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Written by Richard Cooke

Taking The Next Step To Become a Nurse Practitioner

Do you dream of having more autonomy in your nursing role? Do you want to be able to use your medical knowledge and experience to make clinical assessments, make diagnoses, offer treatment and evaluate patient care independently? A role as a nurse practitioner  (NP) may be the ideal next career step for you.

What does a nurse practitioner do?

Working in a range of medical contexts – though often at general practices (GPs) – nurse practitioners bridge the gap between doctors and nurses, with the authority to make independent medical decisions. But this is not the full extent of a nurse practitioner’s role and responsibilities. From leading nursing teams to provide the best possible care and developing the nursing services available at their particular practice, to instigating and interpreting diagnostic tests, the remit of a nurse practitioner is wide ranging and varied.

While a nurse practitioner job calls for a high degree of responsibility and pro-activity, it also offers ambitious nurses a challenging role which will allow them to really make their mark and implement positive changes in their work environment. Often stressful, a nurse practitioner role is highly rewarding and offers one of the highest nursing salaries in the profession.

If you pursue an advanced nurse practitioner (ANP) role, a huge number of doors are open to you professionally. As an ANP you can step into virtually any area of healthcare and find a role for you, particularly with a current shortage of GPs and widespread call for ANPs to take the reigns instead of controversial plans to hire increased numbers of Physicians Associates . From working as a self-employed nurse practitioner, to independently contracted nurse partnerships (alongside more traditional forms of nursing employment) – this is a flexible role with a whole lot of opportunity.

How to become a nurse practitioner

Once you’ve taken the decision to become an NP, there’s a relatively long road ahead of you in terms of study and training. While some nurse practitioners are hired on the strength of their nursing experience and given the tools and resources to train on the job, increasing importance placed on qualification by Government means that most NPs now need a postgraduate qualification for practice.

You must, of course, already be a registered nurse (RP) and have a good level of experience under your belt before you can enrol on your new course of study.

Further education

If you decide to undertake further training, you’ll find that there’s a wide range of courses open to you which will qualify you for nurse practitioner role. If you’re keen to work in a particular sector or for a particular employer, we recommend contacting them directly to ask about their preferred training for nurse practitioners before settling on a course. Both BSc and MSc options are available, the former lasting around a year, the latter taking closer to three years, both available on a full or part time basis. Please ensure you check that any course you enrol on is recognised and accredited by the  RCN.

The length and level of experience required varies widely from course to course and depends on the HE (higher education) institution in question. Some look for no more than 6 months on the job, others look for a minimum of 3 years as a registered nurse, with 18.5 hours a week in an appropriate healthcare setting.  In some cases, you’ll also need to prove that you have had experience of clinical exposure and of a wide range of clinical consultations.

Getting hired

Armed with your shiny new nurse practitioner qualification, you’ll find many more doors and roles open to you, however you’ll also find that you have a lot of additional experience to prove to potential employers including meeting criteria like:

  • Demonstrating ongoing professional development activity to maintain up-to-date knowledge and on-going competence
  • Showing experience in management of long term conditions
  • Evidence of experience in managing and developing a nursing team

Do you tick all the boxes? Are you searching for your next nurse practitioner role? We can help you find your perfect position. Use our handy job search tool, or upload your CV today