A registered nurse occupies a special place in the medical world. We are allowed into a patient’s life in ways other medical professionals are not. We are there at the bedside during exciting times such as the birth of a child, through frightening times of serious disease or debilitating injury and the sacred moments at the end of a life. This is why I went into nursing – maybe it is what attracted you, too.
In 2013, I earned my Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree and began practicing as a Nurse Practitioner (NP) the following year. I did so because I loved nursing, but I wanted to move from the side of the bed to the head of the bed. As a NP, I am able to make the medical decisions that will impact the patient, rather than carry out those decisions as a nurse.
I have found that nurse practitioners also enjoy special relationships with their patients. Yes, we have a list of questions we need to ask, but we don’t rush to get the answers. We sit down, we slow down and we listen closely. Ours is a more personal relationship that allows us to put together the pieces of a patient’s life.
Perhaps you are reading this because you’re thinking about returning to school to earn a DNP degree and join the nearly 300,000 NPs in the United States. Maybe you aren’t certain whether you should pursue a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) path or Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (AGNP) path. Let me help you decide.
1.) What is a nurse practitioner?
NPs are clinicians who assess, diagnose and treat acute and chronic diseases as well as counsel, coordinate care and educate patients regarding their illnesses. They're a type of advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). APRNs have earned at least a master's degree in nursing. A practitioner brings comprehensive perspective to health care, and they're quickly becoming the health care provider of choice for millions. According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), Americans make more than 1.06 billion visits to NPs annually. At Nebraska Methodist College, the DNP curriculum emphasizes advanced nursing practice and building leaders in practice, education and management.
2.) We care for people across the life span
Whether you choose to become a family nurse practitioner or an adult gerontology nurse practitioner, both offer the ability to provide primary care for people throughout the life span. FNPs care for people from birth to death, while AGNPs care for people age 13 through death. If you want the option to care for children younger than 13 (pediatric nurse practitioner), FNP is the degree for you. If a 2-year-old child with an ear infection isn’t your ideal patient, then AGNP is the way to go.
3.) You can work anywhere
NPs provide patient care in all parts of the country, from small, rural communities to the big cities. We work in settings from the acute care site to the NP-owned practice to schools and nursing homes. You want to pick the track that will allow you to care for the type of patient you desire in the setting that most interests you.
If you want to work in a family practice primary care clinic or quick care or urgent care clinic, FNP is the obvious choice. AGNP programs will prepare you to work across settings where adolescents and adults seek care. Keep in mind that some hospital systems are beginning to require NPs who work in the inpatient setting to acquire acute care certification.
4.) NP care is holistic
Whether you choose the FNP or AGNP track, you can be assured each program will build on the holistic care you already provide as a nurse. As you make medical decisions, you’ll be delivering care with a focus on the whole person, recognizing that each human being is far more than the disease or symptoms.
5.) People need you
Given that 6 in 10 adults have a chronic disease, excellent primary care providers are the unsung heroes of medicine in America. As people are living longer with those chronic diseases, it will be imperative to have enough providers to meet their needs. Unfortunately, statistics suggest there will be a shortfall of more than 50,000 primary care physicians by 2025. The good news is that NPs are well-positioned and excellently trained to fill this gap. Also, research demonstrates that we provide quality care with cost savings.
If you have additional questions or want to learn more about admission to a nurse practitioner program, visit the Nebraska Methodist College website. Any member of our faculty would be happy to visit with you about our primary care FNP or AGNP tracks.
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Hilary Applequist, DNP, APRN-NP, NP-C, ACHPN is a board certified Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner and is the core coordinator for the AGNP program at Nebraska Methodist College. She also serves as an assistant professor in the BSN-DNP program and practices in adult palliative care.