There are many specializations within the healthcare sector that are crucial to its effectiveness in terms of patient care. This is seen clearly within nursing, where there are lots of specific jobs you could move into once trained.
One of the most important higher-level roles is nurse practitioner, and this is a position that is becoming ever more vital to the health sector’s ability to care for people. This is especially true when you think about how nurse practitioners can help plug the gap in direct care which is being seen via shortages in other key roles such as physicians.
A nurse practitioner’s status and positive job outlook makes it an attractive career for people who work within the sector to follow. In addition to this, the multiple areas these senior nursing employees can work in is a major draw. But what is a nurse practitioner, what areas could you work in as one and what benefits does each area offer?
What is a nurse practitioner?
A nurse practitioner is a licensed healthcare professional who provides direct primary care for patients, prevents illness, and addresses any concerns patients have with their health. Their list of tasks includes things such as meeting with patients to discuss any health issues, performing physical examinations, ordering and reviewing tests, prescribing medication, updating medical files and paperwork, and creating treatment plans.
How do you become a nurse practitioner?
To become a nurse practitioner, you must first qualify as a registered nurse and then undertake further training to gain the higher-level awards this job calls for. If you plan to move into this position, it is wise to think about the specific area you might wish to operate in once qualified. Choosing a specialization is important, but how can nurses know which area of specialization is right?
One thing that can help nurses choose is by undertaking an NP clinical placement. Clinical placements can give nurses in training experience in a variety of different areas, which can help them decide which areas are most suitable for their skill sets and preferences. For example, the online master of science in nursing – family nurse practitioner program offered by Texas Woman’s University not only delivers world-class academic education but also contains three separate direct care clinical placements students can complete. This way, students can learn from practical and theoretical experiences, ensuring they are prepared for every medical situation when practicing as a nurse practitioner.
Clinical placements help students to focus on real-world scenarios
You may wonder why placements are such a help when trying to decide which area to focus on as a qualified nursing practitioner. The simple answer is that they give nurses first-hand experience of what working in a certain area is like. This enables them to get a proper feel for what working in a specific area covers and whether they will enjoy it.
On programs with multiple placement opportunities, nurses can try out several different areas and get a real understanding of which one seems most suitable for them. Clinical placements also allow nurses to see the benefits which working in each area brings and will help them to select one which seems to have the most advantages.
The different areas a nurse practitioner can work in, and the benefits of each
As we have already noted, nurse practitioners have a wide choice of areas they could potentially work in and each will have its own distinct benefits to mull over. The key to forging a happy, successful career once qualified is settling on one that best suits you.
While clinical placements are a great help in this process, it is also worth knowing a bit about the various areas and what specific advantages each has in advance. This can help nurses start to get a feel for which one they might like to work in and help them when deciding on which areas to build up their placement hours in. So, what are the main areas nurse practitioners can work in and what benefits does each have?
One area which is very popular within this advanced nursing role is family practice. This area involves providing direct general primary care to patients of all ages/families within a local community. The most popular job in this area is family nurse practitioner and this role can involve tasks such as updating records, monitoring patients’ health, developing treatment plans, and other common primary care duties.
But what major benefits does this niche offer that is so appealing? To begin with, the average pay for family nurse practitioners in 2023 is around $100,000 and this shows that family practice is a financially attractive NP area to target. Professionals working in roles such as family nurse practitioners are also in great demand due to the aging population and shortage of medical professionals in other related healthcare positions.
In some states, family practitioners are also able to work independently and even set up their own private medical practice. This makes it an attractive area within the profession for people who value this type of freedom and who wish to flex their leadership skills.
Although jobs in this area are always busy, it can often be less frantic than working as a nurse practitioner in settings such as an emergency room. This means it is ideal if you like the idea of providing direct patient care but in a less hectic atmosphere. Working in this area also enables you to really get to know your patients over time and provide healthcare to entire families. This can stretch over many generations and enable you to build a close bond with families in your community.
Another popular area for both clinical placement experience and future career choices is pediatrics. As you would expect, this area involves providing effective healthcare to babies, toddlers, older children, and teenagers.
It can also involve working with families to help educate them on their child’s condition and how best to manage it. The most common role in this area to move into is pediatric nurse practitioner but it can open up other positions such as school nurse practitioner.
But what benefits does working in this area offer to nursing professionals? The most obvious is that it gives them the chance to work with children, if this is what they enjoy doing. Helping children to overcome/manage their health issues can be very rewarding—as is supporting families and helping ease their burden.
Nurse practitioners who focus on this area can also work across a wide range of settings, from public health centers to acute care and private practice, and this means it is a niche that comes with great flexibility. If you choose to work in schools to care for children, you get the added bonus of regular hours and school holidays to enjoy!
Professionals in this area are also in demand all over the country and this means you are able to work in different states if you want to see more of the world. Furthermore, clinical placements in this area are often easy to find.
When you see that 1 in 5 US adults live with mental illness, the importance of psychiatric nursing becomes clear. Working in psychiatry as a nurse practitioner involves caring for patients who are struggling with mental health issues, conditions, and disorders. The most common role in this area is psychiatric nurse practitioner, and this role sees nurses deliver behavioral therapy or counseling to their patients. In addition, nurses are usually able to prescribe medication to help patients cope with conditions such as depression.
Being active in this area as a trained NP comes with several advantages. As noted above, many adults in the US suffer from mental health issues now and this means there is an urgent need for professionals to help care for them. This is also a varied nurse practitioner area to work in and sees no two days ever being quite the same. It also provides the chance to make a direct, positive impact on patients’ lives in their times of need. As a result, psychiatry can be a very satisfying and rewarding area to work in.
Another key area that nurse practitioners can focus on for both clinical placement opportunities and future career aspirations is neonatal. Working in this niche involves providing specialist care to high-risk infants, post-birth. Neonatal nurses are tasked with nursing these infants back to health, so they can rejoin their families as soon as safely possible. This can commonly involve helping infants with heart problems, spinal issues, infections, and other conditions.
The most common role in this area is neonatal nurse practitioner, and this role comes with many benefits. It is a great choice for nurses that enjoy working as part of a team, as NNPs often collaborate with a range of colleagues in their facility. This area is also great if you like working with seriously ill younger infants and nursing them back to health. Nurse practitioners in this role are also usually well-paid and hold a respected position in society.
This area within medicine is concerned with providing specialized care to women. Its main focus is to help them deal with certain gender-specific health issues. Nurse practitioners who focus their efforts here can deliver gynecological help, advice on sexual health, and diagnosis and treatment of reproductive system problems. This makes the role of a women’s health nurse practitioner not only a very important one but also one that brings great fulfillment.
Although this area is open for male and female nurse practitioners to move into, it can often be one that female NPs enjoy particularly as they are encountering patients and problems that are more familiar to them. As it focuses on health issues specific to their gender, female nurse practitioners can use their innate understanding of women’s health to deliver top-class support.
This area is also another one that allows nurse practitioners to make a positive impact on people’s lives and make a difference in the world. WHNPs can also work across a variety of healthcare settings and this means it is a position that offers excellent flexibility.
One area which you may not think of as an option for NPs is anesthesia. However, this is a niche within nursing that is extremely important. As the ability to safely administer anesthesia to patients’ pre-surgery is needed in every hospital on a daily basis, nurse anesthetist practitioners are in high demand. In the US, projected job growth of 26% for nurse anesthetists by 2028
But what other advantages does working in this area offer? With a high average salary of around $170,000, it is one of the most well-paid niches within nursing. The responsibility this role comes with can also be a draw for many who enjoy working with this kind of pressure and at such a senior level.
As this is an area within nursing that is always evolving, keeping up with the developments around anesthesia is also interesting. Nurse practitioners in this role usually work as part of a close surgical team and this means it is perfect if you like forging close bonds with colleagues over time.
Although lots of nurse practitioners will eventually follow career paths in primary care or specific clinical nursing niches, some will broaden their horizons to other areas in which their skills can prove useful. One good example of this is working in the field of research.
Although picking up placements in this area could be tricky if not classed as counting towards clinical hours on your course, you can still look for them outside of your education to gain additional research experience for future reference.
But what would working in this area look like and what benefits could it come with? Using your nurse practitioner knowledge in research could see you conducting studies to help advance nursing practice. It may also see you writing research papers to pass on knowledge to the nursing profession or help refine the processes used for patient care.
This makes it a top area to consider if you want to leave a real legacy behind in terms of the nursing sector and make your own unique mark on it. This area would not usually involve front-line nursing work and this is appealing for some NPs. When you also factor in the regular office hours, decent annual leave, and good rates of pay, its attraction is clear.
Another interesting area nurse practitioners could choose to work in is pharmaceuticals. As with research, it should be possible to pick up placements with pharmaceutical firms that develop the latest medications and vaccinations.
As you may imagine, this NP niche involves working for a pharmaceutical company to help develop and refine new medications to help manage and treat specific conditions. This enables you to have a direct impact on people’s health and bring new hope to people suffering from previously untreatable illnesses.
If you enjoy lab work, then roles in this area should be suitable and usually involve plenty of time in pharmaceutical laboratories. This is also a very interesting area to work in and one that provides plenty of stimulation and variety.
It is also one that can see you take up jobs around the world and travel as part of your work. This is not only great in a professional sense but is also worth considering if you have always dreamed of the top locations in Canada to explore or had a hankering for seeing what Rome, Paris, or Madrid have to offer.
As the above shows, trained nurse practitioners have numerous unique, interesting, and rewarding areas to move into once qualified. The key to having a happy and successful career is knowing which area is best to focus on based on a person’s unique skill set and interests. Focusing on a suitable niche will lead to a satisfying and rewarding career in nursing.