Nursing is no longer limited to merely a supporting role in healthcare. Nurses can chart a career path in many specialties and at different seniority levels. As a result, more nurses are completing advanced nursing degrees, such as a master’s or doctor of nursing practice (DNP).
This increase in advanced practice nursing benefits the sector in many ways. Here’s how advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) impact patient care.
Nurse practitioners can act independently
As nurses progress up the education ladder, they gain more skills. Nurse practitioners (you reach NP status when you have a master’s or doctor’s degree) can act with more autonomy than registered nurses who hold a bachelor’s degree.
The scope of responsibilities differs from state to state. In states where nurses have full practice authority, they can:
- conduct physical examinations
- order diagnostic tests
- make certain diagnoses
- put together treatment plans
- manage chronic conditions
- prescribe certain medication
In reduced practice states, nurse practitioners can order tests and diagnose but may require physician oversight to prescribe medication. In restricted practice states, nurse practitioners must perform all tasks under physician supervision or with physician collaboration.
They can provide greater support in emergency care
Emergency and critical care facilities are often under strain during times when there is an influx of patients. Because nurse practitioners have advanced medical training, they would be able to treat patients at low to mid triage levels, allowing doctors to focus on more urgent and life-threatening cases.
They can fill the gap in the shortage of healthcare workers
Globally, the healthcare sector is facing a skills shortage crisis. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there will be a shortage of 18 million healthcare workers by 2030 and an additional 9 million nurses and midwives will be needed to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 3.
Additionally, the Association of American Medical Colleges expects a shortage ranging between 46,900 and 121,900 physicians come 2032.
These stats are alarming and to make matters worse, many healthcare workers quit the profession during the COVID-19 pandemic or are planning to leave soon. Thus, there will be an urgent need for healthcare workers with advanced skills in the future.
Nurses who complete a master’s or doctor’s in nursing practice program today can step into this vacuum so that patient care isn’t compromised in the future.
They can open their independent nursing practice
In full-practice states, nurses can operate their independent nursing practice without physician oversight. This offers patients an alternative to seeing a doctor for preventive healthcare, to treat minor health issues, and manage chronic conditions. It also alleviates the caseload for physicians who are stretched to capacity.
Nurse practitioners must meet the following educational and licensure requirements:
- Have completed an advanced nursing degree program, such as a doctor of nursing practice program.
- Passed a national certification exam with a recognized certification board, such as the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.
- Have a valid state license.
To continue practicing, most states require that nurses renew their certification every five years and their license every 2 years.
They can specialize
Nurses, just like doctors, have the option to specialize. Nurses who complete an accredited doctor of nursing online program can choose a concentration in pediatrics, adult-gerontology, midwifery, and mental health, to name a few.
Nurses who specialize can act as a second set of eyes to the physician. Their focused training means they could spot changes in a patient’s physical or mental health or catch early symptoms that a doctor may have missed.
They can influence policy
Nurse practitioners who wish to move into leadership roles in healthcare can complete a Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree or a Ph.D.
A DNP is more clinically focused while a Ph.D. is more research-focused. Both will allow a nurse to rise to a more prominent role, one in which they can influence policy, advocate for improvements in patient care, and champion patient safety rights.
They can shape future nurses
Nurse educators are in big demand and are likely to become more sought after to help train a new generation of nurses. Training isn’t limited to clinical practice but also to new technology, techniques, global healthcare trends, and the policy environment.
The healthcare industry is changing and so are patients’ expectations. Nurses will need an understanding of concepts such as health tech, telemedicine, data analytics, artificial intelligence, integrative medicine, and personalized medicine.
A career in nursing no longer needs to follow one linear path. With the right training, there are hundreds of nursing specialties to pursue. Advanced practice registered nurses are at the forefront of serving the patients who require specialized care.