This week, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) leads the celebration of National Nurse Practitioners (NP) Week to mark the distinctive benefits of this career path.
According to the AANP, approximately 248,000 nurse practitioners hold an NP license in the United States. The career is especially appealing as NPs generally have more autonomy than other nurses. In some states, NPs are able to practice on their own without physician oversight, and, in doing so, can provide a full spectrum of care. They assess, diagnose, treat, and make a continual care plan for patients, so they are involved in each step of the patient’s care. Because of that, NPs often form close, long-lasting relationships with those they care for. NPs are able to prescribe medications across the US and almost half hold hospital privileges as well.
Nearly 98 percent of NPs hold graduate degrees and more than 8 in 10 hold some kind of primary care certification. For all the education NPs earn, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that they are rewarded with a salary that hovers around $111,000 annually. The job outlook is growing faster than average with a 31 percent growth predicted by 2026.
If you’re interested in this in-demand career path, you’ll need to obtain a master’s in nursing degree along with plenty of extra credentials like certifications. NPs often hold more than one certification and the credentials can be in related areas like neonatal care and pediatric care. You’ll need to pass an NP state licensing exam so you can be registered to practice in your state.
Many nurses find the NP role helps them make a positive impact when access to healthcare is essential and sometimes not in easy supply. NPs can make big inroads into the health of communities as they are able to care for patients in a variety of settings and situations. Nurse practitioners who want to practice autonomously need to have the extra information to know how to do that while protecting themselves and their patients.
NPs can and should connect with peers and colleagues to share the challenges of the role and talk about the satisfaction of this role. Networking will help their professional development and the information learned will often improve their patient care as well.
When patients need care as a result of a violent or abusive situation, they often rely on forensic nurses to help provide a knowledgeable and compassionate bridge between the legal and health systems.
Today celebrates Forensic Nurses Day, and there is a continued need to understand the valuable work they perform and why forensic nurses are a crucial part of any hospital team. The day wraps up a week-long recognition by the International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN) to call attention to the work they do.
Forensic nurses have duties that overlap both nursing and legal needs. They provide the specialized healthcare and attention victims of violent acts require. With sensitivity, they help patients through immediate and long-term trauma of the physical after effects of being a victim of violence. But forensic nurses are also the best advocates for these patients in court and legal systems. As a first responder to the patient’s health needs, these nurses collect evidence in a specific way to help the legal system gather needed information and observations to prosecute.
A career in forensic nursing begins with a RN or APN and a desire to help those who have been victimized by violence, sexual assault, or neglect. Forensic nurses work with people of all ages and demographics. As the violence can be within a family (spousal abuse, child abuse, or elder abuse) or among strangers, those requiring care could be anyone. According to the IAFN, forensic nurses’ skills are also needed in corrections facilities, in corrections centers, and in the aftermath of mass tragedies as well.
As with other nursing specialties, certification is a good career move for this field as technology continues to move at a rapid pace. Certification is offered in specialties or in the advanced practice of forensic nursing. Many nurses with significant training in emergency care or critical care become certified Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) to provide treatment and collect evidence of sexual assault victims.
When patients receive care from a forensic nurse, they know someone has their back and can help them take steps toward recovery and healing.
November 7 marks the final day of Urologic Nurses and Associates Week, so Minority Nurse turned to Amy Hull MSN, RNC, WHNP-BC and president of the Society of Urologic Nurses and Associates (SUNA) to hear her thoughts on choosing this nursing path for a career.
Hull didn’t start her career in this specialty. She is a women’s health nurse practitioner by training, and she thought she would care for pregnant women for her entire career. About 15 years ago, while still seeking a niche in OB/GYN, a friend convinced her to try continence work, she says.
“I had no real understanding of continence issues and the real, devastating concerns incontinent patients experience,” Hull says. “However, as I stated, my friend and colleague convinced me to pursue this transition. I have not regretted that decision.”
In her practice as a urology nurse, Hull says her work can make a significant impact on her patients’ quality of life. Because patients with urologic conditions are often limited in the activities they can participate in without symptoms, the conditions can impact their physical, emotional, and mental health.
“Urologic concerns can arise during all phases of one’s life and affect men, women, and children,” she says. Hull says those in her profession offer education and care to enhance patients’ well being and sense of control over what may seem as uncontrollable issues and diagnoses.
Urologic Nurses Needed to Meet Demand
With such comprehensive care needed, Hull says urologic nurse staffing issues are pressing. “With fewer and fewer dedicated urology floors in hospitals, the hospital nursing staff are at risk of reduced education and reduced opportunities to achieve the needed skills to enable them to expertly care for their patients,” she says. “Without true, dedicated nursing education within our schools of nursing, the necessity falls to senior nurses to train new staff as well as our nursing organizations, such as SUNA.”
Luckily, Hull says the developments in the field are rapid, but nurses and associates in the field will need to continually fine-tune their skills and expand their knowledge to provide up-to-date care.
“Efforts to better understand the environment of the bladder are helping to better treat and prevent infections,” she says. “New and better surgical and non-surgical techniques are helping to provide improved outcomes for patients with such conditions as urologic cancers, pelvic organ prolapse, and incontinence.”
Getting Ahead in Urologic Nursing
Nurses interested in the career of urologic nursing should seek out mentors they can learn from. Seeking out professional development, education out of the place of work, and networking will help nurses in their careers and will keep them current.
As with other nursing specialties, Hull says urology certification is important. The Certification Board for Urologic Nurses and Associates (CBUNA) offers certification exams for MAs and LPNs, RNs, and advanced practice providers.
“SUNA provides urology education for MAs, LPNs, RNs, and advanced practice providers, such as NPs, PAs, and CNSs,” says Hull. The organization also has 29 local chapters nationwide where urologic nurses can find additional opportunities for education, and they can attend the Annual UroLogic conference or Advanced UroLogic Conference. SUNA has also developed the Scopes and Standards for Urologic Nursing which helps to define the specialty.
Having a positive impact on her patients’ lives keeps Hull enthusiastic and she encourages other nurses to consider this specialty.
As this week’s celebration of Medical-Surgical Nurses Week wraps up, Minority Nurse connected with a nurse leader who knows about the career path after more than two decades as a med-surg nurse.
Jennifer Kennedy, MSN, RN-BC, CMSRN, CNE, and a director on the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses (AMSN) Board of Directors, has spent most of her career as a medical-surgical nurse in roles as diverse as direct care provider to medical-surgical nurse educator. She also teaches med-surg nursing in a nursing program at George Williams College of Aurora University in Williams Bay, WI.
Here’s what Kennedy told Minority Nurse about med-surg nursing.
What makes this specialty so rewarding for nurses who choose it?
If you’ve ever been hospitalized or visited a patient in the hospital, the nurse who cared for you or your loved one was most likely a medical-surgical nurse.
Medical-surgical nursing is the single largest nursing specialty in the United States. Med-surg nurses practice primarily on hospital units and care for adult patients who are acutely ill with a wide variety of medical issues or are recovering from surgery. They provide care 24/7 and have more face time with patients than any other professional in the hospital.
Med-surg as a specialty is so appealing and rewarding because med-surg nurses are the master coordinators of the unit, juggling care for many patients at a time while keeping the entire health care team on the same page. They have high-level critical thinking skills, vast clinical knowledge, and are able to stay calm under pressure. Many nursing specialties require similar skill sets, but it is the intense level of coordination from the time patients arrive until after they leave the hospital that distinguishes med-surg nursing.
I personally feel med-surg nursing is so rewarding because of the relationships I develop with my patients and their families, as well as the ability to contribute to my patients’ comfort and recovery.
What are the biggest challenges facing medical-surgical nurses today?
At any moment, a med-surg nurse is juggling care for several patients–administering medications, educating families, discharging patients and admitting new ones, all while keeping the entire health care team on the same page.
As the go-to health care professional on the unit, the med-surg nurse needs high-level critical thinking skills, vast knowledge of disease states and body systems, robust management skills, and the ability to stay calm under pressure.
Med-surg nurses are always in motion physically, clinically, intellectually, and emotionally. They are coordinating care around the clock.
Many nursing specialties require similar skill sets, but it is the intense level of coordination from the time patients arrive on the unit until after they leave – including post-discharge considerations like transportation and home health care – that distinguishes med-surg nursing.
There’s another unique aspect of the specialty: med-surg nurses are well educated in the workings of all body systems and are also familiar with a sweeping number of illnesses. They never know what complex disease states their next patient may have, thus they need to be ready and prepared for anything.
Once they have assessed and treated their patients, med-surg nurses then take it a step further, helping their patients achieve wellness and transition home safely and well-prepared.
If someone is interested in becoming a medical-surgical nurse, what kind of steps will help them get there?
Nurses who graduate with an associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) are hired for medical-surgical positions quite often. However, a BSN is increasingly preferred, and continuing on to receive this degree after hire may be a condition of employment. Once you receive a nursing degree, you will be required to take a state licensure examination, the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). Each state board of nursing provides the exam to determine whether or not a candidate is prepared for entry-level nursing practice. Once the individual has successfully completed the NCLEX exam, he or she is licensed as a registered nurse.
Newly graduated nurses will find internship/residency programs for the medical-surgical specialty at most hospitals. Internships involve a didactic component as well as a preceptorship with an experienced nurse to help new graduates transition into their new role.
In general, how can an organization like AMSN help med-surg nurses?
AMSN serves a community of medical-surgical nurses who care about improving patient care, developing personally and professionally, advocating for the specialty, and connecting with other nurses who share their compassion and commitment. Membership provides wide range of key and timely resources to help support med-surg nurses.
Along with education opportunities and an excellent annual convention, AMSN offers grants, scholarships and awards to support members. The association provides networking at the local, regional, and national levels, as well as in our online community, the AMSN Hub. There is also career guidance, volunteer, and leadership opportunities and member discounts on all products and services.
One of the greatest benefits AMSN has to offer is helping nurses become certified. We work in tandem with the Medical-Surgical Nursing Certification Board (MSNCB), which offers the Certified Medical-Surgical Registered Nurse (CMSRN®) credential. Certification is important because it validates your expert, specialized knowledge, and enables you to maintain an innovative edge in your career. It really is one of the most positive and powerful achievements you will obtain during your nursing career.
Once you successfully pass the CMSRN exam, the confidence and satisfaction you gain by becoming certified allows you to demonstrate your professional commitment to promoting quality patient care. Employers notice this, increasing your earning power as well garnering respect from patients and colleagues.
AMSN welcomes med-surg nurses to become part of our community. Like most nurses, I started my med-surg nursing career as a new graduate. I learned very quickly that this is what I was meant to do. Med-surg nursing has provided me with an exciting career and a great amount of opportunities for growth.
It is inevitable that many of us will face a bad day at work. Whatever the situation may be, feelings of frustration, anxiety, and even depression can accumulate over time and put us at risk for experiencing nurse burnout. Burnout can motivate nurses to either quit their jobs or leave the nursing profession completely. We have worked too hard to just give up on everything we set out to accomplish. We can’t allow negative people, such as difficult coworkers, challenging patients, and family members, or having bad days stress us to the point to where we begin contemplating walking away from everything we have worked so hard for.
I’m going to share with you a method that I use when I experience a bad day. What I do is focus on three primary whys that keep me in this profession. What I mean by this, is that I think about where I came from, where I am now, and where I am going. I write them down on a small note card and carry with me throughout the day. Sometimes I wear a special bracelet or nursing pin, something tangible, to remind me of my whys. This simple method has worked for me on some of my toughest days. I hope it can do the same for you.
WHY #1. Think About What Brought You Here
Nursing was not my first career choice, in fact I wanted to go into broadcast journalism. It was my mother that originally planted the idea of nursing into my head. She always said I had the heart, personality, and passion for it. I was her oldest child, who assisted her with small things to help care for my siblings. She knew early on that I had the compassion to care for others. Now, a little something about my mother: My mother was a divorced mother of four children who worked as a nursing assistant for many years. She dreamed of going to school to become a nurse, but her circumstances did not allow it. Naturally, she wanted to see one of her children accomplish what she always wanted to do. It wasn’t until many years later, that a life turning event motivated my decision to become a nurse. The compassionate hospice nurses that helped me care for my dying mother in her last days solidified this calling as the one for me. I had challenges of my own but pushed through them to reach my goals. Being the first in my family to obtain a college degree is one of my greatest accomplishments. When I have a bad day, I think about how far I’ve come and the sacrifices I made in the past to be here. I worked hard for this profession; therefore, I must protect it. This perspective keeps me going on some of my most challenging days. Hopefully, this is enough to keep you going, too.
WHY #2. Think About Why You’re Still Here
Why do I continue to stay in nursing? Simply, I love what I do! I feel that my work is meaningful and has purpose. I enjoy taking care of people and making a positive impact on someone else’s life. Furthermore, a career in nursing has been good to me and my family. Nursing allows me to make enough income to pay bills and keep food on the table. Work is stable and provides good benefits to provide a sense of peace. When I have a bad day, I think of my motto—Nursing has been good to me; therefore, I will be good to it.
WHY #3. Think About Where You’re Going from Here
When I entered a nursing program in 2008, I made a personal commitment to give it all or nothing. This is the profession that I chose; therefore, I will learn as much as I can to develop into the best nurse I can be. Being at my best is a personal commitment I have made to the patients and families I serve. I will remain proactive and engaged, regardless of how difficult things can get. I advise you to focus on becoming the best version of yourself. For some it may be furthering your education to become a nurse practitioner, educator, or leader. As for me, I aspire to become a nurse executive one day. This is what keeps me going. The challenges you may face are not meant to break you, but rather to strengthen you and prepare you for the next level of your career.
The next time you have a bad day, just focus on your whys to get you through.
Since 1990, the National Association of Orthopaedic Nurses (NAON) has taken time to honor the work they do. This week from October 29 through November 2 marks the National Orthopaedic Nurses Week.
Minority Nurse had a chance to hear from Mickey Haryanto RN-BC, MBA, ONC, and program manager of the Joint Replacement Program at the Medical University of South Carolina to find out about a career in orthopaedic nursing.
“I have always loved the challenge of orthopaedic patient care,” says Haryanto, NAON’s president. “When I graduated from nursing school my first position was on an orthopedic unit. I found that it was a great place to hone my skills.”
As Haryanto’s career progressed, she found herself in varied roles such as in critical care or home care, where her orthopaedic skills were needed and where she enjoyed seeing the results of her work with patients. She continues to see how orthopaedic nurses bring varied skills to healthcare that continue to be in high demand. And, of course, she can’t resist this explanation for her career choice: “I guess it’s ‘in my bones’!”
Eventually, a position came along that was just right for her. “When I was offered a position doing ortho case management, I jumped at the chance when no one else was interested,” she says. “Too bad for them!”
And bone jokes aside, Haryanto says the career brings the kind of gratification that helps nurses continue in such a challenging day-to-day career. “Being involved with helping people recover from injuries and musculoskeletal conditions where you can see people progress is very satisfying,” she says. Still, the challenges orthopaedic nurses face, including an increasing demand on healthcare resources and nursing shortages, are echoed throughout the nursing entire profession.
But a career as an orthopaedic nurse requires an interdisciplinary approach. As the motion and movement of joints and bones impacts other body systems directly and indirectly, Haryanto calls orthopaedics “a team sport. We never stop learning from each other.”
If you’re a nurse or a nursing student who is interested in this nursing path, Haryanto suggests shadowing an orthopaedic nurse. “We love to share knowledge and bring new nurses into the fold,” she says. As with other nursing specialties, nurses should plan to get certified with the Orthopaedic Nurse Certification -ONC credential. Shadowing a nurse with that credential will give you a full picture of what a day might look like and what skills are used most often.
As a leader of NAON, Haryanto knows the benefits of a professional organization. “The mission of NAON is to advance the specialty of orthopaedic nursing through excellence in research, education and nursing practice,” she says. “We fulfill this mission by providing education and networking opportunities both online with webinars, an active Issues in Practice Forum, and at live events such as our annual congress (in Atlanta in 2019). We are a community of nurses for nurses.” New members are always welcome, as are inquiries from nurses who are curious about the specialty.