Friday, December 11, 2020

What Is a Substance Abuse Nurse?

What Is a Substance Abuse Nurse?

Advanced Nursing 2021

A substance abuse nurse, sometimes referred to as an addiction nurse, specializes in the treatment of patients addicted to drugs, alcohol or other substances. Substance abuse nurses are trained in mental health in addition to general medicine. They provide pain management, education for patients and caregivers about the dangers of substance abuse and emotional support to patients in crisis.

Becoming a Substance Abuse Nurse

As with other nursing careers, the first step in becoming a substance abuse nurse is to complete an Associate's Degree in Nursing or Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree to gain a general nursing education. For aspiring addiction nurses, elective courses in mental health will be particularly important. Once a nurse has completed schooling, they must pass the NCLEX-RN exam. From there, an RN may begin work as a substance abuse nurse. Once a nurse has completed 2,000 hours of professional nursing experience in the substance abuse sector and 30 hours of continuing education related to addictions nursing within the last three years, he or she may sit for the Certified Addictions Registered Nurse (CARN) certification exam offered by the International Nurses Society on Addictions. While not required for all substance abuse nursing positions, the CARN certification communicates a nurse's commitment to substance abuse nursing to prospective employers.

A typical job posting for a substance abuse nurse position would likely include the following qualifications, among others specific to the type of employer and location:

  • ADN or BSN degree and valid RN license
  • Ability to make safe judgment calls in patient care
  • Strong communication skills for educating patients and their families about the dangers of substance abuse and their treatment options
  • Proficiency in computer programs and data entry for maintaining patient records
  • Experience in mental health and/or addiction preferred
  • Caring and professional demeanor with compassion for patients struggling with addiction

What Are the Education Requirements for Substance Abuse Nurses?

Substance abuse nurses are generally required to have completed an ADN or BSN degree and to hold a valid RN license in the state in which they plan to practice. A higher nursing degree is usually not required, but elective courses in mental health and addiction are critical for nurses interested in pursuing a career in substance abuse nursing.

Are Any Certifications or Credentials Needed?

While not required for most substance abuse nursing positions, RNs who wish to specialize in addiction nursing may consider becoming a Certified Addiction Registered Nurse. The International Nurses Society on Addictions sponsors this exam, which is open to RNs who have completed 2,000 hours of professional experience in substance abuse nursing and 30 hours of continuing education related to addictions nursing within the last three years. This certification offers RNs a competitive edge when seeking employment or advancement as a substance abuse nurse.

Where Do Substance Abuse Nurses Work?

Substance abuse nurses work with patients and their families in a variety of settings, including:

  1. Mental health clinics
  2. Psychiatric wards in hospitals
  3. Inpatient or outpatient substance abuse treatment facilities

What Does a Substance Abuse Nurse Do?

A substance abuse nurse provides direct patient care to individuals struggling with substance abuse and addiction. They assist physicians in developing treatment plans, perform patient assessments, monitor a patient's progress and administer medications and pain management services. An important aspect of substance abuse nursing is mental health and emotional support services. Substance abuse nurses often conduct mental health screenings and provide emotional support for patients and their families during treatment. They also educate patients and their loved ones about the dangers of substance abuse and provide resources and information about the various treatment options for addiction. 

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Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Things Nursing Students Can Do Right Now to Prepare for NP School

Things Nursing Students Can Do Right Now to Prepare for NP School

Advanced Nursing 2021

So. You think you want to be a nurse practitioner? You’ve just started your nursing career journey, and you just discovered the role of the NP, and it’s piqued your interest. Maybe it’s a career for you? You want to learn more about this new role, but where do you start?

Instead of waiting until you start practicing as a nurse, what about taking steps now to figure out if the NP role is for you?

Here are 15 things nursing students can do right now to prepare for NP school:


  • Membership to organizations including the AANP
  • Reach out to online NPs – FreshNP!
  • Reach out to NP students

While in school

  • Introduce yourself to NPs
  • Ask the RN and the NP questions
  • Engage in learning
  • Observe and volunteer every day
  • Job shadow multiple NPs

Once you graduate

  • Continue relationship with mentors and NPs
  • Create new relationships with mentors and NPs
  • Research NP programs and contact them directly
  • Gain experience that will help you
  • Attend a nursing conference – NTI
  • Visit NP program campus (if possible)
  • Make an informed decision before applying


Membership to organizations including the AANP

This is the best place to start. You can learn about the role, including the history of the nurse practitioner role in healthcare. You can start creating professional connections with other like-minded students. I would encourage you to gain membership in as many organizations you can afford (we all know finances are tight for students).

Reach out to online NPs – FreshNP!

I mean c’mon, you know I had to mention this. You ARE reading a blog post online, so follow through and seek out as many nurse practitioners you can find online (there are many). The least of which is following me, The Fresh NP, and all of our online resources- including our Podcast!

Reach out to NP students.

Both in person and online. Who better to explain what you’d be in for than the nurses who are walking in those shoes? If you have the chance, follow them during a clinical day. See all the things you’d be experiencing, including talking to them about how difficulty nurse practitioner school really is.

While in school

Introduce yourself to NPs

Break the ice and approach every nurse practitioner (NP) you find. Establish a rapport with all of the NPs who work in your facility. Make sure they know your name and know your interests. This will lay the groundwork for networking connections later in your NP school journey (we’ll explain that one later).

Ask the RN and the NP questions

Go right to the source. Approach any and every nurse practitioner (NP) you find. It doesn’t matter where they work, what setting or how long they’ve been in the role. Talk to them. Get some insight. Ask them how they decided to become an NP. And of course, ask for any tips or advice they have for a pre-NP student. Then when you’ve exhausted those efforts, burn the ear off of the nurses who interact with the NP. Learn things.

Engage in learning

Everywhere. I mean everywhere. There are free learning opportunities available online, at your clinical site, and in school. While I know you are overwhelmed with nursing school, pay attention to other learning opportunities that may shed some light on the NP role. I mean, maybe there’s a CEU activity offered, and a nurse practitioner is teaching it?

Observe and volunteer every day

I preach this to all my students both in person and online. Volunteer for everything. Get your hands dirty and become a master as anything and everything that crosses your path. Become resourceful and skilled so that when the opportunity arises, you can assist and work side by side with a nurse practitioner in a prepared and confident manner.

Job shadow multiple NPs

Walk in their shoes for a shift. Walk in all of their shoes. Soak up the different approaches, the different jobs, the different levels of experience, the different clinical responsibilities and of course the different views each nurse practitioner has about the profession itself. Take in the good and the bad to make an informed decision about your career aspirations.

Once you graduate

Continue relationship with mentors and NPs

Almost all nurses learn and start creating their professional portfolio during entry-level nursing school. It is a collection of all your experiences as a healthcare professional. Part of this collection is developing your reference list. If you have intentions of pursuing an advanced degree as a nurse practitioner (NP), having nurse mentors and practicing NPs on this list will help you get noticed and potentially increase your chances of placement when the time comes to apply for school or that next job.

Create new relationships with mentors and NPs

This parlays off the previous suggestion. Now you need to expand your professional networking by creating new relationships. This helps solidify your reputation because an outdated or old reference list screams laziness and stagnation.

Research NP programs and contact them directly

Be intentional with your choices. Don’t just enroll in a school because that’s where everyone else is going, or you heard “that’s a good school.” Do your research, talk with their curriculum director and any other faculty that is available. If possible, talk with current or former students to get a firm understanding of what the program offers and what to expect.

Gain experience that will help you

Don’t just coast through your career while waiting to enroll and graduate from nurse practitioner school. Seek out learning opportunities both formal and informal that will augment your career growth. Acquire certifications, enroll in leadership roles, volunteer to precept students and teach others every chance you get.

Attend a nursing conference

Networking is the cornerstone of professional growth. Attend a nursing conference no matter how small or large. Gain continuing education, while establishing new relationships with other nurses AND nurse practitioners. You never know when you may need to reach out, no one can predict their career future.

Visit an NP program campus (if possible)

If you have the ability or opportunity, make a physical visit to a nurse practitioner school. Talk with other students. Talk with faculty. Tour the campus and take in all aspects of the student life. You may discover something about the campus or program that convinces you of a decision you were unsure to make.

Make an informed decision before applying

After you’ve followed through with all the previously mentioned suggestions, you can confidently make an informed decision based on effort, research, and self-discovery. Weigh the pros and cons of each and formulate an honest plan.

Choosing and enrolling in nurse practitioner school is a monumental life event. You owe it to yourself to not take it lightly. 

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Monday, December 7, 2020

Code Blue in the Hospital: What to Do as a Nurse

Code Blue in the Hospital: What to Do as a Nurse

Advanced Nursing 2021

A code blue is called when a patient experiences unexpected cardiac or respiratory arrest that requires resuscitation and activation of a hospital-wide alert.

These cardiac or respiratory arrests are handled by the “code team” of the hospital. However, if a nurse is nearby, he or she will have to step in and begin immediately until the code team arrives.

There is Code Blue training for nurses so they can learn how to properly and quickly respond to these codes. If you haven’t taken one of these pieces of training, look for one near you.

When to Call Code Blue

The decision to call a code blue will happen in a matter of seconds, so you have to think fast. You will know to call a code blue when the patient isn’t pumping the oxygenated blood they need to survive due to cardiac or respiratory arrest. In other words, if their heart stops pumping or they stop breathing.

Before you call a code, make sure and do a quick assessment. Look for a pulse and signs of breathing. If either of these isn’t happening, that’s when you call a code blue.

When you call a code blue, the code team will respond. Keep attempting to resuscitate the patient until they arrive.

Role of Responders During a Code Blue

When someone calls a code blue, the following people will respond and begin the process of trying to revive the patient.

Here is what the first responders to a code blue will do:

  1.   Call for help.
  2.   Drop the head of the bead and remove the pillows so the patient is flat on the bed.
  3.   Check the carotid pulse.
  4.   Begin chest compressions.
  5.   Bring the e-cart and other emergency equipment to the site.
  6.   Put the backboard under the patient.
  7.   Clear and manage the patient’s airway with an ambu bag or a pocket mask with a one-way valve.
  8.  Turn on the AED/defibrillator and use it for pulseless patients.
  9.   Verify that IV fluids and emergency medications are ready.
  10.    Document everything.

Always check with your hospital and make sure you know their exact code blue procedures in case they are different from what is listed in this article.

Your hospital might have different members on the code team. More often than not, these are the people that make up the code team.

What to Do as a Nurse During a Code Blue

Now that you know what a Code Blue is and who is going to respond let’s look at what you should do as a nurse during a code blue.

The most important thing of all is to stay calm and think quick. Mistakes could be costly, so take a deep breath and make sure you are doing the right things.

1. Practice First

Seek out opportunities to walk through mock code blues. Every chance you have to practice will make it so that your body and mind know what to do even when you are under the stress of the real thing.

2. Help Out During Code Blue

The best way to learn is to help out during a code. Keep in mind that if you have no idea what to do, it might be best to stay out of the way. But if you went through training and you know the procedures, begin helping. It will give you priceless hands-on experience.

3. Let the Doctor Be in Charge

Respect their authority and follow their lead. Your job as a nurse is to support them and the team. This might mean giving chest compressions or running and grabbing essential toils and supplies. When a code is called the doctor might use a defibrillator to shock the heart and make it pump again. There are also medications that they can give.

A code blue is a terrifying experience as a nurse. It’s stressful for experienced nurses and those on the code team, but even more for inexperienced or new nurses. Let’s look at what code blue is and how to respond as a nurse so that you are prepared.

What Not to Do During Code Blue

Just like there are some things you should always do, you need to remember the things to avoid too.

1. Do Not Yell

Keep your voice level and calm. It’s a very tense and stressful situation already, using a loud or excitable voice will only increase the anxiety and noise level of the room.

2. Do Not Guess

If you don’t know what to do, let someone else step in. This is not the time to make a guess and hope it is right.

3. Don’t Leave When the Team Arrives

Just because the code team is in the room doesn’t mean you get to leave. This is your patient and you were the last medical professional with them. They might have questions for you or need your help. Stay in the room.

4. Don’t Switch Roles

Communication is extra important during this critical time. If you are completing a task or in charge of a part of the process, don’t switch unless you communicate clearly and have someone take over for you.

Code Blue on DNR Patients

If you have a DNR patient, you won’t call a code blue. Typically, these patients have legal papers that say they don’t want cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or advanced cardiac life support (ACLS).

How will you know if a patient is DNR? It should be noted in their charts. Some hospitals will also put this information on their wristband.

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Friday, December 4, 2020

7 Effective Study Strategies for Nurses

                                         7 Effective Study Strategies for Nurses


Advanced Nursing 2021

You study to get into nursing school, you study while you’re there, and you’ll study for the NCLEX to get out and get a job. Nursing school is all about studying! While it’s no one’s favorite activity, effective study techniques are vital to your success as a nursing student and a working nurse. Instead of getting frustrated by the books, be kind to yourself and focus on healthy study habits.

1. Make a study plan.

Before diving into your books, make a plan. Review your class syllabi and mark each of your exam dates on your calendar. Keeping an updated planner is essential to staying on track with assignments. Be sure to spread out the work, and plan time each week to complete your readings and workload. Having a solid plan to follow can also help you avoid burnout.

Your future self will thank you!

2. Calendar your time.

Stick to your study plan and know how to manage your time. Set aside specific hours each day and week to focus solely on studying. When you’re studying, actually study. No more multitasking. When you have an end time set for your study session, it’s easier to focus and use that time wisely.

Your planner or calendar will keep you on track, but try to do a little studying every day, even if it’s just 15 minutes. This helps you form good habits and retain information. But most importantly, plan—yes, plan—your downtime. When your mind knows that a time for relaxation is ahead, it helps you stay focused when it’s needed most.

3. Form a study group.

Everyone studies differently, but everyone can also benefit from a study group. We all have different strengths, so instead of forming a group with just your best friends, mix it up. Make sure you have students with a variety of skills and expertise. Aside from the academic help, studying with others builds in encouragement and support. You’re all in this together. (Plus, the connections you make in nursing school will only benefit you in your future career.)

4. Know your learning style.

When sitting down on your own for some textbook learning, it’s important to know your personal learning style. How do you best retain information? Are you an auditory learner? A visual learner? Should you take notes as you read? Or highlight and revisit later? What about both? Hardly anyone learns just by reading the textbook once.

5. Forget memorizing, focus on comprehending.

Even if you’re a stellar student, recalling vast amounts of data can be difficult. Whether you’re keeping track of anatomy terms, a long list of symptoms, or medication side effects, brute force memorization often doesn’t cut it. Instead, focus on truly understanding the info. Ask yourself questions about it and try explaining it out loud. The key to learning is comprehension and association. This will serve you better in the long run, and help you more come exam time.

6. Reward yourself and take breaks.

As contrary as it sounds, study breaks can be just as important as studying. Your brain can’t take in too much information at once, especially when you’re stressed about a test tomorrow. Cut yourself some slack and add some balance back to your life. Did you finish that study guide? It’s time to take a break from the books and go have a snack.

7. Don’t forget about the patients.

No one goes into nursing because they want to study 24/7. But while you’re in school, it may feel like all you do is study and work. Fight nursing student burnout by focusing on why you’re becoming a nurse: to help the patients! Maintaining a positive mentality will keep you on track with your schoolwork while making it more enjoyable. None of your professors are trying to torture you, they’re just trying to prepare you for the real nursing world ahead.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2020

What is a CNA?

What is a CNA?

Advanced Nursing 2021

There’s no shame in being a little confused about what a CNA actually is—the healthcare field can be a maze of confusing or tricky acronyms for job titles and credentials. As we mentioned before, a CNA is a certified nursing assistant. This common entry-level role is responsible for a variety of basic patient care tasks—things like moving, feeding and bathing patients—and play an important role in ensuring healthcare facilities run smoothly.

It’s important to note that not all nursing assistants or nursing aides are certified—"CNA" is often used as a broad catchall term for this role. Depending on requirements that may vary by state, nursing assistants can also be registered (RNA), licensed (LNA) or state tested and approved (STNA).

What does a CNA do?

Wendie Howland spent a gap year working as a CNA in a geriatric ward. Today she is a legal nurse consultant and life care planner with Howland Health Consulting. “The advantages were almost intuitive,” Howland says. “I got very familiar and comfortable with patient handling, bathing, mobility issues, feeding, taking vital signs, and doing simple treatments.”

As a nursing assistant, you will provide some of the most personal care a patient receives. It may not be the most glamorous work, but that’s the reality of working in healthcare—it’s not always pretty. If you can give dignified care to patients, many of whom are struggling with basic self care tasks, you will be well prepared to make the most of this job.

Howland notes that these tasks cannot be seen as the “be-all, end-all of patient care.” However, she says, students and CNAs who recognize this will be in a better place to learn the “real skills in nursing — assessment, planning and implementation, and delegation.” Not only is this a great way to develop your healthcare skills, but it is an opportunity to provide both patients and other nurses with the support they need.

You can expect to gain experience in medical technology for taking vitals, charting, communicating patient needs to nurses, and perhaps most importantly, caring for patients when they cannot care for themselves.

Where do CNAs work?

Nursing homes or long-term care facilities are some of the most common places for nursing assistants to work. Working with older patients can be challenging—ailments like dementia are common in this population and overall loss of function among geriatric patients means they’ll need thoughtful care and assistant. For those considering a nursing career further down the line, this can be an excellent way to gauge if working with geriatric populations is a good fit for you.

Nursing assistants are also eligible to work with some patients in their own homes—typically through a home health agency. This will allow you to develop deeper relationships as you will be matched with one patient at a time.

Finally, if you want exposure to other medical professions, working in a hospital will give you a chance to see other nurses and doctors in action. However, hospitals may prefer experienced nursing assistants, so most choose to start at a nursing home or in personal care and then transfer to hospital work.

How do I become a nursing assistant?

One of the most attractive things about this career option is that you don’t need a college education to apply for a nursing assistant training program. In most states, you will simply need to be 18 years or older, have a high school diploma or GED, and pass a few screenings.

That makes nursing assistant training ideal for high school grads who want to see if healthcare suits them before they invest in undergraduate education. It’s also a good option if you just want to gain some hands-on life experience and build your interpersonal skills.

No matter your motivation, you’ll need to complete a nursing assistant training program and then you’ll take your state’s CNA exam. Though the requirements will vary from state to state, it will be some combination of written and skills testing. In Minnesota, for example, aspiring nursing assistants will need to pass a multiple choice exam and demonstrate five skills including catheter care and sanitary practices.

What is the career outlook & salary for a CNA?

If you’re considering nursing assistant training, you naturally want to know if employment of this position is growing. The good news is that employment of nursing assistants is projected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to grow 9 percent by 2028, which is faster than the national average for all occupations.1

In addition to job stability, the BLS reports the median annual wage for nursing assistants was $28,540 in 2018.1 This may not sound like a lot, but keep in mind nursing assistant training programs can be completed quickly—a matter of weeks, not years—and can lead to valuable healthcare experience and career clarity.

Is CNA training right for you?

Becoming a nursing assistant is the first step into the field for many nurses and healthcare professionals. If you’re intrigued by the field but aren’t ready to commit to a long-term program, getting started as a nursing assistant can be the perfect way for you to get your foot in the door. CNA training offers a great opportunity to gain experience and see what you think of the healthcare world, all while developing your skills and earning a living.

If you’ve never been one to shy away from a hard task, no matter how messy or personal—if you can see a person for more than their needs, you are already on your way to becoming an outstanding CNA. All that’s left is to find the right program.

Your first step into the nursing world

Now that we’ve answered the question, “What is a CNA?” you probably have a good idea if this option is the route you'd like to take into the healthcare field. This entry-level role is an excellent way for you to build healthcare experience and get a feel for the field prior to committing to a longer-term program. Need help keeping nursing-related credentials straight as you map out your education options? Our article, "A Beginner's Guide to Understanding the Different Levels of Nursing Credentials" can help you get a better understanding of the potential paths ahead of you.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Nursing Facts: 8 Things You Should Know About the Nursing Profession

                Nursing Facts: 8 Things You Should Know About the Nursing Profession

Advanced Nursing 2021

Did you know that nursing students account for over half of all health care students? Nursing is not only an important job, but also a booming profession. And those who earn a degree from a nursing program are not only learning valuable skills that can help them make a difference in the lives of others, but they are also entering an evolving and expanding profession with the necessary tools to succeed. Discover more about the profession with these nine interesting nursing facts.

Intriguing and Useful Nursing Facts

If you are interested in studying to become a nurse, these eight nursing facts cover not only the current state of nursing in the U.S., but also its projected future in years to come.

The Beginnings of the Nursing Profession

The history of professional nursing traditionally begins with Florence Nightingale, the well-educated daughter of wealthy British parents who defied social convention by deciding to become a nurse, then considered a low-status profession. She tended to injured soldiers in the Crimean War in the 1850s and played a significant role in changing the nature of the nursing profession in the 19th century. She opened the first professional nursing school in 1855 at St. Thomas Hospital in London.

Candidates Can Choose from More Than One Hundred Nursing Professions

An article in Medical News Today notes more than one hundred nursing professions. Specialties include ambulatory, geriatrics, hospice, nephrology, neuroscience, pediatrics, radiology, rheumatology, telemetry, transplant, and trauma. According to an article on Gap Medics, the following are some of the most popular specialties or professions within the nursing field: nurse midwife, ICU, nurse practitioner, neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), medical surgery, and oncology.

By 2020, More Than 800,000 RN Positions Are Expected to Go Unfilled Nationwide

According to the American Nurses Association, there will be “far more registered nurse jobs available than any other profession, at more than 100,000 per year.” Yet, many of those jobs are set to remain unfilled due to a combination of open positions and nurse retirement. More than 200,000 nursing positions are expected to remain unfilled by 2026.

Nearly 3 Million Nurses Are Employed in the United States

Registered nurse positions are opening up as demand for health care services expands along with the aging U.S. population. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), registered nurses held just under 3 million jobs in 2016 — 2,955,200 positions. The BLS projects 3,393,200 open positions by 2026, an increase of 15% in a 10-year period. In fact, an American Nurse Today (ANT) article notes 3.1 million to 3.6 million registered nurses already work in the U.S. today, meaning the projection has almost or already been met. These nursing facts bode well for future job hunters in the nursing profession.

Nurses Deliver Most of the Nation’s Long-Term Care

An ANT article notes that nurses handle the majority of our nation’s long-term medical care — care provided over a long period of time for people with chronic illness or disability, delivered at home or in health care spaces. According to, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, people turning 65 have a 70% chance of needing a long-term care service, with 20% needing care for more than five years. With hundreds of thousands of elderly people needing long-term care, nurses play a critical role in enabling more people to receive it.

Up to 62.2% of all Employed RNs Work in Hospitals

Hospitals are always a hive of activity. Nurses, physicians, technicians, therapists, medical assistants, patients, and their loved ones all have someplace to be or someone to talk to. That means many people may not realize just how strong the presence of nurses really is in an active hospital. For instance, according to an article in ANT, nurses are the largest group of hospital staff. Throughout a hospital, most health-care-related tasks are carried out by dedicated nurses. In fact, according to the same ANT article, 62.2% of all registered nurses work in hospitals.

Demand Is High for Home Health Care Nurses

As many hospitals shift focus to acute and specific care, many private health care options — such as home health care, outpatient centers, and neighborhood clinics — are expanding, opening up job opportunities for registered nurses. According to a 2014 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12,400 home health agencies served up to 4.9 million patients who received care at home. With so many people already using home health care, as well as more people aging into care in the future, nurses capable of working in home health care may find that there is no shortage of job opportunities.

General Nursing Practices Are Typically the Same the World Over

No matter where you go in the world, general nursing practices are typically pretty similar. According to an article published in the Online Journal of Issues in Nursing (OJIN), common universal themes include the different education levels for nurses moving up into more complex roles, credentialing standards to create a level of safety, nursing positions being held mostly by women, nursing occurring within a medical structure, and the existence of nurse shortages.

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Monday, November 30, 2020

Different Types of Nurse Practitioners – Nurse Practitioner Specialties

Different Types of Nurse Practitioners – Nurse Practitioner Specialties

Advanced Nursing 2021

Nurse Practitioners (NPs) are advanced practice nurses that are registered and considered as mid-level practitioners. In 20 states NPs have full practice authority, which means that they don’t have to be supervised by a doctor. In the other states, NPs would still have more authority in comparison to RNs, however, they would need to have a medical doctor sign in some cases of patient care decisions. In this post, we will look at the types of nurse practitioners and nurse practitioner specialties.

What do Nurse Practitioners do?

Nurse Practitioners (NPs) are trained to assess the needs of patients, diagnose diseases and illnesses, order and interpret laboratory and diagnostic tests, prescribe medication and formulate treatment plans for patients.

How long does it take to become a Nurse Practitioner?

A Nurse Practitioner is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), in order to become a Nurse Practitioner you would need to do the following:

Firstly obtain an RN (registered nurse) license. This would take you about two to four years depending on the course of study route you choose to take. If you opt for an associate’s degree or a diploma in nursing (AND), it would take you about two to three years to complete. If you opt for a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), it would typically take you four years. Once you have completed your chosen program, you would need to pass the NCLEX-RN, which is the National Council Licensure Examination. Now, you are an RN.

Secondly, you would need to obtain your Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) in your chosen specialty. Depending on your chosen program, it would take you two to three years to complete. Most of the programs would prefer for you to have a BSN, however, there are programs that intake ASN (Associate of Science in Nursing) and RN- this Master program would take you generally between two and two and a half years to complete.

Lastly, you would need to obtain APRN Certification, which takes less than a year. Once you have graduated, you can take your APRN certification exam to meet the state licensure requirements. The timeframe varies, but it generally takes a couple of months of studying to pass the exam and become certified. You can obtain specific APRN certification through the following organizations; National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anaesthetists, Pediatric Nursing Certification Board and the American Midwifery Certification Board.

So to become a Nurse Practitioner it would take you four to seven years.

Core values of Nurse Practitioners

By working as a Nurse Practitioner, you should know the true value of compassionate care and empathy. This is your ability, as a nurse, to be aware of, to understand, to be sensitive to, and to experience the feelings, experiences, and thoughts of your patient. Empathy is respecting the dignity of your patients as well as appreciating their self-actualization and independence.


When you’re working as a nurse you would have the important role of assisting patients and their families with information that would be needed to maintain the optimal health of the patient. The information that you would be providing is based on your assessment of the patient, which is complete, relevant and accurate. You would also clarify the information that is provided by the other healthcare team members.


Being a Nurse Practitioner requires you to have good communication skills, to be able to exchange messages, thoughts, and information- it is of utmost importance in the process of nursing. You will also be using your communication skills during the assessment of your patients- behavior, signals, speech, and writing- and you will implementing, planning and evaluating the nursing care provided to your patients. Communication is important because you will be dealing with many people- patients, their families, healthcare team members, and other groups of people. You need to be competent in written, oral and in the techniques of therapeutic communication.

Applied Therapeutics

As a nurse, you would be applying therapeutic modalities such as nutritional and pharmacological interventions and so on. When you apply these modalities, it is based on your knowledge of these therapeutic uses, in addition to your skills in the assessment and evaluation of the patient.

Ethical and Legal Considerations

There are specific legal and ethical boundaries when you’re a Nurse Practitioner, and you evaluate, plan and provide nursing care based on these boundaries. You can find the Code of Ethics for Nurses, which provides an informative framework on how to perform correct and safe practices as well as behavior. This also comes down to ethical behavior, which involves confidentiality, accountability, fidelity, responsibility, truthfulness, and justice. When it comes to legal considerations, in nursing it is defined as regulatory, statutory and common law. There are also professional standards of care that provide legal guidelines for nursing practices. In terms of patient care, it would be issues such as abandonment, negligence, battery, informed consent, malpractice, and assault. Therefore, it is of utmost importance for you, as a nurse, to know and understand the legal boundaries- this would enable you to not only protect the rights of your patient but to protect your rights as well.

Psychomotor Skills

As a Nurse Practitioner, you would learn psychomotor skills by practice- once you have achieved your understanding of the basic principles of skills when you’re studying. It’s part of the nursing fundamentals, laying of hands to provide your patient with comfort, and using specific skills for an accomplished patient assessment to be able to evaluate and provide nursing care.

Critical Thinking

As a nurse you are constantly needed to make appropriate and accurate clinical decisions, therefore you should have the ability of critical thinking to be able to make decisions when there’s a problem with a patient. Remember, not all problems have clear textbook solutions, sometimes you’ll experience a situation that has no textbook solution- you should be able to think and act accordingly.


As a nurse, you would need to be professional in terms of your behavior when it comes to patients, yourself, others and the public. Your behavior would reflect the true values of nursing as a profession. You are professional also by being knowledgeable in your specialty, being conscious in then actions you take, and by having the responsibility of others and yourself.

Nurse Practitioner Specialties

We’ve talked about how to become a nurse practitioner and what the job may entail. Now let’s look at the types of nurse practitioners so you can find the specialty that is right for you.

Primary Healthcare Nurse Practitioner

Once you earn your certification of PHC-NP, you become a Primary Healthcare Nurse Practitioner. This type of nurse practitioner will be a specialist in your patient’s primary healthcare and you will be able to provide effective, accessible and comprehensive care to patients of all ages.

Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

Your focus would be on your patient’s mental illness- just like psychiatrists. Your duties would entail treating your patients, prescribing their medication, counseling the patients that have mental health issues like anxiety, depression and other disorders. Once you earn your PMHNP-BC you will become Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified.

Family Nurse Practitioner

By earning your FNP-BC certification, it will make you Family Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified. This specialty allows you the most flexibility in terms of working in a healthcare setting, or even to start your practice. By working as a Family Nurse Practitioner, you will be working similarly to a family doctor. You will work in clinics, hospitals, start your practice or in medical offices. Some of your duties would entail prescribing medication, diagnosing and treating patients, providing overall wellness check-ups, and so on.

Neonatal Nurse Practitioner

As a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner, you would be working in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) and in nurseries. Your duties would include providing critical and generalized healthcare to infants and new-borns while being an interface with healthcare providers and parents. You can acquire various different certifications, Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing (RNC-NIC), Inpatient Obstetric Nursing (RNC-OB), Maternal Newborn Nursing (RNC-MNN), Low-Risk Neonatal Nursing (RNC-LRN) or Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP-BC).

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner

This is a great specialty if you love working with younger children in the age range of infants to adolescents. Your duties would entail the primary healthcare of young patients to achieve healthy emotional and physical development. Once you earn your PPCNP-BC you will become Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified.

Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner

When working as a WHNP- Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner, your duties would entail the primary healthcare of women. This could include fertility, prenatal management, overall wellness care, and planning. You can work in different settings from family planning clinics, to adult or internal medicine, to ambulatory OB-GYN clinics, and more.

Dermatology Nurse Practitioner

As a Dermatology Nurse Practitioner, you will be involved in the diagnosis and treatment of skin conditions and injuries, which could range from acne to burns, to skin cancer, to rosacea or psoriasis and more. You will be performing skin exams, recording your patient’s medical history and test results as well as assess your patient’s condition. You will also be providing preoperative and postoperative care for the patients that have undergone surgical procedures or other treatments. Once you achieve your DCNP certification you will become a certified Dermatology Certified Nurse Practitioner.

Adult gerontology Nurse Practitioner

Much like a family Nurse Practitioner, your specialty would entail providing primary care in outpatient places like medical offices or clinics. You would mainly be working with adults, however, you would be working with older patients who need to come in for routine checks or have chronic or minor illnesses. When you complete your certification you will earn your AGPCNP-BC credential, making you Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner-Board certified.

Aesthetic Nurse Practitioner

As an Aesthetic Nurse Practitioner, your role would be to help your patients boost their confidence and feel at their best. You would perform procedures that are non-surgical and use therapeutics to assist your patients with their appearance cosmetically, for instance, anti-aging fillers, acne treatments, and so on. Once you earn your CANS certification you will be a Certified Aesthetic Nurse Specialist.

Emergency Nurse Practitioner

When working as an Emergency Nurse Practitioner, the care that you would be providing in the emergency room is of a broad spectrum. This is why you would have to learn and know the facets of primary care, that are many- this is so that you would be able to work with the variant population and being able to understand the healthcare needs of the patient. You would need to earn your ENP-BC, which is the Emergency Nurse Practitioner-Boars Certified credential.

Now that you know the types of nurse practitioners and nurse practitioner specialties you can make a better decision on if this career is right for you. You will want to consider nurse practitioner salary as well as the demand for nurse practitioners in your area.

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