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Sample Nursing Career Goals: A Closer Look at the APN Designation

written by: ciel s cantoria•edited by: Linda Richter•updated: 10/25/2010

There are many different career paths for nurses, and individual goals will mostly depended on which path is taken. Here, we'll mostly focus on what's needed to become an APN.

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    What's Your Goal?

    This article looks closely into the Advanced Practice Nursing profession as an example of nursing career goals most nurses aspire to attain. The health care industry has a wide variation of primary care settings, thus broadening the scope of nursing career opportunities. Specializations in different areas of concentration have been developed in order to match the services rendered by those practicing nursing to the present and future needs of the health care industry.

    Nursing Career Specializations

    • Associate Degree in Nursing - ADN
    • Acute Care Nurse Practitioner - ACNP
    • Adult Nurse Practitioner - ANP
    • Advanced Practice Nurse - APN
    • Bachelor of Science in Nursing - BSN
    • Clinical Nurse Practitioner - CNP
    • Clinical Nursing Specialist - CNS
    • Doctor of Nursing Science- DNSc
    • Licensed Practical Nurse - LPN
    • Master of Science in Nursing - MSN
    • Doctor of Nursing - ND

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    A Closer Look at Advanced Practice Nurse or APN Professionals

    Hospital Corpsman Adoracion Samano and Navy Nurse Corps Officer Lt. Rhonda Hinds assist Lt.Cmdr. Kenneth R. Spurlock wife on the Maternal Newborn Ward of U.S. Naval Hospital, Yokosuka, Japan 

    One good sample of a nursing career goal to look closely into is Advanced Practice Nursing. APN has emerged as one of the more popular career goals vied for by Nurse Practitioners and Registered Nurses as their next step for advancement.

    The shortage of medical practitioners in hospitals led to the development of this nursing credential as a way of formally recognizing the roles of nurses in managing patient care. Nurses who used to assist medical practitioners eventually found themselves, more often than physicians, attending to the pediatric, family medicine, and even oncology (cancer) treatments of hospital and clinical patients.

    Advanced Practice Nursing provided the answer to the shortage of primary care services as Nurse Practitioners extended their education in line with their expanding roles. Traditionally, an APN comes from four different nursing career fields: (1) Nurse Practitioners - NP, (2) Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist – CRNA, (3) Clinical Nurse Specialist – CNS, and (4) Certified Nurse Midwife – CNM.

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    How Does a Registered Nurse (RN) become an Advanced Practice Nurse?

    Genie Lindsey, a registered nurse with Project Hope attached to Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort explains the correct procedures for administering an intravenous tube to 

    The clinical experiences of registered nurses have provided them with skills and competency in the aforementioned fields of nursing specializations. Those, along with other qualifications, make them highly qualified to pursue educational enhancements via a Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. An MSN degree takes about 18 to 24 months to complete, while some others may even take additional steps by pursuing a joint degree in hospital, public health, or business administration.

    Nonetheless, there are now other career pathways by which this nursing career can be achieved.

    By Way of RN-to-MSN Programs

    Nursing education is being streamlined to eliminate course overlaps in nursing curricula; hence, the RN-to-MSN nursing program has been introduced. This is a way for nurses to acquire an MSN immediately after graduating from the 4-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing – BSN. The classes and internships offered under this program will clear the path for students aiming to attain RN status with enhanced knowledge and health care skills that meet the requirements of MSN courses.

    Direct Entry MSN

    Holders of a Bachelor’s Degree in non-nursing courses who are interested in pursuing nursing career goals can complete their health care education by way of the Direct Entry MSN program. Liberal arts courses previously completed by students will be credited to satisfy some of the nursing course requirements under this bridging system for MSN-qualified students.

    Normally students can finish their nursing degree through this program within three years, in which the first year will be devoted to entry-level nursing course work. The latter two years will be concentrations of Master’s level studies geared at preparing the student for RN licensure. This can be achieved by way of mastering the advanced training in specialization courses.

    The Master’s in Nursing students who will be taking up courses via Direct Entry MSN programs will gain qualifications to take up the NCLEX-RN exams. Passing the board entitles them to the RN license and status.

    Please proceed to the next page for information about the Post Master's Certificate as well as licensing requirements for APNs, a basic essential to this particular nursing career goal.

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    A brief study of the many nursing career goals from which to choose led this author to the Advanced Practice Nursing credential, the APN profession being the most in-demand in the health care industry. Read how options have opened up in this timely article by Ciel S. Cantoria.
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    The Post Master’s Certificate of the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)

    This is offered by the American Nurse Association (ANA) to nursing students and professionals who wish to gain credentials as proof of their skills and expertise in a particular nursing field. Earning an ANCC Post Master’s Certificate at all levels surpasses an RN professional attainment. Certifications offered by the ANCC are Advanced Practice and Clinical Nurse Certifications, encompassing thirty different areas of specializations. These certifications are the credentials that will open avenues to higher nursing career goals.

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    Scope of Practice Performed by the Advanced Practice Nurse

    U. S. Navy Cmdr. David Lu performs delicate cataract surgery on a patient while members of the Philippine Navy medical team, along with U.S. Navy nurses and hospital corpsman assist and observe 

    The Nurse Practice Acts oversee the nursing profession, but the scope of practice performed by APNs depends on what the state law allows. Each US state requires a state-issued nursing license before an APN can perform her expanded responsibilities. It is important for practicing APNs to determine the restrictions or limitations that a US state may impose regarding the legal scope of work that APNs may perform as a primary care provider.

    In fact, some states still require a physician’s concurrence or documented collaboration over the medical procedures, prescriptions, diagnosis, use of medical devices, and other similar work issues which a conventional nurse performs in her role as assistant to a physician. Thus the varying laws formerly presented barriers among APNs while performing work as Travel Nurses. An APN has to have a license in every state in which she renders her primary care services.

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    Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Compact or APRN Compact

    The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) addressed this issue when it passed the Advanced Practice Registered Nurse Compact or APRN Compact. Four US states, namely: Texas, Utah, Maryland, and Wisconsin came together to develop and formulate this APRN Compact to make health care provisions and providers in their regions more effective and efficient. Through state enactment of this compact of agreements, eighteen other US states followed suit and collaborated to adopt a uniform set of APRN practice requirements, particularly those that pertain to prescription issuances.

    For a complete list of the 22 US states that have adopted the APRN Compact , click here.

    Please proceed to the next page for Sample Career Opportunities for the Advanced Practice Nurse (APN).

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    Learn the top industries and employers for this nursing career choice and the US states where these nurses are popular by demand. Get info about which APN specialization has the highest national pay data. Read the brief overviews for these nursing career goals in this page of Ciel S. Cantoria's article.
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    Sample Career Opportunities for the Advance Practice Nurse (APN)

    The following are brief career profiles of nursing jobs available to APNs:

    Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner (General)

    National Salary Data for Total Pay (Basic Salary, Bonus & Profit Shares) - $70,280 to $92,290

    Top Industry Hirers

    (1) Health Care (2) Family Medicine (3) Hospital (4) Medical Office and (5)Health Clinic

    Top Employers

    (1) Veterans Affairs Hospital (2) Department of Veterans Affairs (3) Florida Cancer Specialist (4) The US Veterans Administration and (5) Kaiser Permanente

    US Cities with Highest Demand

    (1) Tampa, Florida (2) Seattle, Washington (3) Orlando, Florida (4) Louisville, Kentucky (5) New York, New York

    Cardiovascular Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner

    National Salary Data for Total Pay (Basic Salary, Bonus & Profit Shares) - $73,642 to $95,227

    Top Industry Hirers

    (1) Cardiology (2) Health Care (3) Hospital (4) Acute Care Hospital and (5) Cardiothoracic Surgery

    Top Employers

    (1) Veterans Affairs Hospital (2) Abington Memorial Hospital

    US Cities with Highest Demand

    (1) Orlando, Florida (2) Seattle, Washington (3) Cleveland, Ohio (4) Phoenix, Arizona and (5) Baltimore, Maryland

    Pediatric Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner

    National Salary Data for Total Pay (Basic Salary, Bonus & Profit Shares) - $60,775 to $84,808

    Top Industry Hirers

    (1) Health Care (2) Pediatric Office (3) Hospital (4) Medical Office and (5) Acute Care Hospital

    Top Employers

    (1) Medical University of South Carolina (2) Southern Maine Medical Center

    US Cities with Highest Demand

    (1) Orlando, Florida (2) Chicago, Illinois (3) Tampa, Florida (4) Atlanta, Georgia (5) New York, New York

    Internal Medicine Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner

    National Salary Data for Total Pay (Basic Salary, Bonus & Profit Shares) - $71,634 to $92,577

    Top Industry Hirers

    (1) Health Care (2) Internal Medicine (3) Medical Office (4) Family Medicine and (5) Hospital

    US Cities with Highest Demand

    (1) Seattle, Washington (2) Miami, Florida (3) Chicago, Illinois (4) Baltimore, Maryland and (5) Jacksonville, Florida

    The Advance Practice Nurse profession is only one of the many nursing career goals that fulfill the current demand of the health care industry. The nursing profession as a whole still has a wide gap to fill in terms of manpower supply. In fact, the increasing need is still mounting, as members of US communities are now provided with more accessible and affordable health care opportunities through the Affordable Health Care Act.

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    Reference Materials and Image Credit Section:


    • What to Expect in Your Master's in Nursing Degree Program ---
    • Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) States ---
    • Nursing School: The ABCs of Nursing Degrees ---

    Image Credits:

    Careers in Nursing

    Are you considering a career in nursing, or are you already a nurse looking to explore new opportunities? Check out the tips in this career spotlight series.
    1. Questions & Answers for Nursing Interviews
    2. Best Nursing Travel Jobs
    3. Tips for Considering a Nursing Career Change
    4. Sample Nursing Career Goals: A Closer Look at the APN Designation
    5. Resources for Nursing Professional Development: Events, Certifications and Publications