The emergence of nurse practitioners (NPs) as advanced practice caregivers in the 1940s and 50s was the direct result of a doctor shortage. Along with nurse anesthetists and midwives, NPs were thought of as assistants to medical doctors that acted as an extension of private practice. So much has changed over the last 70 years that it is rather hard to quantify. Today’s nurse practitioner jobs are more of an extension of what physicians do.
No fewer than 21 states have actively expanded the scope of care that nurse practitioners are licensed to offer. The remaining states are in the process of either writing legislation or reviewing their own regulations for the purposes of scope expansion. The result is that there are significantly more options for nurse practitioners today as compared to what was available in the 1950s.
Below is a partial list of the career path options available to nurse practitioners:
- Family/Primary Care – Whether working independently or in concert with a doctor, a nurse practitioner can enjoy a long and productive career as a family provider offering primary care in a local office. This seems to be a very popular model for nurse practitioners right now.
- Rural Care – A rural care specialty involves providing family/primary care in rural environments where very little exists by way of healthcare. This is an exciting opportunity to help communities that do not have access to doctors, communities in which residents typically have to drive an hour or longer just to receive basic care.
- Women’s Health – The nurse practitioner who chooses to specialize in women’s health will undergo comprehensive training to that end. Licensed NPs working in women’s health tend to work at outpatient facilities such as community clinics, private practices, and hospital-owned medical groups. Some do work in long-term care facilities including hospitals and assisted-living centers.
- Adult Care – The growing U.S. population is creating a greater demand for nurse practitioners among older patients. This specialty affords the opportunity to work with a group of people with some unique needs, individuals who have the experience of life behind them and who bring an entirely different perspective to the healthcare they receive.
- Acute Care – Acute care nurse practitioners work in emergency departments, surgical centers, walk-in clinics, and other similar environments. Their primary focus is to help treat patients suffering from acute conditions or injuries. These nurse practitioners are more likely to work directly with doctors rather than independently.
- Neonatal Care – The NP specializing in neonatal care focuses on caring for newborn infants. More often than not, they work in hospital maternity wards and the neonatal intensive care unit. Some also provide research and support services for family members of sick infants.
- Perinatal Care – The other side of neonatal care is perinatal care. NPs working in this field provide healthcare services to women during their pregnancies, through childbirth, and during the postpartum period. This kind of work is an opportunity to work with women who are under lots of stress.
Growing Independence from Physicians
Nurse practitioners and associated professional groups are delighted with the fact that they are gaining increasing independence from physicians. This is enabling the nation’s NPs to offer more care to more people, in a larger variety of settings.
At no time in the past did the career prospects of NPs look as bright as they do today. Anyone thinking of going into advanced practice nursing as a career can now do so with the knowledge that there is a virtual buffet of career path choices one can take after training.