4 Types of Advanced Practice Nursing Degrees

Regardless of your career choice as a healthcare professional, looking into opportunities for advancement is always important. This is certainly true for nursing as well, where you could decide to complete a master’s degree in nursing (MSN). However, what you will quickly find is that there are many different concentrations within this degree, all of which are incredibly interesting.

When you come to research the different MSN programs that are out there, it may be tempting to focus mainly on geographical location and the cost and duration of the program. However, what you should actually look into is the concentrations that the school offers. When you study at MSN level, you will study towards targeted knowledge, and you have to make sure that this is the knowledge that you are personally interested in.

An “advanced practice registered nurse” (APRN), as they are known, is a nurse who doesn’t just provide patient care, but coordinates it as well. Often, they also specialize in certain areas of populations or diseases. The scope of their practice is set by the different state boards of nursing. For instance, in some states, an APRN is allowed to practice independently, and in some states they are even allowed to prescribe medication. An APRN can be found in every level of society, from huge metropolitan hospitals to tiny rural clinics, and from local school districts to the federal government.

There are four types of advanced practice nursing degrees. However, within those four categories, there are numerous sub-specializations as well.

The Certified Nurse Practitioner (CNP)

The CNP will specialize in a certain area of nursing. Sub-specializations include:

  • Pediatrics
  • Cardiology
  • Family care
  • Women’s health
  • Oncology
  • Pain management
  • Surgical services

As a CNP, you will work with a team of other medical professionals. Additionally, you will be a patient advocate and you are likely to teach other nurses as well. Some CNPs are involved in research, although not in independent research unless they hold a doctorate degree (the DNP). In many states, they can work independently in a variety of locations, including small clinics, hospitals, and physicians’ offices.

The Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)

The CRNA is responsible for providing anesthetic services to surgical patients. This can be done in a variety of settings, from large surgical wards to outpatient services. A CRNA has passed a certification exam, which they must maintain, and this allows this professional to provide anesthetic care across the board. Your patients will range from the very sick to the reasonably healthy, and can span any age or acuity. This includes, therefore, working with patients who are experiencing life-threatening situations and cannot provide consent.

The Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)

The CNM is responsible for women’s health. They provide care across the continuum of pregnancy, including to women who are trying to conceive, antenatal care to pregnant women, care during delivery, and post-partum or postnatal care once they have given birth. A CNM consults with pregnant women, completes examinations, assists in the birth, and more. Some CNMs work in hospitals, but they are found in the homes of women more and more frequently, as many women now opt to have a home birth. A CNM also has to make very critical decisions, for instance if they can see that either mother or baby is in distressed. The setting and state in which the CNM works will determine how much autonomy they have.

The Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)

The CNS, like the CNP, will specialize in a certain area of medicine. What this specialization depends on a variety of different issues, including:

  • Where they work. They can specialize, for instance, in emergency room care, critical care, or hospice care.
  • Which population group they work with. They can specialize, for instance, in gerontology, women, or children.
  • Which disease they work with. They can specialize, for instance, in diabetes, heart disease, oncology (cancer), and so on.
  • Which health problem they work with. They can specialize, for instance, in stress, wounds, pain, and so on.
  • The type of care they offer. They can specialize, for instance, in specific health conditions or specific types of patients.

The most common specializations for the CNS are:

  • Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
  • Emergency Nurse Practitioner
  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner

Other Types of Advanced Practice Nursing

There are a few other types of advanced practice nursing, which are not covered above. They include

  • The nurse educator, who is responsible for the training of the next generation of nurses
  • The nurse administrator, who is responsible for the overall running and management of the health care setting
  • The nurse leader, who provides guidance and mentorship to other nurses within the organization
  • The nurse informatics specialist, who focuses on maintaining proper health care records

Then, there is the fact that you can also complete combined degrees at master’s degree level, particularly the:

  • MSN/MBA (master of business administration)
  • MSN/MHA (master of health administration)
  • MSN/MPH (master of public health)

These degrees take you outside of direct nursing practice and allow you to become involved in policy development, often working for the federal government.

As you can see, an advanced practice nursing degree is actually something that is very complex. This is why you need to properly consider where your personal interests lie, and how you would like to see your career progress. This will enable you to make the right decisions when it comes to your specialization and elective courses.