Seven Tips for Succeeding in Online Nursing School in 2021

RN to NP: Should You Become a Nurse Practitioner After Nursing School?

So here you are, with those shiny letters “RN, BSN” at the end of your name. You made it up that beast of a mountain. But wait! You see another, higher mountain to climb in the distance: the nurse practitioner mountain. Is this where you want to summit?

We Want You For Nurse Practitioner School!

It makes sense if you were on track to be a nurse practitioner when you started your BSN, and you are ready for the next step (which should include Picmonic for Nurse Practitioners, just sayin’).

So, what about the rest of us? The dreamers, previously diploma nurses, raised my kids before starting my life, and already-had-three-careers types? Should you be a nurse practitioner? Well, you have a BSN now, you are a Registered Nurse, and therefore you are primed to join the projected 355,000 NPs currently in the U.S. workforce. The truth is there might be some reasons not to at this time, but there are also plenty of reasons to become a nurse practitioner.

Related Content: Nurse Practitioner Specialties & Your Path to Advanced Practice Nursing

Honestly, there is some FOMO (fear of missing out) in the nursing world of the RN when you take the step toward your advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) license, including nurse practitioners, certified registered nurse anesthetists, clinical nurse specialists, and nurse midwives. There are times when I look back on my journey and long for the times working alongside my fellow RNs in the emergency room as we do the trauma shuffle. It’s true I can go back there as a nurse practitioner, but will it ever be the same?

Nostalgia aside, I will focus on some heavy reasons to enroll in an NP program:

  1. Nurse practitioners meet a higher scope of practice. NPs diagnose (nursing and medical), prescribe medication, supervise, interpret diagnostic information, consult, refer, counsel, and initiate treatment. These competencies are often only the baseline for a credentialed (e.g. certified in training and experience) NP, and their competencies can grow from there with opportunity and additional training. With this you may ask, is NP school difficult? The answer is: yes and no. You may find NP school hard, but what you learn expands on everything you’ve learned as an RN and getting your BSN. It’s meant to challenge you, and it’s rewarding to invest in yourself and your career.
  2. NP Job Outlook. The employment of NPs is expected to grow by 28%, or about 53,300 jobs for NPs from 2018 to 2028. Currently, there are on average 300,000 nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and nurse anesthetists positions open. 
  3. Pay (duh). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for nurse practitioners in 2021 was $120,680. The median annual wage for a registered nurse in 2021 was $77,600 annually.
  4. The U.S. News and World Report’s “100 Best Jobs of 2022” lists nurse practitioners as the #2 spot, behind an information security analyst, and before a physician’s assistant. The reason for such a high ranking is the expected future growth of the field, current and future job market projections, and a strong median salary. On the downside, stress is also associated with being a nurse practitioner, but that’s true of any area of nursing. Nursing school will do its best to replicate this working environment, and nurses are born with a lasso in hand to break that stress-bucking-bronco! Seriously.

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The Basics of Going to Nurse Practitioner School in 2023

For those ready to take the leap, what’s next for NP schooling?

1. Trails to your Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

First, to attend nurse practitioner school, you need to be a registered nurse (RN). Not an RN yet? Check out our nursing mnemonics and let us help you on your path to get there.

Entry-Level Program or Accelerated Program for MSN options are available. If you’ve got undergraduate or graduate credit and/or a respective degree, but are not yet an RN, these programs are built for you. They are designed around your previous experiences in college and/or employment. The focus of such programs is obtaining an MSN, but you meet the requirements to obtain your BSN in the process.  This option is versatile but academically difficult and rigorous.  

I’ll give you an example of what versatility means and how it works. Meet Cindy the Business Logistics Manager who currently holds a Bachelor’s in Business Administration. She wants to become an NP, so she enrolls in her local community college and obtains her ADN in a year or less.  She finds an RN-BSN-MSN program, where she meets the requirements with her educational background, applies, and graduates two years later. Other than her newly minted MSN and NP License, what makes Cindy valuable to employers? That’s right, her business background! In this example, Cindy could later use her previous experience to leverage herself into high-paying health system administrative positions where she can further influence how she provides care for large populations of people. This example highlights the excellent opportunity for diversity within the nursing profession. Many of us were not originally looking to be nurses – yet, here we are! 

RNs with a BSN. This is the classic, straightforward, well-worn trail and it is worth your consideration.

Dual Master’s Degree. For all of you who recently bought the latest time turner, here is a program for you. This trail can lead to fantastic combinations of graduate programs, and segues to degrees such as MSN and Master’s in Business Administration (MBA), MSN and Master’s in Public Health (MPH), or MSN and Master’s in Healthcare Administration (MPH).

2. Trails that lead to your Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP)

Nurse practitioners prepared at the highest degree, DNPs improve patient outcomes and expedite the translation of evidence into clinical practice. Many NPs are content to obtain their MSN and enjoy a fulfilling career at this educational level. Others opt to keep going. So, why go further?  Well, to hit this trail, you’ll need some supplies. 

Related Content: Top Resources for Nurse Practitioners

We’re also going to give you our Top 4 Reasons to Climb Mount DNP:

  1. A survey in 2017 reported a general salary difference between DNPs and MSNs of $7,000 annually. 
  2. Nursing science is constantly evolving, evidence is growing, and APRNs need further education and time in preparation for a career.  As previously stated, NPs at the DNP level translate evidence into practice, and this requires a strong academic foundation around planning and implementing at the health system level. Nurses with practice doctorates understand how to navigate and synthesize teams and ideas into quality improvement initiatives.
  3. Teach future NPs, APRNs, and other nursing professionals. DNP nurses can serve as faculty in academia. Further, the AACN, the National Academies of Medicine and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation called for a rapid increase in doctoral prepared nurses to meet our nation’s demand for nursing faculty, researchers, and leaders.
  4. The future is uncertain. As the nursing community, we don’t know how the future of advanced practice nursing will unfold. The iconic  2004 Position Statement on the Practice Doctorate in Nursing planned for a future of advanced nursing practice at the doctoral level, yet the 2015 benchmark came and went.  We are doing the best we can at the levels of education for where we’ve been prepared, patching holes in our tried and true healthcare system. The reason to pursue a DNP (or PhD) is deeply personal and nuanced for all nursing professionals. Talk to others who’ve been there, glean information from your current position and reflect on how you’d like to practice.

More than two-thirds of nursing schools with APRN programs offer, or are planning to offer, a post-baccalaureate DNP program, and many have a post-master’s DNP program. 

Phew…lots of information, right? The takeaway here is that you should do your research and find a program that is right for you. And, your life will be a whole lot easier if you refresh your knowledge of previous content. Check out Picmonic for nurse practitioners to stress less, remember longer, and ace your exams!

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

What is a nurse practitioner (NP)?

A nurse practitioner is an advanced practice registered nurse. Nurse practitioners have master’s or doctorate degrees in nursing. They go through residency, state licensure, board certification, peer review, clinical outcome evaluations, and adhere to ethical practices. According to the AANP, NPs can order, perform, and interpret diagnostic tests, diagnose and treat acute conditions, prescribe medications and other treatments, manage patients’ overall care, and educate patient’s on disease prevention, and more.

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.

How do I switch from RN to NP?

To make the switch from RN to NP, apply to a MSN program. Be sure to have one to two years of work experience as RN under your belt to be a great candidate.

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 can an NP do that an RN cant?

An NP has relatively similar duties to an RN. However, NPs prescribe treatments, diagnose patients, and order tests, all tasks that RNs leave for a physician to perform. Nurse practitioners have more knowledge under their belt to have the authority to perform these as they cover more complex and in-depth topics when attending NP school, prepping for whatever may come their way. And with more responsibility as an NP, studying effectively is a must.

However, in certain states, NPs can be limited to the prescriptive authority they have. A total of 28 states reduce or restrict prescriptive authority for NPs. In reduced states, they can diagnose and treat patients but will need a physician to oversee prescribed medications. In restricted states, a physician must oversee the diagnosis, treatment, and prescriptions of a patient.

Can you go straight from RN to NP?

To transition from an RN to NP, NP programs typically require 1-2 years of RN practice. Some schools may not have this requirement, but it is vital to apply your knowledge to real-world situations.

If you’re juggling work full-time, there are plenty of available NP programs online. You can pursue part-time enrollment in a program of your choice, but you may want to find a school offering specializations you’re interested in pursuing. For example, you can specialize in family medicine to become an FNP. After completion of your program, you’ll have to pass a board certification exam in your chosen field of practice. Other options include adult-gerontology nurse practitioner (AGNP), neonatal nurse practitioner (NNP), pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP), psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner (PMNHP), and women’s health nurse practitioner (WHNP).

Do you need a BSN to be a nurse practitioner?

Nope! You can have a bachelor’s degree in a different discipline and enroll in a Direct Entry Nursing Program to pursue a career as a registered nurse (RN) or advanced practice nurse (APRN). Advanced practice nurses are nurses who have earned their master’s degrees, like nurse practitioners.

What are RN to NP programs?

RN to NP programs are for registered nurses to obtain their master’s in nursing to become future nurse practitioners!

What different ways can you enter an NP program?

We listed the different detailed pathways above, but if you missed it, here’s all of it summed up.

  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.

Upon completion of your graduate program, you have to pass a national board of certification exam. Study up with Picmonic, and learn more about how to plan your NP experience with this NP resource.

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