labor, it’s no surprise that recent BSN graduates are looking for more opportunities to increase earning potential and professional standing.

Individuals with a BSN can find great opportunities in many fields, including:

  • Education
  • Research
  • Coaching/mentoring
  • Forensics
  • And more

However, nurses with a BSN looking to utilize their skills and experience in a healthcare facility should consider earning credentials to become a nurse practitioner (NP). With steady job security, a competitive salary, and the opportunity to meaningfully impact patients, pursuing a career as a nurse practitioner can be a rewarding choice for BSN graduates.

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What Is a Nurse Practitioner?

With multiple nursing career paths available to those in the field, it can be difficult to know the difference between the different roles and specialties. For instance, the difference between registered nurses and nurse practitioners is a common question among prospective nursing professionals. Both are skilled and dedicated medical professionals who devote their lives and careers to caring for patients in a variety of settings. However, NPs are required to obtain a Master of Science in Nursing degree (MSN) and additional training that designated them as the true experts that they are.

With a master’s degree, nurse practitioners obtain high-level skills and professional autonomy that allows them to act as a leader in primary care for their patients. Nurse practitioners are considered to be “advanced practice nurses,” says Dr. Donna Barry, director of the DNP on-campus programs at Regis College. “They are able to diagnose, treat, prescribe, and provide comprehensive care to the patients they’re seeing.”

Nurse Practitioner Specialties

While nurse practitioners are universally skilled healthcare professionals, they are often asked to choose a specialty and focus on a particular patient group or medical practice. Since an NP’s specialty is often set in stone post-graduation, it’s important to think critically about which speciality you may want to pursue when you begin your graduate studies. The various specialties an NP can pursue allow nurses to follow their unique skills and passions, including:

  1. Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP): Specializing in family-centered care, FNPs often develop long-term relationships with families, including infants, adults, and the elderly, and serve as a primary care professional for their various long- and short-term health issues.
  2. Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP): While PNPs see children of all ages through medical issues throughout their stages of growth, most pediatric nurse practitioners specialize in a specific age group (e.g., infants, adolescents, young adults).
  3. Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner: Prospective nursing professionals with an interest in exploring psychiatric/mental health should consider this speciality. These NPs generally work in medical settings like hospitals, psychiatric hospitals, nursing homes, and rehab clinics to help patients with a variety of mental health conditions.
  4. Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner: Women’s health NPs offer primary care to women of all ages, and handle everything from wellness appointments to pre- and post-natal care, gynecological services, and cancer screenings.
  5. Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner: These NPs are experts in treating adults from adolescence through geriatric stages and work in anywhere from hospitals to private practices.

Common Roles and Responsibilities

Nurse practitioners provide comprehensive care to all their patients—regardless of speciality. Therefore, it isn’t surprising that their roles and responsibilities are extensive. NPs handle nearly every task involved in a patient’s overall care, including:

  • Creating and maintaining patients’ records and health histories
  • Performing and ordering diagnostic tests
  • Completing physical exams and evaluations
  • Interpreting results and data to craft treatment plans
  • Supervising other members of a medical team
  • Collaborating with and generating referrals to other healthcare professionals

With the extensive list of tasks and processes they oversee, as well as their ability to work independent of doctors and physicians in most states, NPs have a great deal of responsibility. As a result, NPs are required to achieve a high level of education and training: Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or higher, as well as additional certifications and training.

How to Become a Nurse Practitioner

If you’ve decided to take on the dynamic and critical role of a nurse practitioner, you can be certain you’re looking at an exciting, rewarding, stable, and lucrative career. However, you’ll need to be mindful of the steps required to officially become a nurse practitioner, including:

  1. Earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN): While all employers require at least an associate’s degree, many now require a BSN as well. This gives BSN graduates a competitive edge when applying to registered nursing positions.
  2. Passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN): All registered nurses must pass this exam to qualify for licensure.
  3. Obtaining your RN licensure: This typically means verification of graduation or eligibility for graduation from an approved nursing education program, NCLEX-RN or NCLEX-PN examination scores, and, in some states, a criminal background check.
  4. Gaining clinical experience: Hands-on nursing experience is critical “for individuals who want to eventually provide advanced care independently,” says Dr. Barry, and arms students with the experience necessary to excel as they take the next steps in their career.
  5. Completing additional education: Earning an advanced degree is the one of the last, and most essential steps to becoming an NP. All NPs are required to earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), but changing industry standards have also prompted prospective NPs to earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)

How a DNP Can Boost Your Career as a Nurse Practitioner

Completing a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) can help adequately prepare students for the critical leadership roles they’re looking to take on. DNP programs, like the one at Regis College, work to provide students with the knowledge, expertise, and leadership skills necessary to make them prepared and capable care providers. Students receive specialized curriculum plans based upon their interests, and are taught by actively-practicing nurses to ensure they receive the most current and relevant information.

Next Steps to a Rewarding Career

As a BSN graduate, you’re already well on your way to a career in one of the most sought after and desired fields in the country. NPs directly impact the health and well-being of their patients in a variety of settings, and their ability to manage their patients’ health journeys from beginning to end make them highly respected and knowledgeable medical professionals.

In addition to saving lives each day, NPs practice and demonstrate cutting-edge knowledge and technologies, while using their empathy, communication, and leadership skills to make a positive impact on millions of people worldwide. If you’re looking to develop the leadership and industry-specific skills needed to become a driver of healthcare change, consider earning a DNP degree to take on the immense responsibilities involved with being a world-class NP.

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