As a registered nurse, you have one of the most important jobs as a frontline worker. If you are ready to take your nursing career to the next level, several options can allow you to achieve a new role in medicine.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the job outlook for nurse practitionersis expected to grow almost forty percent in the next decade. Compared to other occupations, this is one of the fastest-growing careers.
The role of a nurse practitioner
A nurse practitioner is a medical professional who bridges the gap between physicians and registered nurses. Nurse practitioners see as many or more patients as doctors, especially in family practice settings.
Part of the reason why nurse practitioners are in high demand is the shortage of family practice physicians in rural and underserved areas. However, there are just as many nurse practitioners in hospitals, particularly in acute care units.
Primary care nurse practitioners
A primary care nurse practitioner can assess patients and diagnose diseases and illnesses. This medical professional can order lab tests and administer vaccinations.
As part of a primary care team, a nurse practitioner can perform all the same functions as a doctor, including admitting patients to the hospital. They are crucial partners in medical care and can follow a patient throughout the entire hospital stay.
Many patients prefer to see a nurse practitioner because these providers build strong relationships with whole families and become a trusted part of their medical journey.
Another key function of a primary care nurse practitioner is educating patients about well-carestrategies and healthy habits. Improving health habits can be an important way for patients to improve their lives and positively impact those around them.
Psychiatric nurse practitioners
Caring for patients’ mental health is the role of a psychiatric nurse practitioner. This patient-centered, holistic approach to healthcare makes the nurse practitioner part of a medical team that cares for the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of people struggling with mental issues.
Often, mental health struggles become psychiatric disorders, and it is the job of the psychiatric nurse practitioner to assess, diagnose, and develop a treatment plan for these patients. Psychiatric patients frequently have problems with substance abuse, so you must be prepared to address those as part of the care plan.
Another way these nurse practitioners help patients is through education. They work with patients to address other areas, such as hygiene habits, eating, family relationships, and other factors that can influence mental health. As such, you counsel mental health patients and often lead therapy sessions individually and in groups.
Psychiatric nurse practitioners have become a trusted source of help for people with mental health and psychotic issues. In most states, you will have a full range of practice autonomy like a psychiatrist.
Psychiatric nurse practitioners work in a wide variety of settings, including hospitals, family practice offices, schools, telehealth, and many others.
Adult/gerontology nurse practitioners
An adult gerontology nurse practitioner cares for adults as they approach their golden years. This is a growing group of people in the US who need specialized care as they age.
Adult gerontology nurse practitioners focus on diseases and issues of aging people. There are physical, mental, and emotional issues unique to this age group, including the risk of falling, decreased respiratory strength, bone density problems, and susceptibility to infections.
As a gerontology nurse practitioner, you help patients reduce the likelihood of infections and illnesses with better health habits. You also aid them with preventive measures to reduce serious falls and injuries, methods to deal with chronic diseases and illnesses, and approaches for faster healing.
You might assist with routine activities like bathing, dressing, and exercise. Many older people struggle with obesity compounded by other co-morbidities like heart disease and diabetes. These ongoing issues often land them in the hospital, where they can be exposed to other germs and illnesses, so helping them remain as healthy and independent as possible is key.
The path to becoming a nurse practitioner
If you are ready to take the next step toward becoming a nurse practitioner, consider entering a BSN to MSN online program through Wilkes University. This affordable and rewarding program is entirely online and offers a fast track to earning a master’s degree in nursing practice.
You can continue to work as you pursue an online degree to advance your nursing career or focus exclusively on the coursework to graduate sooner. With three concentrations, you can provide continuity of care for your patients as a nurse practitioner.
Career options for those who hold a master’s in nurse practitioner
While the three most common career paths for a nurse practitioner are primary care, gerontology, and psychiatry, there are many other roles for a nurse practitioner with their specialized skills.
Cardiac nurse practitioner
Cardiac nurse practitioners care for people with acute cardiac problems in public hospitals and private medical facilities. As part of a cardiac team, the nurse practitioner can prescribe medications, assess the patient’s status, and contribute to the care plan.
Many assessment tools are technology-driven, so you should be prepared to handle the various machines that provide continuous feedback on the patient. You will see patients with carotid artery disease, arrhythmias, heart blockages, and more.
A majority of the treatment options involve educating patients on howbest to manage these heart conditions on a daily basis. Once they are discharged from the hospital, you might be monitoring them with a remote heart monitor that they wear or an app that records the information about their heart you need to know.
These technological devices allow you to use data-driven and evidence-based information to provide the best possible care.
Orthopedic nurse practitioner
As an orthopedic nurse practitioner, your role will focus on handling people with muscular, skeletal, and other issues with bones and the ligaments and tendons that surround them. Your patients will have arthritis, osteoporosis, joint replacements, broken bones, and bone diseases.
Orthopedic nurses see patients in the hospital and medical office, where they take X-rays and assess the areas surrounding the problem. They can treat bone fractures and wounds and perform follow-up assessments to ensure the bones are healing properly.
In surgery, an orthopedic nurse practitioner assists the orthopedic surgeon by preparing the patients for surgery and following up in the post-operative unit. They are there to answer questions, prescribe medications, and explain home care after the surgery.
An orthopedic nurse treats patients with musculoskeletal congenital and neuromuscular disorders.
Many orthopedic nurses specialize in certain areas of orthopedics, such as orthopedic oncology, where they treat patients with bone cancer. Another area of specialization is sports medicine, where they sometimes travel with a sports team and treat the athletes.
You might like to assist in spine surgery where you would work in a spine clinic. There are many opportunities for orthopedic nurse practitioners.
Surgical nurse practitioner
Surgical nurse practitioners focus solely on surgeries of all kinds. As part of a surgical team, you prepare patients before surgery and answer their questions. In the actual surgery, surgical nurse practitioners assist the surgeon by monitoring the patient’s vital signs andproviding instruments and other needs.
When the surgery is complete, most surgical nurses finish for the surgeon by placing the sutures in the incision.
Most surgical nurses work in hospitals, private surgical centers, and ambulatory centers. You can also work at the Veteran’s Administration hospital and clinics, and university medical centers. If you love the idea of being part of many types of surgeries, this could be the right path for your nurse practitioner career.
Oncology nurse practitioner
Cancer is a serious disease, and these patients need oncology nurse practitioners who can help them with the best treatment plan. As an oncology nurse practitioner, you will build relationships with your patients as they battle this terrible disease. Your friendly face can be the motivation they need to keep fighting.
Oncology nurse practitioners are essential in assessing people with cancer diagnoses and working with other medical professionals to devise the most effective treatment. As you administer the cancer therapy, you can answer questions and encourageyour patients.
Neonatal nurse practitioner
When you want to work with the tiniestpatients, becoming a neonatal nurse practitioner is the route that will have you working with newborns,who are the most vulnerable of all patients. Working in the neonatal intensive care unit with infants who are premature or ill is a demanding job.
You have multiple responsibilities to care for these tiny, helpless babies and their families. You will assess them daily, paying close attention to the neuromuscular and physical attributes. As part of a medical team, you are responsible for creating a care plan that addresses the unique needs of each infant.
Neonatal nurse practitioners order diagnostic tests and use the data collected to adjust the care plan accordingly. Another crucial responsibility of a neonatal nurse practitioner is recording the data on the infant’s daily status.
This position requires you to place feeding tubes and intravenous lines into the baby so it can have life-saving nourishment, medicines, and blood transfusions. You also insert nose cannulas and other ventilation management as needed. In the event there is an emergency, you are the first responder with the most expertise.
In conjunction with caring for the newborn baby, a neonatal nurse practitioner also cares for the mother. You will assess the obstetric and gynecological records of the mother to help her care for her baby while in the hospital and when the baby can go home. Educating the mother and father can ease their anxiety when taking a high-needs babyhome and help them provide the best care.
Emergency nurse practitioner
If you love a fast-paced environment, then the emergency room is the place for you. The emergency room nurse practitioner deals with illnesses and injuries that frequently require quick, life-saving decisions. Your role is to care for patients with immediate needs and decide the best course of action for them.
You can find emergency nurse practitioners in urgent care centers, hospital emergency rooms, and trauma centers. This high-level acute care position focuses on assessing the physical state of a patient and prescribing the fastest, best care option possible.
Once you complete the assessment, you monitor the patient to get them stabilized. As you watch the vital signs, you work with the rest of the medical team to choose where the patient should go once stabilized. This includes ordering multiple diagnostic tests that provide information about the patient’s physical state.
You might have to apply a cast, suture lacerations, treat for psychiatric problems, splint a broken bone, and more.
Palliative care nurse practitioner
Palliative care nurse practitioners care for patients with terminal illnesses and provide comfort care in their final days. Health problems like dementia, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and neurological disorders characterize these patients.
This is a role for nurse practitioners who strive to make the patients and their families as comfortable and comforted as possible. You assess the physical and mental state of the patient daily and adjust the care plan accordingly. You also administer pain medications for those at the end of their lives.
Nurses who like to be in family-oriented nursing settings would do well in palliative care since they reassure the patient’s family members as they say goodbye to a loved one. You educate them on the process of the family member’s final days and ensure they know what to expect.
While this can be a sad, stressful time for many family members, you can be a source of comfort and information to help them. As you advocate for the final wishes of your patient, you can make a difference in many aspects of their end-of-life moments.