Pave a career as an advanced practice nurse
EDITOR’S NOTE: : Theresa Ameri, DNP, RN, CNE, CPN, FNP-BC, has more than 19 years of clinical nursing experience, including pediatrics and nursing education, and as a family nurse practitioner. She has provided educational leadership, support, and professional development to healthcare providers as a staff developer, professor, and clinical instructor. She has developed nursing procedures, performed textbook review, and curriculum development. Her areas of special interest and expertise include health promotion & disease prevention, pediatric & adolescent health, and young adult cancer survivorship.
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Pursuing higher education and an advanced degree is a decision that nurses must make for themselves. It may seem daunting, but by taking the time to think through what you want to do and how you can do it, you will feel successful, accomplished, and rewarded by the process. The key questions you should ask yourself as you begin this journey are:
• Why do I want to do this? • What role do I want to play? • What type of degree and program do I want? • What barriers may I face? • What resources do I have? This module will provide an overview of the advanced degrees for nursing graduate education and focus on seeking higher education for the clinical role of the advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) as a nurse practitioner. APRNs may also be referred to as advanced practice nurses (APNs), and this module will use the terms interchangeably.

Why pursue higher education? Nursing is a profession grounded in life-long learning. Each year, nurses complete continuing education to hone skills, validate knowledge, and build a stronger foundation to professional practice. But why not just stop there? Why consider an advanced degree? These are good questions and a place to start in order to move forward. A master’s degree in nursing enables a registered nurse to pursue an area of practice that is meaningful in order to provide professional advancement. The commitment needed to pursue graduate education must be strong and personally validated. It is essential to consider personal motivation. Your motivation may simply be a love of learning and a desire to further develop professional practice. The call to higher education is well supported by several influential organizations, including the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, American Association of Colleges of Nursing, American Nurses Association, American Organization of Nurse Executives, and National League for Nursing. The Institute of Medicine’s report “The Future of Nursing” set a tone that advancing nursing education is a keystone for the future of healthcare specifically by encouraging nurses to practice at the highest level of their licensure and to pursue higher degrees that would expand that practice.1 Provisions in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) expanded funding for advanced nursing education and highlighted the roles of the APN in healthcare delivery.2 Because of the ACA, Mary Wakefield, administrator of the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, believes nurses are poised to provide a greater impact on the lives of patients, families, and communities.3
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There are financial benefits and projected employment stability as rewards for obtaining an advanced practice education.4 Some organizations provide higher salaries based on education level. There is the potential for a salary increase after obtaining or from having a graduate degree. You may work for an employer or a healthcare system that requires an advanced degree or strongly prefers one for leadership roles. If you want to assume a leadership role that provides higher annual compensation, completing a graduate degree program will put you in the position to advance your career. A graduate degree will also make you more marketable and attractive to organizations that value graduate-prepared nurses. There is job stability in obtaining an advanced nursing graduate degree and becoming a clinically based advance practice registered nurse (APRN). It is projected that APRNs in clinical practice will experience a 25% to 34% increase in employment compared with an 11% change for all other occupations from 2014 to 2024.4 The number of entry-level APRNs has more than doubled between 2002 and 2012 and continues to rise. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the mean national salary for nurse practitioners to be $97,990.4 APNs are poised to take a greater role in the provision of healthcare, especially primary care, because of the increased number of insured and increased access to healthcare.5 Becoming an APRN in clinical practice requires a master’s degree in addition to certification and licensure.
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Advance Practice Nurses: Educational Pathways for the APRN Role
Theresa Ameri, DNP, RN, CNE, CPN, FNP-BC
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This course is 1 contact hour
Course must be completed by June 30, 2018.
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Goals and objectives: The goal of this program is to provide information on the benefits of and strategies for pursuing advanced graduate nursing education. After studying the information presented here, you will be able to: 1. Discuss the benefits of obtaining graduate nursing education 2. Differentiate between the roles and programs available for a nurse pursuing graduate nursing education 3. Identify barriers to and resources available for pursuing graduate education
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Nurse.com educational activities are provided by OnCourse Learning. For further information and accreditation statements, please visit Nurse.com/Accreditation. The planners and authors have declared no relevant conflicts of interest that relate to this educational activity. OnCourse Learning guarantees this educational activity is free from bias. See “How to Earn Continuing Education” to learn how to earn CE credit for this module or visit http://ce.nurse.com/instructions.aspx.
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What roles do APNs play?
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Opportunities for an APN are diverse and can encompass both indirect and direct patient care.6 You may choose an educational path based on where you work or what role you would like to assume in your current organization. There are four categories of APRNs:7
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Other advance nurse practice (ANP) roles include those outside of a clinical practice role once the nurse has obtained a master’s degree. APNs may use their clinical expertise in alternative roles.
These roles can include the following:
Nurse practitioners (NPs) are APNs who deliver primary and acute care in clinics, schools, hospitals, and other settings, where they diagnose and treat common illnesses and injuries, manage chronic disease, and provide health promotion and disease prevention services (physical exams, immunizations, health screening). NPs are credentialed in their clinical practice area. In many states, APRNs can practice unrestricted and with full autonomy.
Certified nurse midwives (CNMs) are APNs who deliver prenatal, obstetric, postnatal, and routine gynecological care to women.
Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) are APNs who administer anesthetics to patients undergoing invasive medical and dental procedures.
Certified nurse specialists (CNSs) are APNs who have completed graduate coursework in a specialized are of a clinical practice setting or within a population. For example, a CNS can have a clinical focus in oncology, pediatrics, gerontology, and wound care. In some states (examples include Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, and New Mexico and also the District of Columbia),8 a CNS can perform many of the duties as a nurse practitioner, including diagnosis and prescribing treatment. A CNS provides leadership and expertise in his or her specialty regardless of where the CNS practices.
RNs interested in quality and patient safety may find that an administrative or research-based education track will provide them with the knowledge to fill that vital role in a number of healthcare settings, both inpatient and outpatient.
Nurse administrators typically serve in roles that have managerial and leadership capacities within practice environments. APNs in leadership roles generally have strong clinical backgrounds and aspire to be leaders in organizations, shaping policies, procedures, and practice.
Nurse researchers explore ways to improve healthcare services and patient outcomes. It is the translation of research and application to practice that aids in innovation and transformation of care. Nurse researchers may lead studies and investigations in their institutions or within larger government entities, such as the National Institutes of Health.
Nurse educators are those who have clinical expertise and a passion for teaching. Hospital-based nurse educators continue the education for entry-level and experienced nurses. Academic nurse educators provide education to those entering the profession or continuing their education. In addition, academic nurse educators often perform research, contribute to professional publications, serve as leaders in their academic institutions, and serve as resources for healthcare delivery in public and private settings.
“Nontraditional” roles for nurses vary but can include politics, public policy, law, and business.
Earn 1 credit hour with this continuing education course
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Take charge in negotiations
Negotiating your salary can have a huge impact on lifetime earnings.
Market, culture influence pay
Find out what drives pay rates in the healthcare market.
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Look beyond pay rates
Cost of living can make a huge impact on your take-home pay.
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CE COURSE: Interview like a pro
Ace a job interview with this comprehensive CE module.
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A special kind of compensation
Never underestimate the value of thanks from patients, families.
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CE catalog
Learn how to switch specialties, build your network and more.
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Travel nursing's special perks
Find out what attracts nurses to this specialty.
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Nurse staffing's future course
Nurse shines light on how what specialties will be in high demand.
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RN salaries always a hot topic
Learn more about issues that can help you increase your salary.
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Revisit the Equal Pay Act
There's still work to be done in reaching equal pay across genders.
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CE Catalog
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Learn new ways to teach, switch your specialty and more!
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The benefits of an FNP
Discover the many professional paths available with an FNP.
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Degree status update
Discover how nursing degrees...
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CE COURSE: The APRN role
This CE module provides complete info about AP nursing roles.
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A cure for the nursing shortage
Nursing schools are working hard to combat the nurse faculty shortage.
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Nursing's come a long way
Take a trip back in time with this journey through nursing education.
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Consider a PhD
Find out why a PhD degree may be right for you.
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Get ahead of the competition
An advanced degree provides an competitive edge in the workforce.
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Nursing education a must
Learn why an advanced degree is necessary in today's nursing world.
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Traits of an advanced practice
Empathy and fearlessness are just two of the traits of an AP nurse.
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Shape tomorrow's nurse leaders
Nursing faculty have a hand in shaping students into leaders.
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The shift to DNP
A DNP degree is a viable choice in higher nursing education.
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