The challenging but fulfilling work nurses do plays an invaluable role in our society and health care system every day. As medical professionals who oversee a patient’s condition from intake to discharge, often throughout a patient’s lifetime, nurses have a long-lasting positive impact.
With a current and projected future shortage of nurses in the U.S., opportunities for nursing leaders are plentiful. Nursing leaders can choose a specialty that suits them from a range that includes adult health, family health, gerontology, neonatal, oncology, pediatrics, psychiatric mental health, and women’s health.
Earning an advanced degree such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) can be the key step for all types of nurse practitioners to move forward in their careers. By taking the time to understand their options and choose a specialty that they are passionate about, nurses can shape rewarding careers and reach their personal and professional goals.
What Do Nurse Practitioners Do?
While the scope of practice varies from state to state, nurse practitioners carry out vital tasks that can include:
- Assessing patients
- Diagnosing patients
- Prescribing medications
- Ordering and interpreting tests
- Providing guidance and educating patients and their families
- Suggesting strategies for a healthy lifestyle
Collaborating with other medical professionals, nurse practitioners are granted full practice authority to oversee their patients’ progress, making key medical decisions and providing comprehensive care.
What Type of Nurse Practitioner Are You?
As nurse practitioners advance in their careers, many choose to take on senior level roles and hone their skills in a specific area of nursing. These specialties include a certain age demographic, such as pediatrics or adult-gerontology; type of illness, such as oncology; or type of treatment, such as psychiatric or mental health treatment.
Choosing a specialty can be challenging, and understanding what you can do with an MSN as well as the different types of nurse practitioners is crucial to making that decision.
Among the many options available to aspiring nurse practitioners, three popular specialties to explore are family nurse practitioner, adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner, and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. These specialties make up a commanding 69.7%, 2.9%, and 4.7%, respectively, of all nurse practitioners, according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP).
Family Nurse Practitioner
Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) have the opportunity to be a rock in their community, providing much-needed care to families and patients of all ages, backgrounds, and socioeconomic groups. Working as a resource for health promotion and disease prevention, and providing a wide range of health care services, FNPs care for patients throughout their lifetime. With such a broad scope of practice, FNPs often lay the groundwork for referrals to other providers focused on specific illnesses or intensive care.
Fixtures in a variety of institutions including hospitals, private practices, community health centers, and universities, FNPs are the type of nurse practitioners tasked with delivering long-term comprehensive care to patients and their families.
FNPs are in high demand across the country, so a multitude of opportunities exist in this category. The median total annual salary for FNPs was $115,000 per year as of 2020, inclusive of their base salary, bonuses, and incentive payments, according to the AANP. FNPs actual salaries may vary based on their level of education or certification, work experience, and job location.
Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
Focused on providing care to young adults, adults, and geriatric patients, adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioners (AGACNPs) treat patients with acute or chronic health conditions. Working in both emergency and intensive care units as well as specialty or long-term care institutions, this type of nurse practitioner routinely faces challenging cases.
AGACNPs assess, diagnose, and create treatment plans tailored for adults suffering from acute and chronic illnesses. This type of nurse practitioner may work in challenging environments or take on nontraditional schedules, handling emergency or specialty care.
Often working in hospitals or focusing on acute care specialties such as critical or cardiovascular care, AGACNPs play a key role in emergency medicine. The median total annual salary for AGACNPs was $113,000 as of 2020, including base salary, bonuses, and incentive payments, with room for growth based on experience, additional certifications, or training in specific illnesses and diseases, according to the AANP.
Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNPs) play a vital role in society, providing care that focuses not only on patients’ mental health but also on their overall well-being. With the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reporting that a staggering 1 in 5 adults experiences mental illness each year, the care that PMHNPs provide can have a significant effect on the lives of others.
Using physical and mental health assessments to build comprehensive treatment plans, qualified PMHNPs with full practice authority can diagnose, prescribe medication, and counsel and educate patients, steering them toward healthy lifelong habits.
As rates of mental illness continue to increase around the world, PMHNPs are in high demand. PMHNPs had a median total annual salary of $137,000 as of 2020, taking into account base salary, bonuses, and incentive payments, according to the AANP. Applying their well-rounded and advanced education, PMHNPs can fight the stigma surrounding mental health care, making it a priority in care around the country.
Make a Positive Difference as a Nurse Practitioner
Caring for patients from infancy to old age, nurse practitioners have the opportunity to see people through the great milestones in their lives. With advanced education, nursing leaders can steer their career toward the type of nurse practitioner role they are most passionate about, focusing on the nuances of a specific area of care.
Learning the ins and outs of a specialty takes time and dedication, but it can be the key to achieving coveted senior roles and the higher salaries that accompany them. Pursuing an advanced degree such as the online Master of Science in Nursing from Ohio University can be a great opportunity for future nursing leaders to set themselves up for success.
A fully online program with a robust curriculum and the opportunity to choose from among four specialty tracks — Family Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Educator, Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, or Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner — the program was created to prepare you with the practical skills you need to achieve your goals in nursing. Discover how you can make a positive impact as a future nursing leader.
BSN vs. MSN: Advance Your Nursing Career
Nurse Leader Role: Career Options at Home and Abroad
Healthy Exercise and Nutrition Guide for Nurses
American Association of Nurse Practitioners, Are You Considering a Career as an Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner?
American Association of Nurse Practitioners, Are You Considering a Career as a Family Nurse Practitioner?
American Association of Nurse Practitioners, Are You Considering a Career as Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner?
American Association of Nurse Practitioners, NP Fact Sheet
American Association of Nurse Practitioners, The Path to Becoming a Nurse Practitioner (NP)
American Association of Nurse Practitioners, What’s a Nurse Practitioner (NP)?
Cedars Sinai, “What Does a Nurse Practitioner Do?” Johnson & Johnson Nursing, Nursing Specialties
National Alliance on Mental Illness, Mental Health by the Numbers U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners