The week of November 8-14 honors nurse practitioners with National Nurse Practitioner Week. Nurses who achieve this professional status have plentiful and rewarding career opportunities to explore. As a nurse practitioner (NP), nurses have the flexibility and options to focus their practice in specialties that are most meaningful to them.
As nursing students consider their career paths, becoming a nurse practitioner is often a goal for nurses who want a degree of autonomy and who might enjoy the challenges of making many decisions in treating patients.
Because becoming an NP requires at least a master’s of science in nursing and a doctorate in nursing is encouraged, becoming an NP takes dedication to earning advanced degrees. If you’re considering becoming an NP, you don’t need to follow a direct educational path but you do need a commitment to earning those degrees.
Working as a registered nurse while you continue your studies to an NP gives you opportunities to find the niche of nursing that most appeals to you. Throughout your different roles, whether those are your early clinicals as a student or your first jobs after you graduate with a bachelor’s degree and assume a registered nurse (RN) role, you’ll explore many different specialties to find a good fit. Planning out your professional path helps you take steps toward each goal.
The American Association of Nurse Practitioners is a national organization that supports NPs ability to practice independently. In some states, NPs are able to practice entirely independently in a solo practice if they choose. Other states require NPs to work under the oversight of a physician. NPs and physicians are able to diagnose patients and treat them as they consider the patient’s health and additional factors that may impact their treatment plans. Like a physician, nurse practitioners’ required education and advanced training allow them to become licensed to prescribe medications to patients, something RNs aren’t licensed to do.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, NPs should expect to bring in a higher salary that aligns with highly specialized nurse anesthetists or nurse midwives. A nurse practitioner makes an average salary of $115,800 (2019) which reflects their additional education and training. A registered nurse’s annual salary for the same year is $73,300. A licensed practical nurse earns an average of $47,480.
Within a NP path, nurses can choose a specialty that appeals to them. Many NPs become family practitioners and treat all ages and conditions. Others may specialize in the mental health and psychiatric specialties and others may choose to focus more on a specific age group (older adults or pediatrics). As you become more experienced in your career, you’ll develop important relationships with your patients, many of whom you’ll treat over a long time.
This week, celebrate your accomplishments and the changes you have made in the lives of your patients.
The recent announcement by Pfizer of a potentially effective COVID-19 vaccine has led to great excitement, even though some nurses express misgivings about the speed of COVID-19 vaccine development. This vaccine development would not be possible, of course, without the participation of many thousands of volunteers in clinical trials. Unfortunately, minority participation in these COVID-19 trials has lagged.
“As we strive to overcome the social and structural causes of health care disparities, we must recognize the underrepresentation of minority groups in COVID-19 clinical trials,” notes a column in the August 27, 2020 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.
A major reason for this underrepresentation involves “distrust of researchers, healthcare in general when it comes to communities of color,” notes Ernest J. Grant, PhD, RN, FAAN, president of the American Nurses Association (ANA). That distrust, he notes, harkens back to such appalling experiences as the “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male,” where hundreds of Black men were recruited to study syphilis without treatment.
Dr. Grant suggests a number of ways to address the underrepresentation of minorities in COVID-19 clinical trials. One is to provide thorough education as people are being recruited into a trial. Another involves the recruiter. “There tends to be more of a trusting relationship if they see that it is a researcher that perhaps resembles them, or is from their culture,” according to Dr. Grant.
Another tactic involves recruiting a “community influencer or someone like a pastor or a community leader or doctor or nurse within the community that people respect.” Those influencers, he notes, can help dispel myths and address uncertainties potential minority participants may have.
Once a vaccine is available, minorities are at special need of receiving the treatment, especially because minorities are at greater risk of not surviving or having a more difficult time with the disease. The virus, notes Dr. Grant, tends to proliferate more when there are comorbidities that tend to be more prominent in black and brown individuals, such as hypertension and diabetes. “When a vaccine does come along, it would prove to be more beneficial and reduce their chances of succumbing to this virus,” he says.
ANA President as Study Participant
Practicing what he preaches, Dr. Grant is currently participating in a COVID-19 vaccine phase III clinical trial at the University of North Carolina. He will be followed for two years.
One reason for his participation, he says, is the knowledge that more minority participants are needed. Another is that as a leader of the nation’s nurses, “it’s my way of trying to give back to them, knowing that they will be some of the first individuals to take the vaccine once it is approved.”
Dr. Grant ask nurses to consider volunteering for a clinical trial, and then once a vaccine has been approved, to “educate themselves so that they can educate the public.” Nurses also need to be at the table, he notes, when decisions are being made about such things as vaccine distribution. Nurses, he says, “obviously play a very critical role in that process.”
This year’s Urology Nurses and Associates Week raises awareness about the caring and compassionate work urology professionals do every day. Urology nurses provide medical care and act as a resource for patients going through a range of medical diagnoses and treatments.
Urology professionals help care for patients who have various conditions and diseases relating to the urinary tract and often the reproductive system as well. They may treat conditions that impact bladder control or those that are extremely painful, like kidney stones. Urology nurses also treat forms of cancer that involve the urinary tract or the reproductive organs that may be involved such as bladder cancer or prostate cancer.
Urology patients are sometimes reluctant to openly discuss their symptoms are they relate to topics many societies consider more private, such as incontinence or sexual dysfunction. Urology nurses are able to care for the patient with their medical skills, but also must work carefully to assess the patient and understand the full story of how their condition is impacting their daily lives. Even though kidney stones aren’t life-threatening, the repercussions in daily living can be far reaching and hard to cope with.
One of the ways urology nurses are able to build trust with their patients is by understanding their discomfort and helping them feel less alone. Many people aren’t going to discuss urinary or sexual symptoms with their family and friends, but someone who has become incontinent from surgery or a medical condition is experiencing a huge change in daily living.
As nurses begin to help the patient with pressing emotional and physical symptoms, they are also able to take on the role of educator for the patient and the patient’s family. They need to know what to do, what treatment options are available, and how they can cope with this new change.
Because urology nursing professionals complete extensive and targeted training, they are able to use their knowledge to help patients in the most crucial ways. They can deliver accurate information about the patient’s condition, the prognosis, and the current treatment plan. Because they work with patients in this area, they can also steer patients toward resources, products, or life hacks that can help them manage this stage.
As a professional urology nurse, certification is going to help you provide the absolute best nursing care you can by giving you extra information and keeping you current on the latest evidence-based practices. Organizations such as the Certification Board for Urologic Nurses and Associates (CBUNA) provide this training and professional skills advancement. Nurses who are interested in this field may also choose to join a professional organization such as the Society of Urologic Nurses and Associates. Through this kind of organization, nurses find a community of like-minded professionals and a trusted resource for information and career guidance.
As Urology Nurses and Associates Week comes to a close, celebrate your professional career choice!
This week, November 1-7, celebrates Medical-Surgical Nurses Week and focuses on the work the careers of nurses in this specialty.
Organizations including the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses and the Medical-Surgical Nursing Certification Board promote this week to raise awareness of how med-surg nurses help patients, the skills they use and develop, and the career path of nurses who choose med-surg.
Med-surg is one area of nursing, but the skillset required of these nurses covers a wide breadth and depth of responsibilities. Med-surg nurses, the largest specialty of nurses, work in all areas of healthcare. They are hired to treat patients in hospitals, health centers, surgical centers, and offices. Med-surg nurses also find their skills in high demand so this role is a popular one for travel nurses as well.
If you’re a nursing student considering this as a career path, you might wonder what does a med-surg nurse do? Nurses in this role practice a high-level of hands-on care with their patients. They are treating patients who are ill with various ailments or they may care for those who are preparing for or recovering from surgery.
As with anyone in a nursing career, med-surg nurses need to have excellent critical thinking skills and must be confident in their work. They’re required to make immediate decisions and to notice when a patient’s health has changed in the slightest way.
As a med-surg nurse, you’ll be using the skills you have to assess the whole patient, so even if you’re treating someone who is recovering from a GI surgery, you’ll be watching for other symptoms or changes. You’ll want to be alert to changes in breathing, new indications of pain, and even changes in skin color that others may not see in their assessments.
Because of this essential high level of awareness and understanding of the patient, you’ll need to know a lot of information and be committed to a lifelong learning process. Med-surg nurses have all reached the professional attainment of a registered nurse. As a professional med-surg nurse, becoming certified is an additional step that shows you will provide the highest level of care to your patients and also demonstrates a dedication to the nursing practice. As med-surg nurses continue to advance in their careers, they should pursue recertification to continue learning of the latest developments and advances that will help them care for their patients.
If you’re already working as a med-surg nurse, this is a week to celebrate all your life-saving work. Be sure to check out the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses week-long celebration including several virtual events you can tune into for free. As an experienced nurse in this area, you know this career offers constant change and you probably see new conditions and challenges all the time. During a year of a worldwide pandemic, however, your career probably looks very different than any other year. The COVID-19 crisis has posed a serious threat to the physical and mental health of med-surg nurses even as it reaffirmed their commitment to helping save lives.
During this year’s med-surg nurses celebrations, reassessing how you can support yourself and your team is important. Talk to your colleagues to see how you can all work together when you are seeing more patients than you ever have at once. Talk with family, friends, or professional therapists to help when you are overwhelmed. And continue to reaffirm your career choice and know a world is grateful for the work you do.
Sometimes, people who entering a “caring” profession, like nursing, love helping people. So while the money they make is important, it often takes a backseat to what they’re doing as a profession. But nurses need to look out for themselves, too. We asked Dina Neilsen, PhD, Senior Manager of Learner, Career, and Alumni Services as well as the Emergency Committee Co-Chair at Nightingale College to offer nurses tips for negotiating a better salary when applying for a new job.
What is the first thing nurses should do when they find out they have a job interview? Should they immediately prepare and do research so that they will be ready to discuss salary? Or should they wait to see if they’re called back for another interview? Should the research be on the place where they’re interviewing? On the type of job? Both? Where can they find out what salary they should be asking for?
Yes, preparing for an interview is always a good plan. Understand what the specific job description is and also spend time on the organization’s website to get a sense of its culture, history, etc.
Visit sites like Glassdoor to review salary ranges for the position you seek; also review other organizations with similar job descriptions to understand the market range for your position.
What other aspects should they take into consideration? Geography? Years of experience? Education? Certifications? Please explain.
There are locations in the U.S. where the nursing shortage is quite dire, so geography does play a role. This collection of data can help you to factor in geography if needed.
It is likely your education, experience, and certifications are already in the hands of the organization seeking an interview with you. You should feel free, though, to reiterate all of those things and to make a case of how you bring added value.
Suppose they are asked what they want to make? Should they give a number?
We generally believe it’s better to “get” a number than “give” a number because then you won’t have locked yourself into a starting salary that might be lower than what would have been offered.
Talking about money is uncomfortable for some people. How can they prepare while calming their fears?
If you’ve gathered the data from sites like Glassdoor, you are operating from a place of knowledge which should help to calm any fears.
If it’s not brought up on a second or third interview, should the nurses bring up the topic of salary? Why or why not?
It’s perfectly reasonable, especially in places where nursing shortages exist, to politely ask the salary range.
Should they say that money isn’t the most important aspect of the job? Or will this lead to them getting shortchanged?
Everyone expects to—and should be—paid what they are worth. Minimizing the salary question doesn’t help anyone on either side of the equation.
Suppose they are offered their dream job, but the salary isn’t what they wanted/needed? What should they do? Are there other factors they should ask about—hours, vacation, health care, etc.?
Perhaps the best way to deal with this situation is to ask for a six-month salary review. That way, you can take the dream job for a minimal period of time before being reviewed for a salary increase.
Summer eating is easy and breezy, but for the colder days of fall and winter, seasonal fruits and vegetables offer hearty and delicious options.
The juicy fruits and plentiful veggies of summertime offer easy-to-grab, nutritious snacks, and the sheer bounty of seasonal summer vegetables makes meal prepping and planning especially easy. Fortunately, the fall harvest also offers seasonal fruit and vegetable choices that offer excellent nutrition and tasty meal options. Look for locally grown specialty crops that are specific to your region for the freshest products.
The sheer number of different squashes available can keep your diet packed with nutrients and variety. Squashes can form the basis of chunky stews, smooth soups, side dishes, and main courses. With a low-calorie profile and especially high levels of vitamins A and C and fiber, learning how to cook with squash in the fall can energize your typical menu.
Try butternut, acorn, spaghetti, and Hubbard to expand your squash go-tos. And you can even have these on hand all the time—you’ll find some squashes in the frozen food section of the grocery store.
Turnips, parsnips, carrots, beets—all these vegetables add flavor and substantial texture to a dish. To add sweetness to your menu without any added sugar, roast root vegetables to create a whole new flavor. As they roast on high heat, the natural sugars in these veggies are drawn out. For an easy and hearty side dish, cut up beets, carrots, and potatoes and roast them in a hot oven (about 450 degrees) for 20 to 30 minutes with a little olive oil. When they are done sprinkle with salt and pepper if you want.
Cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts are all part of the cruciferous vegetable family and contain potent cancer-fighting ingredients. Working these vegetables into your fall diet is as simple as using them as a base for warm and comforting soups and gratins. A blended cauliflower and potato soup or a broccoli cheese soup is easy to make and even easier to eat as a quick lunch or dinner at work.
Everyone thinks of apples during fall and with good reason. The fall apple harvest brings out apples that aren’t typically found in grocery stores because they are heritage or brand-new varieties that don’t have large crops. And apples pair well with meats like pork or chicken as easily as they shine in desserts like apple pie or apple crisp. Peel, core, cut, and cook apples for a homemade applesauce that can be added to oatmeal.
The round red pomegranate is an antioxidant powerhouse. Filled with juicy seeds (called arils), these ruby fruits have a beautiful fall color. Like a watermelon makes you think of summer, pomegranate’s sweet-tart taste is a distinctly fall flavor. You can seed your own whole pomegranates or buy the seeds already prepared in the grocery store. Eat the seeds alone, add them to a yogurt and granola parfait, use them to top a salad, or brighten a cooked dish with the extra flavor.
Try a new dish or a new seasonable fruit or vegetable and you’ll probably find a new flavor you love.