Advanced Practice Nurses (APNs) are nurses who have received specialized education at the graduate level, which enables them to work under direct supervision of a physician or even work completely independently in some states. Often, they support teams of doctors through their advanced practice nursing skills. To become an APN, nurses start by becoming a registered nurse (RN), after which they complete a graduate education. If you want to become an APN, you should first determine the particular specialization that you are interested in, as well as the organization you would like to work for. Let us now take a look at the steps to earn an advanced practice nursing degree.
STEP 1 – Complete Basic Nursing Education
Basic nursing education is either the associate degree in nursing (ADN) or bachelor of science degree in nursing (BSN), after which you can become a registered nurse (RN), by passing the NCLEX-RN examination. It should be noted, however, that while the ADN continues to exist, it is slowly being phased out, as there is a commitment to furthering the knowledge and standards of the nursing workforce. Furthermore, if you have an ADN, you would not be able to enroll in an MSN degree program. Instead, you would need to complete the BSN to MSN program.
Nevertheless, there is a solution for those who are license practical nurses (LPNs) or licensed vocational nurses (LVNs), and this is to complete the bridge RN to MSN program. In general, a BSN course will take four years of study to complete (two years for the ADN and one year for LPN/LVN). Bridge programs take between three and four years to complete.
STEP 2 – Gain Work Experience
Once you have become an RN, you will need to complete a number of years of work experience before you can enroll in a graduate program. Different schools have different requirements in terms of how much experience you need to have. Additionally, some schools will require you to have worked in a specific department for a set period of time, particularly if you are looking to complete a certain specialization.
STEP 3 – Complete Graduate Nursing Education
Once you have completed your undergraduate education and have sufficient work experience, you can enroll in an MSN degree program. After completion of the graduate nursing degree, you can become a licensed nurse practitioner. Different schools have different admission requirements for their MSN programs. However, it is common for them to want to see:
• Clinical experience, sometimes in a specific setting
• Reference letters
• Personal statement
While pursuing an MSN program, you will need to take part in theoretical classroom education, as well as laboratory and clinical experience. This graduate program usually takes between 18 months and two years to complete.
When you enroll in an MSN program, you may also need to choose the concentration in which you want to become an APN. The most common specializations include:
• Adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner
• Family nurse practitioner
• Pediatric nurse practitioner
• Neonatal nurse practitioner
• Family psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner
STEP 4 – Obtain Your License to Practice
Once you have completed your MSN degree, you will need to pass an examination to receive a license to practice. Which examination you will have to take will depend on your chosen specialization, as well as on the state in which you want to practice nursing.
STEP 5 (Optional) – Complete a Doctorate Degree in Nursing (DNP)
Some nurses, and particularly those who want to become involved in academic education or research, will go on to complete a doctorate degree in nursing. At this point, you will move fully out of clinical practice, working instead on furthering the nursing profession through research, or by teaching the next generation. A DNP usually takes at least two years to complete, but often more.
Interestingly, although completing a DNP is still optional, more and more nurses have started to enroll in it. This is because the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has suggested that this should be the minimum standard for APNs in the future. Although this has not been implemented yet, and the DNP continues to be a focus for those wanting to move outside of clinical practice, it is likely that these new regulations will soon be implemented.
STEP 6 – Complete Continuous Education Credits
Because you must be licensed to practice as an APN, you also have to make sure that you are always in compliance with the requirements of that license, particularly with regards to keeping yourself up-to-date with developments in the field of nursing. This means going to continuous education classes. Exactly how many hours you will need to complete and what requirements are imposed in these courses will vary between states. Hence, it is important to check with your State Board of Nursing with regards to the specific requirements.
The field of nursing is incredibly wide and varied. It is a rewarding job, in which you can make a real difference in the lives of everyday people. The higher your standard of education is, the bigger the difference that you can make in this particular field as well. Nurses are also very well compensated for their work. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, APNs earned an average of $104,740 per year as of May 2015. Additionally, there is an expected 31% growth in demand for their skills from 2014 to 2024. For registered nurses, the average annual salary is $67,490 per year, which is almost $40,000 less than that of the APN. This means that investing in your education is something that will bring about a substantial return. Not just that but the demand for RNs, while still much faster than the national average, currently stands at an increase of 16% from 2014 to 2024. What this demonstrates is that, while there will always be a huge demand for those with nursing skills, the demand for those with advanced skills is far higher.
- What is Advanced Practice Nursing? (n.d.) Retrieved from https://nursing.vanderbilt.edu/msn/whatisapn.php
- Requirements to Become a Nurse Practitioner (n.d.) Retrieved from http://nursejournal.org/nurse-practitioner/what-to-know-to-become-a-nurse-practitioner/
- Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners – Job Outlook. (2015, Dec. 17) Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm#tab-6
- Occupational Outlook Handbook – Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners (2015, Dec. 17) Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm
- Occupational Outlook Handbook – Registered Nurses (2015, Dec. 17) Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm