As the healthcare industry evolves, nurses constantly encounter new challenges, practices and opportunities. For nurses to remain on top of these trends, they must continuously harness their skills to navigate the changing healthcare landscape. This is where advanced nursing practice comes into play.
What is advanced nursing practice?
Advanced nursing practice is concerned mainly with advancing nurses’ knowledge, skills and roles beyond the traditional professional boundaries. Through advanced nursing practice, nursing professionals can learn essential skills that empower them to optimize global health and improve care quality. More often than not, patients suffering from multiple chronic diseases receive subpar care overall.
As a result, their disjointed treatment plans can lead to redundancies and inefficiencies that place disproportionate pressure on the healthcare system. Thanks to advanced nursing practice, nurses can become more effective in performing more specific duties tailored to the patient population’s needs. Doing so empowers nursing professionals to make educated care decisions, increase output and reduce medical errors.
Transforming the healthcare system requires fundamentally rethinking nurses’ roles in care delivery. With advanced nursing practice, nurses can transform healthcare by creating a more accessible, high-quality and value-driven environment for patients. Given the rapid upsurge in ethnic and racial minority groups facing obstacles in accessing healthcare, advanced practice nurses become necessary in dealing with a more socioeconomically and culturally diverse population.
It empowers nurses to deliver personalized nursing care
Healthcare is evolving from a one-size-fits-all approach, with patients gaining more access to medical data. As a result, healthcare consumers increasingly demand that organizations recognize them individually across a spectrum of engagement touchpoints and channels. This includes treating patients based on their unique healthcare requirements and beliefs.
Advanced nursing practice allows nurses to deliver personalized healthcare by tailoring treatment according to the individual characteristics, context, situation and environment. This is especially important nowadays as healthcare systems are responsible for care that requires increasing patient self-management accountability. Advanced nursing practice also helps nurses learn and acquire skills to improve diagnosis.
Contrary to popular belief, nurses require specific skills to become effective in their specialty areas. For example, if you specialize in adult gerontology, you must acquire skills to meet the changing needs of adult patients. Advanced nursing practice equips nurses with the skills to deliver compassionate, effective and personalized care to ensure positive outcomes and fewer hospital readmissions.
It allows for increased healthcare access
Healthcare disparities exist throughout several financial, social, cultural and geographic challenges. These disparities result from fundamental differences in medical status across several segments and the inequities in factors that impact health status or determinants of health. This is because only part of an individual’s health status depends on behavior and choice. Societal issues such as poverty, unemployment, poor education and decaying neighborhoods contribute to healthcare inequities.
Beyond community-wide issues, the lack of nursing and medical experts within a specific community also culminates in an alarming medical disparity. Take, for example, American rural areas with a significant shortage of qualified healthcare professionals. As per PubMed Central, the federal government projects a shortage of more than 20,000 healthcare professionals in rural areas by 2025. Therefore, healthcare systems must overcome multiple barriers to patients receiving quality and equitable care.
Advanced nursing practice empowers nurses to work with marginalized communities and individuals by advocating for healthcare access in specific areas where the need for care is evident. By advocating for improved healthcare access, nurses can ensure that policymakers and government officials collect relevant and accurate data such as employment statistics, community health conditions, economic obstacles and population age distributions. Doing so allows government officials to create and pass healthcare regulations to close the gap and enhance healthcare access.
It creates more healthcare leaders
Nurses bring an essential voice and opinion to policy and management discussions. As the medical industry progresses, nurses must learn to spearhead improvements in healthcare quality, safety, value and access. Unfortunately, the American Hospital Association reports that nurses only account for roughly 6% of hospital board members.
What makes it worse is that there is currently a nursing leader shortage. According to the American Nurses Association, registered nurses (RNs) under 30 represent only roughly 10% of the total working nurse population. Given the continuing need for future nurse leaders, developing the next wave of RNs to be well-prepared to assume leadership roles is becoming more critical in driving positive outcomes for patients receiving care.
One way to prepare nurses to become effective and competent leaders is through advanced practice nursing. Current RNs can seek opportunities to become leaders through advanced nursing practice programs without undermining their existing responsibilities. Nurses often struggle to maintain a successful work-life balance because of their hectic schedules and heavy workloads.
Advanced practice nursing allows RNs to specialize and become thought leaders in a specific nursing specialty. Doing so allows them to help their colleagues navigate new challenges and opportunities, ensure better care, and act on patient feedback.
Advanced nursing practice roles
Have you ever considered becoming an advanced practice nurse? If so, you are not alone. As per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for advanced practice nurses will grow to 38% in 2032. A significant reason for this considerable uptick is the stability, the high salaries, and the leadership opportunities that come with becoming an advanced practice nurse.
However, before you get excited about becoming an advanced practice nurse, you must understand the four advanced practice nursing roles. This will provide you with a comprehensive idea of how to keep pace with the exponential changes in the healthcare industry brought by increased technological innovation and an aging US population.
Clinical nurse specialist
Clinical nurse specialists are advanced practice nurses who do more than help older adult patients prevent diseases. Their scope of practice can include diagnosing and treating diseases, disabilities and injuries within their expertise. They also order tests, make clinical diagnoses, perform care and, in some states, prescribe medications. Depending on their work environment, they can provide expertise and support to a group of nurses by developing practice changes within an organization and plans that ensure that everyone implements best practices in delivering care.
Unlike typical nurses, clinical nurse specialists can determine healthcare, create and apply interventions, and evaluate general care delivery. They also work to reduce the length of hospital stays and expenses and improve pain management practices and overall patient satisfaction. Daily tasks and responsibilities vary depending on their expertise, but can include the following:
- Improve patient care by working with the nursing staff to evaluate current practices, assess alternatives, check in with patient care managers, and educate staff.
- Develop tailored and specialized care plans after patient assessments.
- Help patients and their loved ones manage their conditions.
- Evaluate patient information and outcomes.
Clinical nurse specialists work in various settings because they are trained as field nursing experts. Women’s health specialties can see you employed you in a hospital, maternity ward or clinic. In contrast, a geriatric nursing specialty can get you a job in a long-term or home care environment.
Nurse anesthetists are advanced practice nurses in the surgical operating room who provide patient care during surgery. Their duties vary but usually include:
- Administering medication to reduce or prevent pain during surgery.
- Tracking vital signs during a surgical operation.
- Assessing patients for any allergies that may interact with the anesthesia.
They work in several healthcare environments, including medical and surgical hospitals, private clinics, and outpatient care centers catering to older adults.
Depending on the organization, nurse anesthetists collaborate with physicians, anesthesiologists, nurses and other healthcare professionals in providing effective patient care before, during and after surgery. They participate in therapeutic and diagnostic procedures, deliver critical care and trauma stabilization interventions, and diagnose and deliver acute and chronic pain management to geriatric patients.
Along with these responsibilities, nurse anesthetists take on administrative tasks such as overseeing department finances, ordering anesthesia and training new staff.
Adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner
Adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioners (AGPCNPs) are advanced registered nurses providing medical services to older patients. They can prescribe medication, evaluate patients and diagnose specific diseases, though their responsibilities will depend on where they administer care. AGPCNPs work in multiple locations, including psychiatric hospitals, outpatient facilities or private practices, wherein they develop care plans and complete assessments.
AGPCNPs will play a vital role in treating the increasing number of patients with complex age-related and chronic conditions as the baby boomer population increases. According to a recent census, the oldest baby boomers retired in 2012, while others are expected to reach the social security age in 2030. Most members of this generation are expected to rely on medical programs to remain in tip-top shape post-retirement.
Through proper and comprehensive geriatric care, older patients can receive specialized treatment that understands and considers their unique requirements. This is especially important considering that many health problems worsen because of the patient’s further physical and mental decline. Often, patients cannot keep up with their care when this occurs, and adverse health episodes happen more than usual.
Thanks to AGPCNPs, older patients can fine-tune disease management with lifestyle and medication changes and other therapies to reduce the risk of severe symptoms and complications. AGPCNPs provide detailed physical assessments, develop treatment plans, educate patients and their loved ones, and track vital signs. They work across the healthcare industry, though their duties and responsibilities differ depending on their specialty.
As an AGPCNP, your practice scope will vary depending on your certification, state licensure and experience. Some competent AGPCNPs establish a private clinic, provided that their state lets them. Furthermore, diverse laws are decided by individual states regarding medication prescribing regulations. This means that state regulations establish whether or not an AGPCNP must work together with a physician.
How do you become an AGPCNP?
Seeing your care plan work to improve the patient’s condition is one of the most rewarding aspects of being an AGPCNP. With the looming physician shortage and the increasing baby boomer population, there is no better time to enter the market than now. Here are the steps you must take to start practicing as an AGPCNP.
Earn an undergraduate nursing degree
At a minimum, you’ll need an undergraduate nursing degree to start your AGPCNP education journey. An undergraduate nursing degree will involve teacher-instructed education and supervised clinical hours that enable you to build a solid medical background. Upon completing your undergraduate degree, you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) and meet your state’s board of nursing requirements to become certified. Depending on your state, acquiring an RN license involves getting an NCLEX passing score, fingerprinting, multiple background evaluations and proof of education.
Earn your Master of Science in Nursing degree
After earning your nursing license, the next step is enrolling in a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree focusing on adult gerontology. The University of Indianapolis offers students MSN-AGPCNP program outcomes including competence in expanded nursing roles, leadership skills and knowledge of political, social, economic, legal and ethical theories. The MSN-AGPCNP program focuses on acute care and has a strengths-based curriculum emphasizing clinical judgment, interdisciplinary teamwork and analytical thinking. The program enables students to gain the right skills, training and background to address specific patient requirements and provide better and safer treatment.
Become board certified
You must earn a board certification after completing your MSN degree and clinical placements. This is similar to the NCLEX-RN assessment you took to become an RN, though the content of the examination can differ depending on the acute care specialty you pursued in school. The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses offers board certifications for AGPCNPs in acute care specialties. The board certification process involves acquiring proof of MSN education and NP certification, background checks and your RN license. Board certification is conducted via the state board of nursing or the health department in the state in which you choose to practice.
Transforming healthcare through advanced nursing practice
With the nursing industry changing rapidly, nurses must remain agile to meet evolving patient demands. Through advanced nursing practice, nurses can become effective leaders in their chosen fields and transform the healthcare industry one patient at a time.