More than ever, nurse practitioners play a vital role in our health care system. As the demand for qualified nurses continues to grow, many nurse leaders are turning to specializations to enhance their careers. With benefits that include greater responsibility, the potential to earn a higher salary, and the ability to focus on a specific area of interest, a variety of exciting opportunities could be open to nurses with advanced degrees and specializations.
Nurse practitioners with specializations are able to meet the challenges of the contemporary nursing landscape, including the rise of chronic conditions and the impact an aging population will have on the health care system. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that health care occupations will grow 15% between 2019 and 2029 due to the aging population, adding about 2.4 million jobs and increasing the need for nurse leaders. To benefit from this promising employment outlook, current and future nurse practitioners may want to consider pursuing a nurse practitioner specialty.
Why Nursing Specialization Matters
Nurse leaders with nurse practitioner specialties can leverage their skills and knowledge in a specific area to improve care delivery, yielding more positive patient outcomes.
As the opportunities for nurse practitioners continue to expand and nurses with advanced degrees gain more responsibility, the benefits related to a nursing specialization can grow as well. Through specialized education, nurses have the potential to focus on their interests and play to their strengths. With advanced education, nurses can gain a competitive edge in the job market, increasing their eligibility for coveted upper-level roles, improved salaries, and added responsibility or autonomy.
Choosing a Nurse Practitioner Specialty
The growing list of opportunities for nurse practitioners makes choosing which specialty is the right fit both exciting and difficult. All nurses have different strengths; some enjoy working closely with patients, while others prefer research-based work. This means they have a plethora of advantages and disadvantages to consider when choosing a nurse practitioner specialty. From a focus on women’s health to mental health or caring for the aging population, specialization can take nurses in a variety of new and exciting directions.
The Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) Specialization
Family nurse practitioners care for patients at all life stages, from infants to seniors. They often build lasting relationships with their patients and advise them on a variety of care concerns. Family nurse practitioners perform many of the same duties as a physician and commonly practice in both public and private health care facilities. With their broad scope of practice, patient demographics, and methods of care delivery, FNPs address a wide range of concerns, from patient education to disease prevention and the treatment of serious illness. To do so effectively, many nurse practitioners pursue further certification in areas such as diabetes or pain and obesity management.
With the ability to practice in a variety of health care settings and the knowledge to manage a wide variety of tasks, FNPs are in high demand. The median salary for family nurse practitioners was about $96,900 per year as of July 2021, according to PayScale.
The Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) Specialization
Concerns about mental illness are on the rise, with anxiety disorders affecting over 40 million adults in the U.S. alone, according to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America. With less than half of those individuals receiving treatment, the need for nurse practitioners with specializations in psychiatric mental health is critical.
Trained to deliver care to a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds, age demographics, and communities, PMHNPs are excellent communicators with in-depth knowledge of psychology. PMHNPs work mostly in inpatient settings and may address care relating to crisis intervention, emergency care, and preventive medicine, in addition to potentially providing therapy or prescribing medications for patients with mental health disorders or substance abuse problems.
The care provided by PMHNPs can be hands-on and collaborative, allowing them to work in a variety of settings and making them a valuable asset to most organizations. PMHNPs earned a median salary of around $99,200 per year as of August 2021, according to PayScale.
The Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AGACNP) Specialization
The adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner specialty is focused on patients with complex, acute conditions. Developing multifaceted treatment plans that include monitoring the progress of health-related issues such as epidemiology, pathogenesis, and traumatic care, AGACNPs work in highly focused areas of nursing. Nurses considering this specialization should expect to work nontraditional hours, including nights and weekends, responding to care crises.
AGACNPs address acute, chronic illnesses and their associated administrative issues, such as cost of treatment and the available government or social resources to combat them. Working in settings ranging from specialty clinics to trauma-based or long-term facilities, AGACNPs earned a median salary of about $96,100 per year as of August 2021, according to PayScale.
The Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP) Specialization
Nurse practitioners specialized in pediatrics have the unique responsibility of not only caring for young patients but also guiding their caregivers through the process. Focused on patients ranging from newborns to young adults, PNPs are involved in care ranging from childhood wellness, nutrition, and development to the management of pediatric acute illness and chronic conditions.
Many PNPs have their choice of working in a variety of settings, including pediatric hospitals, specialty clinics, school-based health centers, and urgent care clinics. PNPs earned a median salary of around $91,500 per year as of July 2021, according to PayScale.
The Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (AGPCNP) Specialization
AGPCNPs play a vital role in the health of their local communities by assessing, diagnosing, and planning for the health needs of adults of all ages and from any cultural or socioeconomic background. Often managing chronic health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, and other long-term illnesses, many AGPCNPs handle the development of proactive wellness strategies, age-appropriate pharmacology, and patient care education. As primary care practitioners, they can build ongoing relationships with patients, following their progress over time and adapting procedures to meet the changes involved in both chronic and routine health care delivery.
AGPCNPs often work in long-term care facilities, hospital-based clinics, or private practices. The median salary for AGPCNPs was about $90,100 per year as of July 2021, according to PayScale.
The Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP) Specialization
WHNPs undergo extensive training to provide both comprehensive and proactive care. They are often specialized in procedures such as breast cancer screenings and Papanicolaou (Pap) tests, as well as contraceptive care, feminine wellness plans, and preventive medicine. By utilizing strong communication skills, WHNPs assess, diagnose, and treat women’s reproductive, obstetric, and gynecological health, as well as mental wellness concerns associated with it.
Whether working in a hospital or clinic, WHNPs are specialized nurse practitioners with an in-depth knowledge of the issues that women face, including intersections of ethnicity, social class, sexual orientation, and gender. WHNPs earned a median salary of around $94,600 per year as of July 2021, according to PayScale.
Develop Your Expertise With an Advanced Nursing Degree
Nurse practitioners specialized in a field are valuable and critical components of our health care system. With the ability to provide individualized and expert care, nurse leaders can improve not only the policies and procedures they work with but also the lives and outcomes of their patients. With three specializations, a uniquely flexible matriculation path, and small classes with dedicated faculty members, Hawai‘i Pacific University’s online BSN to DNP program can help passionate nurses reach their full potential. Discover how an advanced degree could help you pursue your professional goals and improve the lives of patients today.