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Which Advanced Practice Nursing Role Is Right for You?

Posted by Dr. Tara Whitmire and Dr. Alice Kindschuh Tuesday, Jun. 28, 2016

Four Nurses standing side by sideNurse Practitioner. Nurse anesthetist. Nurse midwife. Clinical Nurse Specialist.

These four roles have come to define the final stage of the journey for nurses who want to reach the pinnacle of their professions.

People outside of healthcare may assume there’s quite a bit of overlap between these professions. In small ways, that’s true, but in big ways, it’s really not. Although they all start with someone becoming an RN, these four titles are quite different in scope. Different tasks, different departments, different ways of interacting with patients.

If you’ve given some thought to earning your Doctor of Nursing Practice or a Master’s degree that provides you with APRN credentials, it’s important to figure out early on where to focus your attention. Although it’s possible to switch your goals in the middle of a path of study, it’s far easier (and less costly) to determine where your passions lie from the beginning.

The following breakdown offers a quick look at what to expect from the four Advanced Practice Nursing possibilities, offering insights into the pros and cons of each and the types of individuals who excel. If you can match your own skillset and drive to one of these, you’ll be well on your way to the height of your craft.

Nurse Practitioner – Patients Are Your Virtue

Are you a people person? Nurse Practitioner may very well be the route you take.

Nurse practitioners are the Doctorate or Master’s-prepared experts who come closest to the traditional idea of a nurse. You interact with individuals in a care setting, but you do so in a way that befits your status.

As an NP, you will meet with patients, treat ailments and dispense advice. You get to diagnose illnesses and determine what the best course of action is for the patient, referring them to a physician or specialist if necessary. Nurse Practitioners can work in a clinic or hospital setting, depending on the patient population they are interested in most.

Patient care is why most nurses got into the profession in the first place, and if it’s your favorite part of the job, the Nurse Practitioner path may be your best option.

BSN to DNP- Family Nurse Practitioner Degree Guide

Nurse Anesthetist – Exacting By Nature

Have you ever seen a movie or television show where someone gets shot by a tranquilizer dart and immediately passes out? Or where the hero sneaks up behind somebody and puts them in a sleeper hold? They may even say something witty like, “He’ll come to in about an hour.”

Yeah, that’s nothing like how it works in real life. Providing anesthesia to a patient is a complex and exacting process that leaves little room for error. Nurse anesthetists have to take into consideration every conceivable factor about the patient before administering a drug. Height, weight, diagnostic readings, vital signs, side effects of the drug, method of delivery, patient history, medications being taken, etc. Each of these things has a very distinct effect on the efficacy of a given anesthetic.

Nurse Anesthetists require an encyclopedic level of knowledge of the human body, anesthetics and the effects on the patient. If this is the direction you want to go, you must be comfortable with intense studying and memorization, favor collaboration with an entire medical team and be able to adjust on the fly if something changes in the course of an operation.

Nurse Midwife - A Voice of Comfort

Nurse midwives work directly with mothers-to-be throughout the gestation cycle. You could care for expectant mothers before conception, throughout the three trimesters and then well after the baby has been born.

You’ll be well-versed in the unique health issues faced by mothers, capable of providing health advice, assisting with procedures and working closely with the rest of the patient’s medical team to ensure that both mother and child receive an optimal level of care. But in addition to ushering families through their happiest moments, this role requires the fortitude to deal with the unexpected situations, assisting couples in what could be moments of intense grief.

If you’ve ever felt a special connection with mothers, or you look back at your time in the delivery room as your fondest memory of being a nurse, a position as a nurse midwife could be the right call for you.

Clinical Nurse Specialist – Helping Patients By Helping Populations

Individuals who seek to make an impact at a wider level than with individual patients, truly becoming leaders within hospitals, health systems and other kinds of organizations, may opt to become Clinical Nurse Specialists.

Clinical Nurse Specialists concern themselves with the underlying influences, societal and otherwise, that create health concerns. Think of it this way: let’s say you work for a county or city’s department of health. You may analyze trends in data and notice a predilection for diabetes in an area within your scope.

Rather than simply treat each person, a Clinical Nurse Specialist would determine what’s causing diabetes to be so widespread and take steps to effect change within the entire population. You may meet with individuals to gather data and ultimately provide a solution, but it’s with the goal of educating and treating the population.

If the idea of branching out of helping individuals one at a time to instead focus on entire groups of people is appealing, but you still want some patient interaction, then Clinical Nurse Specialist may be the right fit for you.

BSN to DNP- Adult Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist Degree Guide

The Choice Is Yours

You know what you’re passionate about. These brief descriptions could never do justice to the experiences you’ve had and the education you’ve acquired over the course of years.

No matter what role you choose to embrace, one fundamental aspect of being a nurse will never change: you’ll be helping people in ways big and small. But as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse, you can do so in a manner that showcases your compassion, intelligence and insights into healthcare.

Topics: nurse education, Family Nurse Practitioner, graduate programs