Where Could an Advanced Degree Take Your Nursing Career?

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Written By Adeyemi Adetilewa

Whether you are checking out undergraduate nursing programs to get into this career or are already working as a registered nurse and considering advanced programs to take your career to the next level, you might already know that nursing is a career that has countless opportunities for progression and advancement.

As a career path, nursing has endless opportunities whether you want to move up the career ladder into advanced nursing positions, nurse management, and leadership, or nurse education, or whether you are interested in focusing your efforts on a certain specialty area in nursing and healthcare. 

Whether you are planning for your future nursing career long-term or have gained experience as a registered nurse and are ready to take your career further, it is usually required that you get an advanced degree qualification in order to meet your career goals no matter what type of progression you are looking for.

The good news is that both aspiring and current nurses have access to a wider range of degree programs and advanced training courses available to help meet the demand for nurses at every level in the US. 

Current nurses may also find it easier to get an advanced degree qualification right now, with many flexible online programs now available as part of the increase in nursing training options. Many advanced nursing degree programs are now designed with registered nurses in mind, taking into account that many nurses are not in a position where they can quit their job to study or reduce their hours, leading to programs that are highly flexible and easy to fit around a full-time nursing career. 

So, what can you do with an advanced nursing degree? Whether you are putting together a long-term plan for your future career as a nurse or are ready to try something different and want to move up from your current position as an RN, here are some popular career options that you might want to consider. 

1. Nurse Practitioner

Nurse PractitionerThe role of a nurse practitioner is one that is increasing in demand and becoming a very popular option for registered nurses who want to progress to a more advanced role.

Nurse practitioners earn, on average, around $30k more per year compared to registered nurses and in twenty states. They have complete autonomy in their work with full practice authority, which means that authorization from a primary care physician is not required for them to make patient care decisions.

This includes diagnosis, treatment, and prescribing medication. Nurse practitioners can work in primary care or get into a variety of specialist roles, with some of the most popular being pediatric, adult-gerontology, neonatal, and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner positions.

You can find advanced programs that are designed to prepare you specifically for working in your chosen nurse practitioner role, such as the pediatric acute care nurse practitioner programs from Baylor University

2. Critical Care Nurse

Critical care nurses are experiencing a high level of demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These advanced practice registered nurses play a crucial role in administering care to patients who are suffering from illnesses or injuries that are life-threatening.

Most of the time, critical care nurses work in a hospital setting, typically within the ER, ICU, operating room, and other areas where patients require a higher level of care due to being in a serious or life-threatening condition. Critical care nurses provide around-the-clock nursing care and high-intensity interventions to ensure that patients have the best chance of survival and recovery. 

3. Nurse Midwife

If you are considering becoming a nurse or are currently a registered nurse who is interested in women’s health and/or working with newborn infants, it may be worth considering a career as a certified nurse-midwife.

Certified nurse-midwives are nurses who have undergone specialist training to work in women’s health, particularly throughout the pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum stages. Nurse-midwives are highly active professionals when it comes to providing both primary and preventative care for women, particularly in terms of reproductive care.

Aside from delivering babies, nurse midwives play a range of important roles in caring for women’s reproductive health. They will typically work in labor and delivery departments, doctor’s offices, and within the community. 

4. Clinical Nurse Leader

A clinical nurse leader is an advanced practice registered nurse with a high level of clinical competence knowledge and skill. They are usually assigned to a certain set of patients and take the role of the team leader to ensure that their care is managed and overseen correctly.

Clinical nurse leaders need to be able to stay up to date with the latest developments and innovations in medical care, healthcare, and the delivery of care. They put evidence-based practice into action, and are responsible for making sure that their patients receive the highest care standards. 

5. Clinical Trial Nurse

Clinical Trial NurseClinical trials are a very necessary part of the healthcare system. They are constantly held to improve our understanding of certain conditions and successfully develop new treatments for them.

If you are interested in a nursing career where you are directly involved with healthcare’s cutting edge and able to make a difference to the future of patient care and treatment, working as a clinical trial nurse might be an ideal option for you to consider.

Rather than working in hospitals and other treatment settings, clinical trial nurses will work on large research studies that are often conducted to prove the safety and efficacy of new treatments such as devices, protocols, medication, and vaccinations.

Various roles are available for nurses within the field of clinical research including ensuring data integrity, coordinating the research, participant preparation, administering the treatment to participants, and monitoring participants throughout the trial. 

6. Nurse Educator

With an advanced degree in nursing such as an MSN, you are eligible to get a license to work as one of the most in-demand nursing professionals right now; a nurse educator.

The current nursing shortage in the US is impacting all of healthcare, and one of the biggest reasons why it has become so difficult to solve is because there are simply not enough nurse educators to prepare the number of new nurses needed. There is certainly no lack of people looking to become nurses, but colleges and nursing schools have no other choice but to turn applicants away due to a lack of faculty.

Working as a nurse educator is an advanced role that gives you the chance to directly impact the nursing shortage by providing an education to hundreds or even thousands of nursing students each year. You can teach ADN and BSN students if you have a master’s degree in nursing. Getting an even more advanced DNP will qualify you to teach advanced nurses. 

7. Nurse Manager

A nurse manager is an advanced professional who is responsible for overseeing all clinical operations in a range of patient care settings.

A role as a nurse manager will involve facilitating the work of various healthcare professionals and ensuring that all patients receive a high standard and quality of care. Most of the time, you will be required to gain either an MSN or DNP to work as a nurse manager.

This is the ideal advanced career for nurses to consider if you are interested in a role that involves more administrative and management work rather than being directly involved in patient care. 

8. Care Coordinator

Care CoordinatorA relatively new role to be introduced in the healthcare industry, care coordinators will mainly focus on improving the quality of care, patient safety, and cost-effectiveness of a healthcare institution.

Nurses are often a top choice for working as care coordinators since they have first-hand knowledge of patient care and are often skilled at making sure that the right type of care is delivered to each patient when needed.

The position involves working in collaboration with a range of healthcare providers, insurance companies, equipment providers, and other organizations.

Another main role of the care coordinator is to oversee care transitions, such as moving patients to a different clinic, hospital, or department. They will be responsible for ensuring that this is done smoothly with as little disruption as possible to the care and treatment of the patient. To work as a care coordinator, you will usually be required to obtain at least an MSN. 

9. Nurse Executive

While nursing is first and foremost a caring profession, there are opportunities in management to consider for nurses who want to move away from the bedside and take on leadership roles.

Nurses in leadership roles have been shown to improve standards of patient-centered care. Nurse executives are senior nurses who take on an influential role in clinical practice planning and implementation. They are often required to have at least a DNP when it comes to qualifications.

They take on a collaborative role across a healthcare organization to ensure that high-quality patient care is delivered and to uphold the satisfaction of both patients and healthcare professionals. Management experience in healthcare is typically required to work in this role, including experience in HR, finance, and operations. 

Nursing is a career path with endless opportunities for career advancement and progression. With an advanced nursing degree, these are just some of the roles to consider working up to. 

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