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How to go from RN to Nurse Practitioner 

Ever thought of taking your nursing career to the next level? Becoming a registered nurse (RN) is hard and fulfilling work, but if you’re craving more responsibility, autonomy, and independence when providing patient care, then becoming a nurse practitioner (NP) might be the next step for you!

In addition to professional growth, being an NP has many benefits. While it is quite a journey, it’s nothing you haven’t overcome before. Buckle up! Here’s how to become an NP.

The difference between RN and NP

two nurses

RNs provide patient care, administer medications, coordinate treatment plans, and educate patients and their families. They’re instrumental members of the healthcare team! NPs, on the other hand, have more advanced education and training that enables them to take on a larger scope of practice. In some states, NPs even have full practice authority. 

NPs are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). APRNs are nurses with post-graduate nursing education and training at the master’s or doctorate level. NPs have the authority to diagnose and treat illnesses, prescribe medications (in some states), order diagnostic tests, and provide primary and specialty care to patients. Unlike RNs, NPs can work solo or collaborate with physicians depending on the state.

Benefits of becoming a NP

Becoming an NP offers both personal and professional benefits! While being an RN is worthwhile, those who want to take their nursing career to the next level can take advantage of the benefits below. 

  1. Expanded scope of practice: NPs have much more authority than RNs! As an NP, you can diagnose, treat, and manage care for patients. Even if states require physician supervision, it’s more of a collaborative experience than if you were an RN.
  2. Greater independence: NPs have more autonomy in clinical decision-making and patient management than RNs, allowing for increased independence in practice. This allows you to be a leader in any healthcare setting. As the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility. 
  3. More knowledge, more growth: Becoming an NP requires a master’s or doctorate which allows you to grow professionally and personally!
  4. Career advancement: NP is a great nursing career advancement. In some states, you can even have your own practice. You can also specialize in areas such as family practice, pediatrics, women’s health, psychiatry, hospice care, anesthesiology, and more. 
  5. Increased pay: NPs earn a higher salary and have a great job outlook. If you’re making the transition from an RN to a nurse practitioner, you’ll receive a pay bump in addition to all the benefits above.

Pathway to becoming a Nurse Practitioner 

Now you know the why, but let’s talk about how to become an NP. Navigating the pathway from novice to RN to nurse practitioner isn’t as complicated as one may believe. Here’s what the journey looks like from start to finish. 

  1. Earn a bachelor’s degree: Start with your bachelor’s degree in nursing. It’s required for your degree to be in nursing to apply to an NP program. If you currently hold a bachelor’s degree in another field, you can apply for an accelerated BSN program. 
  2. Pass the NCLEX: Next, you’ll need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) and receive your state licensure to practice. To pass on your first attempt, use all the study tips, tricks, and resources at your disposal. For example, Picmonic is a visual learning platform that helps nursing students excel in nursing school and study for exams like the NCLEX! You can even use it during your NP schooling, which we’ll get to later.
  3. Gain experience as an RN: Before you enroll in an NP program, you must gain proper and robust experience as an RN. Work in a healthcare setting that allows you to develop and refine your skills, clinical judgment, and other abilities. 
  4. Get in your NP program: Once you have enough experience under your belt and feel ready, get in your NP program! You can obtain a master’s or doctoral degree—that’s up to you. If you have a field you’d like to be an expert in, now’s the time to choose your specialty. Specialties include family practice, acute care, neonatal, psychiatric-mental health, women’s health, and more. When you select a specialty, you’ll focus your clinical practice and expertise on specific patient populations or health conditions. 
  5. Graduate: NP schooling is a journey in and of itself! Use these resources for NPs and Picmonic’s 1,000+ mnemonic videos and quizzes to help you learn, memorize, and maximize recall on all things NP.
  6. Pass your certification exam and get licensed: Once you graduate, you have to pass a national certification exam in your chosen specialty area. Don’t forget to use Picmonic to help you study for this big exam—it’s a must-have. Some states don’t require this exam if you’ve completed a state board-approved program. Nonetheless, you can finally apply for state licensure and be the NP you’ve always wanted to be. Future NP, you’re the MVP!

That’s it! If you have more questions about the process, we have answers. Click here for more.

FAQs: What You Need to Know to Make the Switch from RN to NP

What are the benefits of becoming an NP?

Becoming an NP is rewarding financially and personally. It can open doors to nursing leadership roles and provide you with a steady income. It’s up to decide how you want to invest in your future, so if the aforementioned is beneficial to you, go for it.

How long does it take to go from RN to NP?

RN-to-NP programs are a minimum of two years long. Although, attending part-time will result in completing your program later than expected. On the other hand, bridge programs can take three to four years to complete since it includes the BSN curriculum. Most bridge programs are taken by nursing students who only have their associate’s degree in nursing (ADN).

What is the fastest way to become a nurse practitioner?

The fastest track to becoming an NP is to obtain your two-year ADN, work as RN for one to two years, then enter a bridge program. Be prepared to study full-time, though. Apps for nurse practitioner students can be hard to find, so consider Picmonic to help you study.

Is NP harder than RN?

NPs have additional responsibilities that RNs don’t have, so you can expect NP school to be a higher level of difficulty than RN school. But, don’t let that scare you off! NP school is meant to challenge you and prepare you for specialized care, giving you the skills to be a great NP and treat patients with the utmost delicacy. It will be tough, but with these tips, you can take on NP school like a pro.

What different ways can you enter an NP program?

  1. Obtain your BSN, become an RN, and apply to an NP program.
  2. Obtain your BS or BA, apply to Direct Entry Nursing Program, and become an RN to NP.
  3. Obtain an ADN, become an RN via an RN-BSN program, then apply to an NP program.

Whether you’re at the start of your journey or almost at the finish line, count on Picmonic to be there for all your study needs as a nursing student.

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