Despite the nursing shortage, nursing educational requirements are becoming tighter, and nursing doctoral degrees are becoming a “must have” for a lot of sectors of the nursing industry. While a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) and a Registered Nurse (RN) can get by with an associate’s or bachelor’s in nursing degrees, many other nurse specializations already need a master’s or better to practice, and a few will not be able to get by with anything less than a doctorate.
Advanced practice nurses are registered nurses with graduate degrees, and they include:
Nurse practitioners, which are allowed to function as a patient’s primary caregiver. In many states, they can do so without the assistance of a doctor.
Nurse midwives, which can provide reproductive care for women from puberty to menopause, and care for women with low-risk pregnancies. In many states, they can perform all of the duties of an obstetrician-gynecologist, with the exception of surgery.
Nurse anesthetists, which provide anesthesia during surgeries.
Clinical nurse specialists, which help medical facilities improve their standard of care by educating and working with staff nurses like registered nurses and licensed practical nurses.
Becoming an APRN
Every state has different requirements for what is and is not currently necessary to become an APRN. However, the standards are changing- the American Association of Colleges of Nursing and National Council of State Boards of Nursing have pushed for all APRN programs to require doctoral degrees by the year 2015. So, students that would not graduate before then should plan to get nursing doctoral degrees.
To become an APRN, students must first meet their state’s educational requirements for a registered nurse before they can enroll in an advanced degree program (usually for either a Doctor of Nursing Practice or Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia Practice degree) and specialize in one of the above areas. Depending on the student’s state, there may be accelerated degree programs available that can help things go a little faster for people who already have a non-nursing degree, and are pursuing nursing as a second career.
Nursing with an Advanced Degree
Though the tighter educational requirements were recommended by the AACN and NCSBN, every state has an individual Board of Nursing that enforces these requirements, maintains lists of approved nursing programs, and defines the scopes of practice for every level of nursing. As a result, exactly what nurses can do with an advanced degree will vary somewhat from state to state.
Why Should You Get an Advanced Nursing Degree?
People with advanced degrees in nursing are becoming rarer and more valuable by the day. This is due to a couple of reasons- many people find that their state’s nursing shortage is severe enough that they can make an excellent living as an RN with just a bachelor’s degree, pursuing advanced degrees is time consuming and expensive, and many schools are losing their nursing educators to retirement, leaving them without a way to teach their advanced nursing degree classes. So, as an APRN, you will find that you are valuable and in demand absolutely wherever you choose to go.
APRNs generally get paid extremely well. A nurse practitioner, for example, can command a salary of over $120,000 in some areas, without including things like benefits, sign-on bonuses, or student loan repayment schemes.
Many states want to encourage more people to pursue advanced nursing degrees, and therefore have specific tuition reimbursement, scholarship, and grant programs available for APRN students. So, getting a doctorate in nursing doesn’t always have to be an expensive undertaking.
It takes a long time to get nursing doctoral degrees, but the end result is generally very worthwhile. APRNs, like nurse practitioners, have a much wider scope of practice than LPNs or RNs do, and thus have more freedom. They also have more flexibility, since a nurse with a doctoral degree ca fulfill the roles of practicing nurse, nurse educator, and more, depending on what jobs are available in their home state. Lastly, they get paid better than nurses without advanced degrees. If you’re considering getting a DNP or DNAP degree, then it’s definitely something you should seriously pursue.