Advancing your career in the health care industry is a fabulous way to challenge yourself, have that personal satisfaction of reaching your goals, and potentially working in a whole different environment that is new and exciting for you. For those who have spent time as a registered nurse and are looking to advance, the next step for you may be to become a nurse practitioner. Over the past couple of decades, this is a job that has grown quite a lot, with nurse practitioners now playing a very important role in the health care industry. There are also amazing opportunities when try and look at high paying ER travel nurse.
Of course, before you make any sort of career decision, it’s always wise to do your research and take a look at what the job would entail. So, let’s examine what it means to be a nurse practitioner and what you can expect from this exciting career path.
How to Become a Nurse Practitioner?
The first thing to unfold is how to become a nurse practitioner. If this is your dream job, you need to be sure you’re taking all the right steps. First off, you need to be a registered nurse (RN). You will also need your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). From there you can go on to do your Nurse Practitioner masters or a doctoral nursing path. After completing your studies, you will need to then pass the NP board certification exam.
As a nurse practitioner, you will be classified as an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), which is why so much schooling is needed.
What Does a Nurse Practitioner Do?
Curious about what a typical day looks like for a nurse practitioner? That will vary depending on the working environment and location and if you are specializing in a particular niche of care. In general, however, there are some basic duties that nurse practitioners will be responsible for. These include:
- Conducting physical evaluations of patients
- Patient consultations
- Diagnosing illnesses
- Ordering and then reading diagnostic tests
- Prescribing medication for patients
- Creating a patient-focused treatment plan
The most common locations where you’ll find nurse practitioners working are medical offices, urgent care clinics, hospitals, and emergency departments. At its core, a nurse practitioner is there to plug the hole, if you will. Many areas across the country have a shortage of physicians and health care professionals. Nurse practitioners not only fill the gap, but they are also helping to bring the cost of health care down.
If you want to break down the day into specific duties, in general, the bulk of your shift will be spent on patient care. This is the one-on-one time with patients. It’s quite common for a typical day to be anywhere from eight to 10 hours. Most nurses find their shift passes quite fast as there never seems to be a dull moment. There is always that next patient waiting for you.
It should also be noted that there will be an administrative aspect to the job. Typically, NPs will start their day with all their administrative duties and may finish their shift in the same manner.
You Can Choose a Specific Track
There are also specific tracks that you can choose during your NP studies. This provides you with a more in-depth look at those areas of practice, allowing you to choose a niche once you have graduated. Some of the most popular tracks worth considering are:
- Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
- Family Nurse Practitioner
- Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
- Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
Keep in mind you don’t have to choose a specific area to focus on, but it can help you to become more informed and allow you to find a job that much easier.
Some States Offer More Opportunities
When it comes to finding a job as a nurse practitioner, you may want to give thought to your location. For those who are willing to move for their job, there are 10 states in particular where nurse practitioners are very much in demand, which could make it much easier for you to find your dream job.
The top 10 states where nurse practitioners are most in-demand at the moment are:
- New York
- New Jersey
Each one offers its pros and cons but here are a few takeaway highlights that may help you to make a decision on which one to relocate to.
- According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the state of California is the one that pays the highest salary for nurse practitioners. The median salary for 2020 in the state was $145,970.
- The second-highest median salary can be found in New York State at $126,440.
- New York State expects the field of nurse practitioners to grow by 42% over the next six years; this is higher than the national average for the job, which is 36.1%. The state is expected to add about 1,640 openings each year moving forward, which is well above any of the other top 10 states.
- Not only does Ohio expect to add around 650 nurse practitioners each year, but its cost of living is very attractive. It has been ranked number one by S. News & World Report when it comes to affordability.
- In the state of Florida nurse practitioners are currently the fastest-growing profession, which bodes well for those looking for a job. With so many residents who have coverage under the Affordable Care Act and the fact that roughly half of the state’s physicians will be retiring in the next decade – there are plenty of opportunities here.
- If you like the idea of moving to a state that values health care – then New Jersey could be an excellent option since it ranks fourth according to U.S. News & World Report.
These are just some of the many highlights these top 10 states offer to nurse practitioners.
Did You Know Urban and Rural Settings Also Make a Difference?
Besides the state that you choose to work in, did you know that the specific location in terms of urban vs rural settings also makes a difference? While you may assume that there will be more jobs available in urban centers that’s not the case for much of the country. There is a real shortage of nurse practitioners in rural settings at the moment.
NPs play an important role in rural settings as they can help to fill the gap when there aren’t enough single primary care providers. It’s common for rural settings to lack available doctors as well as health clinics and hospitals. In these cases, it’s common for the nurse practitioner to act as a primary care provider. What this means is that you’ll never have a shortage of patients.
What Skills and Personality Traits Can Help You Become a Great NP?
Outside of the education and clinical training, you’ll get, there are also some personal skills and traits that can help you to be a better NP. Many of these you may already possess, others you can work on improving before you start working in the field.
Key skills and traits include:
- Excellent communication skills, which means listening, speaking, and writing
- You need to be able to show compassion and empathy for patients and their families
- You need to have excellent critical-thinking skills
- Organization skills will prove useful
- Interpersonal skills will ensure you work seamlessly with co-workers and other staff
There’s no time like the present to start working on these skills if you’re lacking, as it will only help you to become the best possible NP.
Are There Any Downfalls in Becoming a Nurse Practitioner?
For all the benefits of following this career path, it’s important to also be straightforward and acknowledge there are downfalls too. These may seem minor for some people, and for others, it may be enough to sway them into another career. It’s important to be honest with yourself about what you can handle, your expectations, and what kind of life you want to have.
Some of the negatives can include:
- The job can be hectic
- There may be a lot of stress involved in the job
- Sometimes it can be hard to leave that stress at work, and not take it home with you
- There can be long hours spent on your feet rushing around, which makes it physically demanding
- You may be working shift work
- Not every patient will be easy to deal with
- Burnout is a very real problem with health care professionals
The Perfect Job for the Right Person
Finding a perfect job is a deeply personal journey. Just because one person tells you it’s the most incredible and rewarding career doesn’t make it right for you. Learning what it means to be a nurse practitioner, what a day in the life of an NP looks like, what it takes to become an NP and even the job outlook all helps to give you a realistic look at the career path. This is the kind of job that can appeal to those who want to be able to help others, have the drive and motivation to succeed, and embrace hard work with open arms.