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Defining the Roles of Advanced Practice Nursing

Guest Author - Helen V. Calalang-Javier, MSN, RNC, IBCLC


    Are you looking for autonomy in your nursing practice? Are you getting bored of your routine activities as a staff nurse? Are you stressed out or burnt out? Are you undecided on how to expand your vision/responsibilities as a nursing professional? Well, let ‘s see where you fit in!

    The Advanced Practice Nursing (APN) is the way to go. There are so many new options and educational pathways that will suit your needs. If you do not have your bachelor’s degree in nursing, there are so many ways now to accomplish this and there are many schools and colleges that will provide you with the preparation you need to succeed. Whether you are considering taking courses at the big universities or colleges or simply considering long-distant learning, the important thing is that you make the decision and commitment to upgrade yourself.

    Many schools offer the combined bachelor’s/master’s degree track or master’s/doctorate degree track. Explore your hospital or your facility for school program listings. Most hospitals or health care facilities partner with colleges and universities to bring the program within your reach. All you have to do is to make that decision to go for it. After all it is you who will benefit from it and hopefully find more value to what you do every day. Here is a listing of the most popular advanced practice nursing roles. These are all at the master’s degree level. The scope of practice is dependent on each state, so in addition to the resources provided here it behooves you to look further into what is available in your state. Oftentimes, these programs may not be listed and to uncover them means that you will have to go digging for the information.

    Nurse practitioners (NP)
    Nurse practitioners are advanced practice nurses who can function independently or as part of a health care system that can manage most disease processes but are not limited to diagnosis and prescriptive privilege. Their practice mainly focuses on health assessment, maintenance, and prevention of disease, counseling and patient education. So, completion of this program means that you can work independently or collaboratively in a doctor’s office or any health care facility in the community.

    Clinical nurse specialists (CNS)
    Clinical nurse specialists are advanced practice nurses who are experts in the care of specific patient populations. The role focuses on clinical practice, teaching, research, consulting, leadership, and management. The scope of practice may cover nursing staff management as well as patient care management. Therefore, as an expert, you can function as a nurse manager, clinical nurse specialist in your specialty such as taking care of diabetic patients, cancer patients, care of special population with anomalies or even patients with HIV or AIDS.

    Nurse-midwives and nurse anesthetists
    Nurse midwives and nurse anesthetists are two of the oldest advanced practice nursing roles that function within a specialized patient care service. If you are interested in the management of women in childbearing years and not limited to childbirth preparation, process and management, then the nurse–midwifery program may be of interest to you. If you are a critical care nurse and are interested in giving anesthesia, sedation, care of patient during pre/post/peri-anesthesia, pain management, and work collaboratively with the anesthesiologist, then go for the nurse anesthetist program.

    Clinical nurse leader (CNL)
    Clinical nurse leader is a relatively new title but the role has been around for decades. If you are exploring the world of nursing leadership and management this may be the right track for you. Today, the preparation you need to be in this position allows you to transfer your basic leadership and management skills to all patient care settings. You can function as a first-line manager, supervisor or administrator or as one of the nursing executives in a hospital, managed care facility, home health agencies, or other health care facilities other than the hospital.

    Visitor Note: Per the AACN, the CNL is NOT considered and advanced practice nursing degree. The title of advanced practice nurse is protected and only those who are clinical nurses specialists, certified nurse midwives, nurse practitioners, and certified registered nurse anesthetists may use the title.

    The feeling of boredom, being stressed out, and burnout are indicators that you need change in your life or in your nursing practice. It is time to move on. One of America’s most beloved motivational writers, who rose from abject poverty in the late 1800’s to become one of the most prolific and beloved motivational authors, Napoleon Hill, believed that the path to success is not lined with the perfect marriage of coincidences and luck, but rather comes from the refusal to give up one’s dream. This sentiment is summed up nicely in one of his famous quotes that; “Effort only fully releases its reward after a person refuses to quit.”

    To learn more about the different competencies and responsibilities specific to what you are looking for, visit the following website or simply click on the nursing organization/association on link on this website:

    Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Competencies

    Nurse Practitioner Primary Care Competencies in Specialty Areas: Adult, Family, and Gerontological. Pediatric and Women’s Health

    Philosophical and Theoretical Perspectives for Advanced Nursing Practice, Fourth Edition
    William K. Cody, RN, PhD, FAAN, Presbyterian School of Nursing, Queens University of Charlotte, North Carolina