As we get older, it’s quite easy to become stuck in a rut at work. Perhaps our passion begins to wane, or maybe family life and other commitments prevent us from focusing on our career progression as much as we’d like to. The good news is that it’s never too late to turn this situation around and either retrain in a brand new area or boost our qualifications in the field we currently work in. If you’re a nurse who already holds a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), then enrolling in a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program and training as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) might just be the perfect option for you.
While traditionally you would have needed to have a master’s degree in nursing (MSN) in order to take a doctoral-level program, these days, there are BSN to DNP programs online that enable you to combine both qualifications into one course. In addition to saving you time, the fact that these programs are available as distance learning courses means that you don’t have to quit your existing job in order to study for them either.
There are plenty of job roles that you can go on to after completing BSN to DNP programs online, but for those who are looking for a specialist position that’s directly involved in patient care, becoming an APRN is an ideal choice. In this article, we’ll examine the job in more depth, including what it takes to be a good APRN and the advantages of becoming one. We’ll also cover the DNP program and what studying for one involves to further help you decide whether this is the right career path for you.
What is an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse?
An Advanced Practice Registered Nurse, commonly referred to as an APRN, is a highly skilled and well-trained nurse who has completed either a master’s degree in nursing or a doctor of nursing practice. They will have many hours of clinical experience under their belt and also must have passed a national certification exam in order to gain their APRN license.
Generally speaking, an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse will specialize in one of four main clinical roles. These are:
• Certified Clinical Nurse Specialist
• Certified Nurse Midwife
• Certified Nurse Practitioner
• Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist
In addition to these, there are six patient population groups that APRNs can choose to focus on:
• Family / Individual Across Lifespan
• Psychiatric / Mental Health
• Women’s Health
Even within the spheres listed above, there are further opportunities for specialization available by concentrating on certain health conditions or specific healthcare settings, such as emergency care or oncology. This means that as an APRN, you can truly tailor your studies and employment to fit your personal passions and aspirations. When taking BSN to DNP programs online, you will normally have the chance to pick the modules that align most closely with your goals, as well as tailor your final project around a topic that’s of particular interest to you.
In line with this variation in specialisms, APRNs can be employed in a wide range of healthcare locations. These include hospitals, outpatient facilities, specialist clinics, private practices, and long-term care homes. Each state has its own regulations regarding exactly what authority an APRN has, and usually, they work in conjunction with other healthcare professionals like physicians. Having said that, APRNs have much greater independence and responsibility in comparison to Registered Nurses (RNs), with the ability to take on more complex cases, diagnose and treat a wider range of health conditions, and sometimes prescribe medication.
What are the advantages of becoming an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse?
There are numerous benefits to be gained from taking BSN to DNP programs online and getting qualified as an APRN. To begin with, you’ll enjoy greater levels of employability and job security. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for the different APRN roles is set to grow a staggering 45% between 2019 and 2029. This is much faster than the average across all occupations and reflects the country’s growing demand for healthcare services (for example, as a result of the aging population). Plus, with an average annual salary of $117,670 in 2020, you have the chance to benefit from good levels of financial stability too.
Another advantage of becoming an APRN is that it gives you more responsibility, independence, and autonomy in the workplace. One consequence of this is better job satisfaction and higher levels of wellbeing, but it also benefits your patients. Those who have completed BSN to DNP programs online can use the skills and knowledge they acquired to better help those they treat and also the local community.
Finally, working as an APRN can also bring you more flexibility at work. Due to the fact that the role is in high demand, it often enables you to have more choice around the hours and days you work, as well as the locations you work at. Combined with the various different types of APRN jobs out there, you have a good chance to craft a career that genuinely matches your interests and lifestyle.
What kind of skills and characteristics do I need to be a good APRN?
When it comes to clinical skills and nursing knowledge, completing BSN to DNP programs online (or on-campus) will give you the practical and academic foundation that is required to become a good Advanced Practice Registered Nurse. However, it’s not all down to this alone. Just like being a good Registered Nurse or nursing assistant, there are certain personality traits and characteristics that will ensure you truly excel in the position. You will probably find that you have many of these already, but if not, don’t worry because you can always work to develop them.
Firstly and perhaps most obviously, having empathy and compassion is critical. This enables you to relate to your patients and provide them with the best possible care and support. Linked with this is the need for always maintaining high ethical standards in relation to issues such as confidentiality, integrity, and respect, all of which are essential for building trust with the people you are treating.
Similarly, having strong communication and interpersonal skills is key. You’ll be working with people of all different ages and backgrounds – both in terms of patients and colleagues – and will need to be able to build relationships and a rapport with anyone. In terms of patients specifically, you will often find yourself needing to explain complicated medical issues to people who have little to no background knowledge on the subject. Active listening and good observational skills will both serve you well here.
Another important trait for APRNs is having good attention to detail. You’ll be dealing with very precise dosages of medication and complex patient notes, where even a small mistake can have potentially damaging consequences. Strong problem-solving skills and the adaptability to cope with unexpected emergencies as they arise will also be a big help. No two days are ever the same for nurses, so having a flexible attitude will be useful!
As you probably already know, nurses of all levels must deal with a multitude of different patients. That means that good time management and organizational skills are vital. In connection with this, as an APRN, you will have a greater level of responsibility, and so knowing when to delegate or refer patients to other specialists is also important. At the same time, you must have strong leadership abilities and confidence in your decision-making.
Finally, it’s worth pointing out that nursing can be a physically tiring and emotionally challenging job. In order to cope with this, you will need to have the ability to separate your work life from your home life and the emotional stability to not allow upsetting cases to affect your own mental health. Taking good care of your physical health and wellbeing by eating well, getting plenty of sleep, and exercising regularly is one of the most important actions you can take.
What can I expect from BSN to DNP programs online?
BSN to DNP programs online are designed to take you from a bachelor’s degree in nursing all the way to a doctoral level qualification. A DNP is made up of three distinct types of study: core taught modules, clinical hours, and a largely independent project. You can take the program on either a full-time basis or a part-time basis, with the qualification taking between two and seven years, depending on how quickly you complete the requirements.
Beginning with the modules, these will vary according to the college you enroll with and the specialism you pick. Some will be compulsory whereas others will be up to you to choose. As a rough guide, you can expect to cover the following sort of topics:
Nursing Leadership Role and Ethics in Complex Healthcare Systems
• Healthcare Economics
• Moving Healthcare Forward
• Achieving Population Health Equity
• The Business of Healthcare
• Advanced Pathophysiology
• Healthcare Technology and Data Management
• Clinical Pharmacology
• Research Methods and Evidence-Based Practice
• Health Promotion
• Nursing Informatics
In terms of the clinical hours, those taking BSN to DNP programs online will still complete these in person, but at an approved facility close to where you live. These placements are a great opportunity to put what you’ve been learning into practice in a real-world location, meet other professionals in the field, and gain valuable feedback. Your college will assist you in finding a suitable facility to work at, and you’ll have the chance to pick somewhere that fits your career goals.
When it comes to your final project, this is a lengthy academic investigation into a clinical or administrative problem in the world of nursing. It is where everything you have learned comes together, and you have the chance to dedicate yourself to an issue in nursing that you are truly passionate about. Because the problem you choose will be a real one rather than theoretical, it also means that you have a chance to make a lasting impact in the world of healthcare – which is exactly why people find this part of doing BSN to DNP programs online so rewarding.
What other careers can taking BSN to DNP programs online lead to?
Don’t worry if you feel that becoming an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse is not the right path for you. That doesn’t mean that you should necessarily give up on the idea of doing a doctoral degree in nursing. BSN to DNP programs online can lead to a multitude of other career paths, including many that focus on indirect patient care instead.
For instance, several DNP programs focus on topics around management and leadership, preparing you for roles such as a Chief Nursing Officer. This involves tasks such as creating and overseeing budgets, dealing with the hiring and training of nursing staff, developing organizational procedures, designing patient care processes, and other similar executive-level jobs. If you’re particularly interested in the teaching side, then a career as a nurse educator who trains up new nurses might appeal to you more.
Another option is to utilize your nursing expertise in more of a political sphere and work to lobby legislators on relevant issues, develop and evaluate healthcare policies, sit on committees and task forces, advocate for the nursing profession, or fight for social justice and other ethical issues that are linked with nursing.
Alternatively, you could think about going into a field such as nursing informatics. This blends nursing with computer and information sciences as well as healthcare technology to manage and communicate medical data in order to improve patient care outcomes. Therefore it’s particularly well suited to those with strong technical and analytical skills.
Finally, another pathway for those who like working with data is to move into research. As a nurse researcher, you will design and run scientific studies, then analyze and report your findings in order to improve healthcare services and patient outcomes. This often involves writing papers for academic journals and professional publications, presenting at conferences, and working alongside fellow researchers in other fields on interdisciplinary research projects.