Becoming a Nurse Practitioner is one of the best ways to take your nursing career to the next level. If you’ve worked as a Registered Nurse and are wondering how you might increase your earnings and find satisfying new challenges in the nursing world, earning a master’s degree and working as a Nurse Practitioner just might scratch that itch.
Nurse Practitioner is one of the most common advanced degrees nurses earn, along with a Doctorate of Nursing and other advanced nursing specialties. If you’re considering becoming a Nurse Practitioner, it helps to understand what they do, what the rules are for practicing in Arizona, what degree you need and how to choose a specialty, and how to get certified.
Answering these questions is the subject of this mini-guide, so buckle up and get ready to learn everything you need to know about embarking on this exciting career path.
Is Nurse Practitioner the Right Career for You?
The Advanced Practice Nurses (APN) designation includes Nurse Practitioners, Certified Nurse Midwives, Clinical Nurse Specialists and Nurse Anesthetists. While the roles of Nurse Midwives and Nurse Anesthetists are there in the title, and Clinical Nurse Specialists can choose between a number of populations, diseases or types of medicine, Nurse Practitioners have a larger scope of practice. They can provide a wide array of general health and wellness services to people of all ages, from newborns to seniors, and can do so in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, schools, correctional facilities and more. These may include, but are not limited to:
- Physical exams
- Diagnosis and treatment of common ailments and acute illnesses
- Immunization services
- Management of chronic health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, mental health issues and more
- Order and interpret lab tests, X-rays and other diagnostic tests
- Prescribe medication
- Give exercise, diet and lifestyle advice
… and much more. This is a unique advantage of becoming an Advanced Practice Nurse, as RNs and Licensed Vocational Nurses (also called Licensed Practical Nurses) are not allowed the same freedom in their work. Plus, in 26 out of 50 states, NPs are allowed to operate their own practices independent of physician supervision.
So Can An NP Own A Practice in Arizona?
Yes, Arizona is one of the states in which Nurse Practitioners are allowed to own and operate their own practices without the supervision of a physician. Whereas nurses with less advanced degrees always have to report to a doctor, NPs in Arizona can work completely independent of them. That means they have full practice authority, able to work with the populations they choose, administer medication and advice in concordance with their own medical background and beliefs, and can issue controlled substances. They can also perform an array of procedures and order and interpret many tests that less advanced nurses cannot do, and which NPs in who are not licensed to work independently (as in 24 states) cannot do either. Crucially, they are also licensed to be in-network providers with a range of insurance plans, including primary and specialty care.
However, if a Nurse Practitioner chooses to, they may seek employment with a physician in Arizona. This gives you the option of working in a collaborative environment or having oversight if you are not yet – or never will be – comfortable operating fully independently.
What Degrees Do You Need?
In order to work as an NP in Arizona, you need a Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN). This involves completing a graduate-level nursing program that is approved by the state of Arizona. Before you can even apply to such a program, however, you must have earned a bachelor’s degree. While it is not necessary, most people who apply to APN programs have their Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing.
Note that while a BSN will enable you to work as an RN, you can also work as a Registered Nurse after completing only an associate’s degree. This will enable you to work in a range of Arizona hospitals and other clinical settings, but it will not substitute for the bachelor’s degree you need in order to gain admittance to MSN programs. If you do not yet have a bachelor’s degree, plan on getting one before applying.
Once you complete this program, you can apply for APN certification in Arizona. But first, it’s time to look at your specialty.
Do You Need to Choose a Specialty?
Just like with a Clinical Nurse Specialist, you do need a specialty. Nurse Practitioners typically choose a specialty either before they begin school or while they are in school. These may include:
- Emergency Nurse Practitioner
- Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
- Family Nurse Practitioner
- Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner
- Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner
- Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
- Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner
- Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
Many NPs do choose to go into some type of primary care, and once there will specialize in a certain age group or population.
What Does the Certification Process Look Like?
After you have chosen a specialty and completed your graduate program, you have to get certified by the state of Arizona. That requires passing a competency exam as well as holding a current RN license in the state of Arizona (a lapsed license will not be counted), or holding an RN license in one of the 25 states that recognizes the Nurse Licensure Compact. This means that even if you have not worked as an RN in Arizona, you can still apply for your APN certification, so long as you have a valid RN license from one of the other states.
It’s a good idea to go through one of the nationally recognized accrediting agencies so that your APN license will be valid throughout the United States rather than just in the state of Arizona. There are several nationally accrediting bodies that will grant the NP certification, including:
- The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners
- The Pediatric Nursing Certification Board
- The American Nurses Credentialing Center
- The National Certification Corporation for Obstetric, Gynecological and Neonatal Nursing Specialties
There are others as well, so do an online search to find the best one for you.
What Kind of Paperwork Is Involved?
While requirements vary based on the agency through which you apply for certification, you typically need official copies of transcripts from your graduate program, a copy of your certification test results, fingerprints and fees. Additionally, if you plan to prescribe controlled substances in Arizona, you will need to send an application to the Drug Enforcement Agency for a DEA Number.
And that’s about it! As long as you complete these requirements, you’re on your way to an exciting career as a Nurse Practitioner in Arizona.