5 Reasons to Become a Nurse Practitioner
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Nursing has become a great career track full of extensive settings and options. One advancement option for nurses that is increasing in popularity is becoming a Nurse Practitioner. Working in a hospital – it seems as though everyone is in graduate school for their nurse practitioner, or at least thinking about it!
Most medical professionals know the role that Nurse Practitioners perform. Nurse Practitioners function similar to that of a physician – ordering tests, diagnosing, and treating various medical issues. The capacity and autonomy of the Nurse Practitioner really depends on the location, the clinical setting, and the specific facility. Oftentimes, Nurse Practitioners work hand-in-hand with physicians to provide comprehensive care to patients – both healthy and sick, acute and nonacute.
To some, this may seem like too much responsibility. To others, it may be the perfect challenge with a whole host of benefits. Here are 5 reasons to consider becoming a nurse practitioner!
Better work environment
This one can definitely depend on which job you end up taking as a Nurse Practitioner, but in general you will find a better work environment as a Nurse Practitioner. The work involved as a Nurse Practitioner is more of a mental game as opposed to a physical one. Bedside nursing is TOUGH – it wreaks havoc on your physical body. Additionally, you take the blame for basically everything and if anyone is getting yelled at – it is likely to be you.
As a Nurse Practitioner, you are “higher up” on the totem pole. Your job is to treat the patient with critical thinking – as opposed to physically carrying out the orders. While this brings its own slew of challenges, it is less physically demanding. Additionally, patients and colleagues will often treat you with more respect – you’d be surprised the difference a white-coat can make.
Additionally, many Nurse Practitioner jobs offer better hours to supply a better work-life balance. Many office settings work Monday-Friday, with certain days off or “short” days. This schedule is desirable to many with families. However, some people enjoy their 3-day work week, and there are hospital jobs available to Nurse Practitioners to fill that desire as well.
Better Income ($$$)
Let’s not kid ourselves – this is probably one of the biggest motivational factors involved when someone considers becoming a Nurse Practitioner. A pay raise is expected when transitioning from a bedside nurse to a Nurse Practitioner. While this isn’t always the case depending on your location and current bedside nursing job, most people can expect a significant pay raise when making the career change from bedside nurse to Nurse Practitioner.
While starting out as a new graduate Nurse Practitioner may not be a dramatic income increase, the potential for earnings with experience is undoubtedly much higher. According to Glassdoor, the average base salary of a Nurse Practitioner in the US is $117,298. This does not factor in benefits or bonuses – which will also vary depending on the specific job. No – you won’t always be able to expect this income as a new graduate nurse, but higher cost-of-living areas or very rural areas may offer great pay even to graduate Nurse Practitioners – especially in the inpatient setting. In the outpatient office setting, Nurse Practitioners can expect to make less (somewhere between 80-100K), but higher salaries are not unheard of in areas of need.
This seems to be a universal perk of being a Nurse Practitioner. While benefits as a bedside nurse aren’t terrible, benefits that come along with a Nurse Practitioner are better and negotiable.
Yes – all the standard benefits are almost always included with a Nurse Practitioner’s benefits including medical, dental, and vision. Retirement options are usually included as well with various options. In addition to standard benefits – Nurse Practitioners can expect more time off each year. 4 weeks of vacation isn’t unheard of, and you should also be given time off for continuing education. There shoul dalso be money set aside (~$1000-$3000) for continuing education which you can use yearly. As a bedside nurse, you are lucky to get 2 weeks of vacation each year, with no money for continuing education.
Many companies will pay for the Nurse Practitioner’s certification and licensing fees as well as renewals. This includes your state licenses (both RN and NP), your DEA license, your CDS license, and your NPI. This can all add up, and it is helpful when the employer offers this perk. Additionally, it is standard for employers to offer professional liability insurance – which is an absolute necessity when practicing at the Nurse Practitioner level.
Benefits will vary from employer to employer, but you can definitely expect better benefits as a Nurse Practitioner as opposed to a bedside nurse.
If you like challenging yourself and learning as much as you can – becoming a Nurse Practitioner is the logical next step of your career. Graduate and/or doctoral school is challenging and difficult. There is SO MUCH to learn, especially when patient decisions are going to be in your hands. You will be responsible for patient’s well-being – their lives literally depend on you. Furthering your education is not meant to be easy. Physicians are given extensive time and training before they are able to make autonomous decisions for a patient. Nurses go back to school for 2-3 years and then are expected to practice in a similar manner. While completely possible – especially with physician collaboration – this is challenging.
You will learn so much – and you will continue to learn throughout your career. If you are a bedside nurse and find yourself constantly wanting more – then go for it! Sometimes there is just a deep desire and yearning for advancement that no amount of money or thrill as a bedside nurse can fill.
There is a Definite Need
There is a huge need for nurses, and some might say an even bigger need for Nurse Practitioners. This is because of the need for physicians – and Nurse Practitioners are being used to fill this gap and to practice at the highest level of their scope of practice. Nurse practitioners are needed in every setting – outpatient and inpatient, office and hospital, walmart and CVS.
If you find these 5 reasons to be worth going back to school, then go for it! Only you are holding yourself back. However, becoming a Nurse Practitioner is NOT for everyone. It is definitely demanding and will challenge you like nothing before. If you are unsure of whether or not to advance your career in this manner, here are 5 reasons to possible reconsider:
You’re only thinking about the money
People want the higher paying job, but if they don’t love what they do – it might not be worth it. Additionally, there are many bedside nursing options which can vastly increase your pay without spending thousands of dollars on graduate school. Graduate school is NOT cheap – I spent over $70K on my graduate education alone. You can consider travel nursing or management options if you only seek advancement for financial reasons.
You enjoy bedside nursing
Bedside nursing can be fun and enjoyable, especially on a well-managed department. Personally, working in the ER is fun and enjoyable, and the camaraderie is like none other. This is still possible as a Nurse Practitioner – but likely will look different. Besides, there is still a huge need for RNs and if everyone became an Nurse Practitioner, who would actually be at the bedside with the patient!?
You struggle with tests
A Nurse Practitioner program will be full of exams. While more straightforward, exams will test you on a wide range of knowledge related to various medical conditions and their appropriate treatment. If you are someone who struggles with tests, this may be something to consider before applying. Additionally, there will be a certification exam through the AANP or the ANCC which you must pass before being able to practice as a Nurse Practitioner.
You can’t stand research or theory
There is a TON of research and theory involved in the Nurse Practitioner curriculum. While some consider it to be too much (and not enough clinical-based education), there is undoubtedly a LOT of research articles you must read, research papers you must write, and other information to learn which isn’t directly clinical. This includes classes such as ethics, leadership, family theory, and health promotion and maintenance. If you cannot stand these topics or the thought of taking these classes – you might want to reconsider.
While this is always a factor – you will have to weigh your desire becoming a Nurse Practitioner with your actual ability to complete school. Your personal finances, your personal schedule, and your family-life will dictate your ability to complete a Nurse Practitioner program. As stated before, it is a demanding and time-consuming process to become a Nurse Practitioner, and if you cannot allocate enough time to advancing your career, maybe now is not the best time.
Many nurses, including myself, have worked or currently work full-time while completing their graduate programs. Depending on the program, this is possible – but this will not always be possible depending on your current situation. If you cannot devote 80-100 hours to work full time and complete school, then you should possibly reconsider. If you are lucky enough to be able to work part-time or not at all, then this will make your decision easier.
Whether or not you recently decided becoming a nurse practitioner, or it has always been your end-goal – it is a great option for the advancement of your career. There are tons of benefits to becoming an Advanced Practice Provider, and if it is something you desire – do your research. Being a Nurse Practitioner is a rewarding career and you won’t regret it – so long as you do it for the right reasons.
Any other reasons you can think of to become a nurse practitioner? Let me know down in the comments!
Will Kelly, MSN, FNP-C
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