How To Become A Nurse Practitioner After Bsn – How to become a nurse is not as difficult as you might think. Like most nursing professions, it involves additional study beyond that of a nurse, but it is worth the hard work. It’s not easy – but it’s possible!
Some people decide to become a nurse practitioner after they have already been working as a bedside RN for years, but others have that goal from the beginning. I fall into the latter, and I strived to reach my ultimate goal and become a nurse practitioner quickly!
How To Become A Nurse Practitioner After Bsn
This article focuses on the “traditional” approach to becoming a nurse practitioner – this is the path I personally took and the path I know best. If you are interested in unusual ways of NP – I have an article coming soon so be sure to subscribe to my email list to be notified when it drops!
Nurse Practitioner Career Overview
When wondering how to become a nurse, becoming a nurse is a logical first step. This just makes sense. A nurse practitioner is literally an “advanced practice nurse” – meaning there is some form of nursing education first. Yes, there are ways around this, but for most people this will be the first step. An RN license is almost always required for traditional nursing programs.
You can get your BSN or your ADN to get your RN license. In short, BSN is a 4-year degree that offers a bachelor of science in nursing. It is the recommended level of education for a nurse and required for entry into nursing programs (other than direct entry programs).
No matter which RN education path you take, you will be learning how to assess your patients, all about various medical conditions, and your actions as a nurse in their assessment and treatment. You won’t be learning how to diagnose it, but you will be learning the treatments that are often indicated and how to administer those treatments. This may involve administering various medications, assisting with testing, communicating with other health professionals, and more.
You will also be doing clinical work within a hospital setting, learning how to become a bedside nurse. Most programs include 800-1000 hours of formal clinical experience.
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Once you graduate, pass the NCLEX-RN, and become state licensed as an RN – you can finally start working as a bedside RN.
Once you get your RN education and pass your board certification exam (NCLEX-RN), you should now start working as a bedside RN! This is usually very exciting as you can finally take what you have learned and positively impact your patients, grow in your knowledge, and make money!
Believe it or not, whether or not RN experience is necessary before attending a nurse practitioner program can be a hot topic. Many people believe that a certain amount of years of experience is necessary before graduating into a nursing program. Some say 2 years, some say 5, and some just say any amount of experience is helpful.
Gaining work experience as a bedside RN is very important in your development as a future nurse practitioner. Working as a bedside nurse gives you hands-on training every day on the job. The amount of learning in medicine is endless, and I can confidently say that there is no change that I am not learning anything. Working as a nurse will expose you to many common acute and chronic illnesses, and the treatments and therapies involved. In fact – you are in charge and help with them! Through your experience, you will improve your assessment skills, as well as your communication with your patients, and your colleagues within the hospital or clinic where you work. The first work experience will give you a deep understanding of the health care system and “how it all works”. This will be very important in your pursuit of becoming a nurse practitioner.
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Many nursing programs do not have a minimum required RN experience – at least with family or adult NP expertise. Some subspecialties such as Acute Care, Pediatrics, Psychiatry, and Infant Programs will require specific nursing experience in an appropriate clinical setting. This is often 1-2 years. Many program admission sites will “recommend” but not require experience, so a lack of experience can negatively affect your admission.
So yes, you can absolutely become an NP without any bedside RN experience. But I believe this will negatively affect your clinical ability as a new Nurse when you graduate. However, I don’t believe the RN’s bedside experience is as important as some people think. The nurse practitioner must think as a provider, using history taking, physical assessment, and medicine based on evidence. As a nurse you will learn a lot – but you will not learn how to think like a provider.
My personal recommendation is to work as a bedside RN for 1-5 years before starting an NP program and work through your entire program if possible. The number of years of RN experience a person needs to help them become a head nurse will vary from person to person. I only had 1 year of Full Time RN experience before I started my NP program. However, I worked part-time for most of the program and by the time I started my first nursing job – I had about 4 years of full-time RN experience, most of which was in the ER.
Are there those who will succeed in nursing school and become a new nurse without any RN experience? Maybe. But I think not getting any RN experience at the bedside would make your future patients poor, and you’d miss out on hands-on learning.
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When you’re ready to begin your NP education, you can apply and get into the nursing program of your choice. Unlike PA programs that train generalists, NP programs are population specific. This means that you must apply for a specific specialty of the patient population. This helps your education focus on the patients you will be seeing in your future NP career. Nursing specialties include:
The differences between each specialty is a separate article entirely, but which one you choose will depend on which clinical setting you plan to practice in for a day. If you want to work with adults in a hospital setting – get your AGACNP. If you want to work in a primary care office – get your FNP or AGACNP depending on the age you want to see. Understand that some specialists may be somewhat flexible, and many facilities will employ FNPs or AGPCNPs for inpatient and outpatient roles, as well as within the ED.
The length of time a nursing program will take will depend on which degree you choose to earn. There is a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree, as well as a newer Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) option. MSN programs will take approximately 2-3 years to complete, and DNP programs will take 3-4 years. To work in a clinical setting currently, there is not much difference in terms of clinical education, job role or salary at this time – although that may change in the future.
The courses you take will depend on the major you have chosen. All NP programs will include several core classes such as advanced pathophysiology, advanced pharmacology, and advanced health assessment. Then depending on your expertise, you will have different classes specific to each population that describe the various medical conditions and diseases that will exist in that population, as well as the evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of each.
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Just like as an RN, you will also gain clinical experience during your NP program. The number depends on the program, but most NP programs will require 600-800 hours. Again, this ended up being about 16 hours a week for me. A common misunderstanding is that NP students only observe clinical time – however, this could not be further from the truth.
During the clinic, it is expected that you see the patient alone, take a complete history, perform your physical assessment, and then present the patient to your receptionist (NP or general practitioner). You will recommend a care plan, and you and your supervisor will create a plan together. This is important in connecting the dots and preparing you to become a nurse practitioner.
Many programs will offer full-time and part-time tracks that you can use to fit your lifestyle. Nursing programs can be intense and many people cannot work full-time and complete a full-time NP program at the same time. I myself attended a 24-month part-time program that helped me work through most of my program, while still supporting myself financially.
As mentioned above, staying active also helps in your learning. You can experience everything you learn about in your NP education. You may not be creating a care plan, but this section was important in my development as a new NP graduate.
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Once you graduate from your NP program, you are eligible for national certification as a nurse practitioner. To be verified,
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