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.
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.
If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by all the things you need to do and all the tasks you need to catch up on, you’re not alone. Sometimes it can feel like you are scrambling to finish things all the time but nothing really feel completed.
When you add the stress of a global pandemic, upended work schedules and processes, and a family dynamic that may have changed radically amid all the upheaval, it’s no wonder that your productivity feels like it’s taken a hit lately. But there are ways to help get yourself back on track.
If you’ve never tried the SMART approach to productivity and getting things done, now is the time. SMART is an acronym that helps break your goals, large and small, into manageable steps.
SMART stands for
How can you use the principles of SMART to your advantage? Start with thinking of an overall goal and naming it. Think of what you might need to reach that goal—it can be as big as earning an advanced degree and as small as cleaning your closets. Consider your umbrella goal and think of SMART as the step-by-step map of how to get there.
To use SMART, you need to have an idea of your steps—that’s the specific part of the goal setting and how you want to increase your productivity. Be precise on naming what you need to do. Do you want to earn a degree? You’ll have some specific steps to take including researching requirements, finding the right program, and taking any required courses.
When you have some specifics, you’ll need some measureable feedback to see if you’re on track. For an advanced degree, that might mean making sure you have the necessary requirements for a program and a timeline for when you need to have any exams or applications completed. You might need to take a prerequisite course, but to have a measureable goal, you’ll need an application or completion date to stay on track.
Your goals are, of course, goals and they should challenge you. But your goals should also be attainable. Don’t set a goal to earn your PhD in a year because you can’t. Look at your specific goals, establish your measureable results and then realistically figure out how you can achieve them. If a degree is in your sights and you’re concerned about paying for the tuition, for instance, set steps for how you can earn credits through work, earn additional income to afford the tuition costs, or take out loans without going into significant debt. Have a plan that makes your goal realistic and doable.
Your goals should also be relevant to your life and what you want to achieve. Is your goal of an advanced degree going to help your career in the way you expect? Will your current role be expanded and will you achieve a higher pay or get a promotion if you earn this degree? Is an advanced degree relevant to your career right now and to how you define success?
Lastly, be open to the amount of time it takes to achieve this goal. Break it down by courses and by semesters and take into account all the other SMART steps to ensure you have a goal that you can finish in the expected time. If you’re expectations on timing are on target, your other steps will support your actions and help you achieve your goal. With clear goals, your productivity will get a boost.
The SMART approach can be used to many areas of your professional and personal life. Breaking down a goal into steps and strategies helps you consider all angles, predict roadblocks, and set yourself up for success.
Nurses in all specialties and in all areas will, at some point, work with patients who have Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Because the disease impacts each person in a different way, caring for patients can be challenging, especially for nurses who aren’t used to the intricate interactions that might give them the most success.
Cindy Keith, RN, BS, CDP, owner of M.I.N.D. in Memory Care, and author of “Love, Laughter, & Mayhem – Caregiver Survival Manual for Living with a Person with Dementia,”offered some tips for nurses who work with patients and families about how to find effective ways to care for those with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
Families often find out how their loved one responds best through their own trial and error. The music that may soothe one person may trigger agitation in another. A soft wrap that one person finds comforting may feel confining to another. But nurses who haven’t worked with that person before don’t have the same advantage. And sometimes what worked last week won’t work this week with the same patient.
Keith suggests nurses begin by meeting the patient where they are. “First and foremost, they live in an alternate reality, and it does more harm than good to try to orient them to the current reality,” she says. “You must get into their reality and work with them on that level.”
What does that mean for a typical interaction? Keith suggests that when a patient with Alzheimer’s disease repeatedly calls for a loved one, a nurse can ask about that person in a calm manner to redirect the conversation. Sometimes that will redirect a patient enough so that they are able to talk about their loved one and they do not continue to want the person with them, but not always. If, for instance, a patient repeatedly calls out for his wife or wants to see his wife and redirecting doesn’t work, Keith suggests a different approach for nurses who are especially aware of the patient’s memory. “Then if he persists and his mind cannot be redirected, say something like ‘Your wife has told us she is on her way and will be here in an hour or so. She asked that we remind you that she loves you and is on her way,’” she says.
This kind of “therapeutic fib,” she says, can often defuse a tense or ongoing situation. It also helps build trust so you’re able to provide the care they need. The important “if” factor is that you must be sure the patient won’t remember what you told them in an hour. If that approach works, then other staff can use it to help calm the patient at other times. “Remember that a smile and gentle touch go a long way to getting them to trust you,” she says.
Nurses can also use a team approach to help patients cope with processes or procedures they may not understand or may not like. “If the person is in the ER and the lab staff has just drawn blood and the elder is furious about it—then you can be the good guy and tell the elder you’ll make sure that person never touches you again,” Keith says. Having that kind of balance helps caregivers, the patient, and the family who can become upset when their loved one is upset or agitated.
What other tips come in handy? Keith says you don’t have correct patients when they talk about being in a different time. “Get into their reality,” she says. “If the guy thinks he’s back in the war in a POW camp, then act like a comrade who is going to help get him out. Say anything to help calm the person.”
Nurses who work with patients who have Alzheimer’s or dementia, should recognize that delirium is quite frequently present along with the dementia, says Keith. People may think they are in a time that was decades ago—situations like that are common when you’re working with patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
And, says Keith, nurses have to learn that patients aren’t going to always say nice things to you, but it’s best to not take it personally. Again, their reality is altered and they may think they are perfectly healthy or okay and that you are actually the one with a problem or causing a problem.
“They know they are an adult,” she says, “and they will get angry if you treat them like a child. They will do childlike things, but you will make the situation worse if you talk to them or treat them like a child.” So redirect your instructions and continue to check in with yourself to see if you are communicating with respect and humor and with a calm, gentle manner. Watch for how you say something, especially when you’re frustrated. (Saying “No, you can’t do that! You have to do this whether you want to or not!” will probably not result in your patient complying and may, in fact, make things worse.)
As you work with each new patient, you’ll find ways of communicating effectively when you aren’t sure how they are going to present to you. Learning how to navigate each case is going to help your team give the best care which is the end result everyone wants.