Thursday, September 23, 2021

Career Options for Nurses with an Advanced Degree

If you are already working as a registered nurse or are planning to get into this career in the future, you may already be aware of the fact that nursing is a career choice with an endless array of options when it comes to career advancement and progression. Nursing is a career path with opportunities to move both sideways and upwards, with nurses able to choose to move into different specialty areas or work their way up the career ladder into management, leadership, education and advanced nursing positions.

Whether you’re already working as a nurse and want to progress or are thinking long-term when it comes to your nursing career, an advanced degree qualification is often essential for nurses who want to move up the career ladder. With nurses in higher demand than ever before and advanced nurses taking on more roles and responsibilities these days in order to fill the gap that has been left by the shortage of primary care physicians in the US, there are now more training programs and degree programs available for nurses who are interested in bettering their careers. 

In addition to a larger range of programs to choose from, nurses who are considering progression can also find more flexible options including online advanced nursing study, which is often designed with busy full-time registered nurses in mind. Today, nurses do not have to consider leaving their jobs or working part-time to accommodate for attending on-campus classes and lectures while getting their advanced degree, thanks to flexible and self-led online programs that allow the student to make his or her own decisions when it comes to when and how they’d like to study, making it easier to fit getting a master’s degree or doctorate in nursing around a busy healthcare career. Some of the best career opportunities for nurses with an advanced degree qualification include:

Nurse Practitioner:

The nurse practitioner role is currently one of the most popular advanced roles in nursing and it’s also one in very high demand. To become a nurse practitioner, you will need to be educated to an MSN or DNP level and, in some cases, earn a postgraduate nursing certificate that is designed to prepare you for advanced clinical practice. Nurse practitioners work in a variety of areas including family practice or working with specific patient populations such as pediatric, neonatal, adult-gerontology and psychiatric and mental health. In twenty US states, nurse practitioners are provided with full practice authority, allowing them to diagnose, treat, prescribe and have many of the same responsibilities and roles as a primary care doctor without requiring supervision. In other states, they still have the ability to do these roles; however, their decisions must be signed off by a doctor. 

Certified Nurse Midwife:

For nurses that are interested in women’s health and working with babies, a career as a certified nurse midwife could be one that is worth getting an advanced nursing degree for. A nurse midwife is an advanced practice nurse specializing in women’s health, particularly through the stages of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. In addition to this, nurse midwives are active health professionals when it comes to providing primary and reproductive care for women in particular. They work in various different settings including within the community and in doctor’s offices, but are most commonly seen in hospitals in labor and delivery wards. 

Critical Care Nurse

Critical care nurses are advanced practice nurses who play an important role in caring for patients who are suffering with life-threatening injuries or illnesses. Critical care nurses will often work in hospitals and are typically found in the ICU departments or other areas where patients are acutely unwell such as the operating theatre or ER. Critical care nurses are required in any area of healthcare where patients might be found in life-threatening situations, including anywhere that needs high intensity interventions and a high level of around the clock nursing care. Recently, critical care nurses have played a vital role on COVID-19 departments particularly working with patients that have suffered badly with the virus and have required specialized care such as ventilation. 

Nurse Manager:

Nurse managers are responsible for overseeing the clinical operations of patient care units. They facilitate the work of healthcare professionals and ensure that the direct care provided to the patient is of the right standard and quality. A role as a nurse manager will typically require education to the MSN or DNP level and is less bedside-based and more administrative to that of a registered nurse or advanced practice registered nurse. Nurse managers are crucial for ensuring that the highest quality and standards of patient care are delivered and are often the loudest advocates for patients since representing unit needs to relevant stakeholders is often a key part of this role. 

Clinical Nurse Leader:

Clinical nurse leaders are advanced nurses who possess a high level of knowledge and clinical competence. Typically, clinical nurse leaders will work with a specific set of patients that they are assigned to, overseeing their care in the position of team leader. Clinical nurse leaders work in a role where they are required to regularly stay on top of the latest innovations and developments in healthcare, medical care and care delivery. They are responsible for putting evidence-based practice into action and ensuring that patients are provided with the highest standards of care. 

Nurse Executive:

Although nursing is a caring profession first and foremost, there are several opportunities to consider for those who are interested in working in a more management-focused career option. Nurse executives are senior-level nurses who are often in highly influential roles when it comes to shaping clinical practice. Nurse executives are often required to hold at least a Doctor of Nursing Practice qualification and their role involves defining strategic visions for success. They work collaboratively across the entire healthcare organization to ensure that patient care is of high quality and that both patients and employees report high satisfaction levels. In order to work at this level of nursing, you will need to have gained an advanced nursing degree along with management experience. Nurse executives are also required to be highly skilled in the operations management, human resources, and financial side of healthcare. 

Nurse Educator:

If you want an advanced nursing career role that will have a direct and positive impact on reducing the nursing shortage that we are experiencing in healthcare today, a role as a nurse educator might be an ideal option for you. Currently, one of the main reasons behind the increasingly worrying shortage of nurses in the US is due to the fact that there are simply not enough education professionals to prepare new nurses for the workforce fast enough. The problem is not that there are not enough people who want to become nurses – at some nursing schools and colleges, applicants are being turned away or having their enrolment deferred due to the simple fact that there aren’t enough people to teach them. To become a nurse educator and be influential in shaping the next generation of nurses, you will need to get a DNP qualification. This will prepare you for teaching nursing in formal educational settings to prepare students to become nurses or teach nurses who are looking to advance their careers further. 

Care Coordinator:

The role of a care coordinator is a relatively new one in the healthcare industry. This role is designed to focus mainly on the improvement of patient safety, care quality, and cost-effectiveness within patient care. Professionals who work in these roles are often nurses who take on the role of ensuring that the right type of care is being delivered to the patient at the right time. Care coordinators are also responsible for looking after transitions of care, such as moving patients to different departments, hospitals or clinics. They ensure that this is done smoothly without leading to any gaps in the patient’s treatment plan. Care coordinators are typically required to have at least a master’s degree in nursing and will usually work in collaboration with a variety of healthcare providers, equipment companies, insurance companies, and other organizations to ensure that patients receive uninterrupted, high-quality healthcare. 

Clinical Trial Nurse:

Clinical trials are consistently ongoing in order to improve our understanding of and develop new treatments for a wide variety of conditions. If you are interested in a career where you can be involved with the cutting edge of healthcare and make a difference to the healthcare of the future, you may want to consider a role as a clinical trial nurse. These nurses can be found working on large research studies designed to prove the efficacy and safety of new healthcare treatments including medication, devices, protocols and more. They have a variety of roles within clinical trials including coordinating research, ensuring the integrity of data, and providing treatment when needed to study participants along with ensuring that they are prepared for the trial. 

Getting an advanced nursing degree such as an MSN or DNP can lead to a wide range of advanced and lucrative nursing career options.

This is a guest blog entry.

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