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Which Advanced Practice Nursing Role Is Right for You?

Which Advanced Practice Nursing Role is Right For YouNurse practitioner. Clinical nurse specialist. Public health policy maker. These advanced practice nurses all take different paths in their careers, but they each make a significant impact on patients and the community.

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

Each of these roles begin with becoming a registered nurse, but these nursing career paths are quite different in scope. Different tasks, different departments and different ways of interacting with patients.

If you’ve given some thought to earning your Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or a master’s degree that provides you with APRN credentials, it’s important to figure out early on where to focus your attention.

The following breakdown offers a quick look at what to expect from these advanced practice nursing possibilities, offering insights into the pros and cons of each, the types of individuals who excel and which advanced nursing education to pursue. If you can match your own skill set and drive to one of these, you’ll be well on your way to the height of your craft.

The Importance of Advanced Practice Nursing

Hospitals and clinics are hiring nurses with DNPs more than ever before creating an increased demand for nurses with advanced degrees.

As an advanced practice nurse, you’ll be equipped to provide patients with quality care. 

Why Choose an Advanced Practice Nursing Career?

Choosing an advanced practice nursing career offers many opportunities.

In the past, nurses were only able to get doctorates that focused on theory rather than practice. But nurses can now earn practice doctorates.

In addition to changes in advanced nursing roles, choosing this career path is beneficial because:

  • You’ll have many job opportunities because of a high demand for advanced practice nurses.
  • You’ll have many career options.
  • You will experience professional growth and advancement.
  • You’ll have potential for a higher salary.
  • As a nurse, you understand the challenges of our modern healthcare system.

Read more: Four Reasons Why More Nurses are Earning a DNP

Comparing APRN Programs: Which is Right for You?

Advanced nursing degrees allow you to learn the role of an advanced practice nurses, develop leadership skills and advance your career.

You can choose a specialization focused on a specific population or type of care that fits with your interests and career goals. 

At Nebraska Methodist College (NMC), there are three DNP tracks that will allow you to become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN):

NMC also has a track for master’s-prepared APRNs who want to get their DNP:

Read more: Why You Should Choose NMC for Your DNP

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) vs. Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

Once you’ve earned your bachelor’s degree in nursing, you have the opportunity to explore MSN and DNP nursing programs.

APRNs must have a master’s degree in nursing, but a doctorate is becoming the preferred education level for most employers.

The four APRN career options are:

  • Nurse practitioner.
  • Clinical nurse specialist.
  • Nurse anesthetist.
  • Certified nurse midwife.

At NMC, DNP programs can be completed in 24 to 36 months with full-time study. 

Read more: Should You Get a DNP? What You Need to Know Before Applying

Choosing an Advanced Practice Nursing RoleNurse Practitioner Roles – Patients Are Your Virtue

Are you a people person? Nurse practitioner might be the right choice for you.

As a nurse practitioner, you will meet with patients, treat ailments and dispense advice. You will diagnose illnesses and determine what the best course of action is for the patient, referring them to a 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. If it’s your favorite part of the job, nurse practitioner careers may be your best option.

Clinical Nurse Specialist Careers – 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 a career as a clinical nurse specialist may be the right fit for you.

Clinical nurse specialist programs, like the one at NMC, will prepare you to apply these advanced concepts in various healthcare settings.

Nurse Anesthetist Careers - Exciting By Nature

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 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.

Certified Nurse Midwife Opportunities - A Voice of Comfort

Certified 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.

Skills and Qualities for Advanced Practice Nurses

To take on the responsibilities of an advanced practice nurse, you’ll need to develop various skills to provide high quality care to patients, such as:

  • Analysis
  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Critical thinking
  • Documentation
  • Empathy and compassion
  • Leadership
  • Patient advocacy
  • Problem solving

Job Outlook and Career Opportunities for APRNs

Roles for DNP-prepared nurses with APRN credentials are in demand. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projected job growth for clinical nurse specialists, nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives and nurse practitioners is 38% from 2022-2023, which is much faster than all other occupations.

Most clinical nurse specialists, nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives and nurse practitioners work in physician offices, but there are also job opportunities in hospitals, outpatient care centers, home healthcare, other healthcare practitioner’s offices and education institutions.

Certification, Licensing and Continuing Education 

Once you’ve earned your DNP, you will be required to have licensing and certification in the state where you practice.

APRNs in Nebraska must pass a national certifying examination and maintain board certification. As with most healthcare professions, continuing education is required for APRNs for licensing and certification renewal.

Each state and area of specialization has different continuing education requirements. 

As an advanced practice nurse, you’ll most likely want to engage in professional development to continue developing your skills and knowledge. 

At NMC, alumni can register for continuing education courses for free through NMC. 

Choosing Your Advanced Practice Nursing Path

No matter what role you choose to embrace, one fundamental aspect of being a nurse will never change: you’ll be helping people in many ways.

But as an advanced practice registered nurse, you can do so in a manner that showcases your compassion, intelligence and insights into healthcare.

If you’re ready to explore roles in advanced nursing practice and the education required to get there, contact an admissions coordinator at or (402) 354-7200.

Topics: nurse education, Family Nurse Practitioner, graduate programs