One of the obvious prerequisites to becoming a nurse practitioner is acquiring an RN degree and license. You can’t after all become a nurse practitioner without first being a nurse. The RN and NP role are however very different and many prospective nurse practitioner’s don’t want to work as nurses. Do you have to work as a nurse before attending a nurse practitioner program or working as a nurse?
The short answer is “No”, you do not have to work as a nurse before attending a nurse practitioner program or working as a nurse practitioner. Personally, I have never been employed as a RN, never worked on the hospital floor, inserted a foley catheter on the job or even manned an IV pump for pay. I learned how to do all these things in school but have never been employed as an RN. How do you become a nurse practitioner without working your way up the nursing ladder?
- Attend an Accelerated NP Program– Some schools offer accelerated or ‘bridge’ programs to prospective NP’s seeking a career change. These programs typically require you to hold a bachelor’s degree in a field other than nursing. The first year (or more) students complete the RN portion of their degree. The second (and possibly third) year of the program students are prepared as nurse practitioners. This means that upon graduating you have an RN degree but will be immediately eligible for employment as a nurse practitioner. You can forgo working as a RN, if you like.
- Attend Consecutive BSN and Nurse Practitioner Programs- If you can’t find an accelerated NP program to meet your needs, you can create your own personalized path to the NP career allowing you to skip RN employment moving straight to the advanced practice portion of your career. Attend a BSN program applying to a nurse practitioner program the last year of your schooling. Make sure your NP programs of interest do not require any work experience as you will not qualify. If you are accepted to a nurse practitioner program, you will move straight through your nurse practitioner education without a year’s pause to work as an RN.
As with any major life decision, there are positives and negatives to acquiring RN work experience before becoming a nurse practitioner. Choosing not to punctuate your career path with RN experience will allow you to complete your NP degree more quickly and launch you into a higher income bracket earlier in your career. However, you will not have as much experience with basic nursing duties which can leave you occasionally frustrated on the job.
NP’s- do you recommend working as a RN before becoming a nurse practitioner? Share your experiences and advice by commenting below!
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