These days, there’s no shortage of demand for medical professionals across the United States. The demand is especially true when it comes to Nurse Practitioners (NPs)! Believe it or not, there’s a greater need for Nurse Practitioners ( than physicians—and this trend isn’t slowing down any time soon. The need for NPs is expected to increase another 30% by 2020.
So, for those interested in a career in nursing, striving to know how to become a Nurse Practitioner (NP) can be an excellent goal. Not sure what it takes or where to get started? Read on to learn everything there is to know about how to become a family Nurse Practitioner (FNP).
Steps on How to Become a Family Nurse Practitioner
- Become a Registered Nurse
- Complete a Master’s or Doctorate Program in Nursing
- Consider Further Certification
Step 1: Become a Registered Nurse
Because a Nurse Practitioner is a specialist position with responsibilities similar to that of a full-fledged physician, it will take some time, schooling, and experience to work your way up to becoming an NP. Specifically, you’ll need to begin by becoming a Registered Nurse (RN), which requires a Bachelor’s degree. Typically, a Bachelor’s degree in nursing takes between four and five years to complete, but this can vary depending on whether you’re enrolling part- or full-time.
Specifically, you’ll need to make sure your Bachelor’s degree is in a Nursing program (Such as RN to BSN programs). The beautiful thing about this is that you have a little bit of creative freedom in regards to what area of nursing you want to focus your studies on. For instance, if you have a passion for helping children, then you could study pediatric nursing as part of your Bachelor’s program if you seek to specialize as a pediatric nurse practitioner. Or, if you’re not sure which direction you want to take with your career just yet, you can follow a generic program of study.
Regardless, make sure that the nursing school is fully accredited and will prepare you for the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX), as you will need to pass this to legally practice in your state. Depending on where you live, you may also be required to pass a background screening and have fingerprinting done. If you find yourself in a position where online classes will offer more flexibility for your current situation then you review the top 50 online nurse practitioner programs.
Step 2: Complete a Master’s or Doctorate Program in Nursing
Once you’re a Licensed and Registered Nurse, you’ve got the pre-requisites needed to enroll in a graduate nursing program. However, many recent graduates from a Bachelor’s program will choose first to gain some experience in the field by securing a part- or full-time nursing job before going to graduate school. This can be an excellent choice for those who want to gain some hands-on experience before they decide to become an NP, but it’s also risky because some will become complacent working as an RN and never end up going through with plans to get a Master’s or Doctorate.
Typically, completing a graduate program will take between two and four years, depending on whether you’re pursuing a Master’s or Doctorate degree and how many credit hours you’re taking per semester. As part of your graduate studies, expect to be placed in a clinical residency, where you’ll practice as a Registered Nurse at a local hospital or other medical institution. This will allow you to obtain not only the formal education you need but also the hands-on experience that will be necessary for success during your career as a Nurse Practitioner.
During your graduate program, you’ll also have a chance to delve further into a desired area of expertise, as you learn different nurse practitioner specialties, whether that be in pharmacology, pediatric medicine, or anything in between. Your chosen area of expertise will determine the specific license you’ll need to pursue in order to begin practicing as an NP. For example, if you want to work as a midwife, your state may require a different type of license than a general nurse practitioner would.
Either way, all states will require you to show proof of completion of your graduate program, in addition to your RN licensure. From there, you may be required to pass an additional examination to obtain your license as an NP. In most cases, you’ll also be required to sign up for continuing education classes and other forms of professional development to keep your license valid. Otherwise, it can expire, and you will no longer be able to practice.
Step 3: Consider Further Certification
Even once you’ve obtained your Master’s or Doctorate degree and are licensed as a Nurse Practitioner, there are steps you can take to further your career. For example, there are all kinds of certification you could be eligible for that can make you eligible for more job openings or make you a more valuable asset to your current employer. Some typical examples of certification available to NPs include:
- diabetes management
- school nursing
- mental health
- pediatric nursing
In most cases, becoming certified in any of these areas will require you to take and pass a written examination through the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) or the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).
Upon obtaining licensure and specialized certifications as an NP, there are a couple of options to consider. For those who have been working as an RN at a hospital or other facility, it may be worth looking into NP openings. Many medical facilities prefer to hire from within their companies. However, if there aren’t any openings at your current place of employment, there are sure to be job opportunities for NPs elsewhere. The beautiful thing about being licensed to work as an NP is that there’s high demand for them all across the country, so you can decide where you want to live and begin your career, rather than having to move to where the jobs are.
As you can see, there’s a lot of hard work and dedication involved in becoming a Nurse Practitioner. However, for those who enjoy helping others and like the idea of working in the healthcare industry, this can be a real rewarding career. Not to mention, there will always be a demand for these trained and licensed medical professionals nationwide.