UPDATE: as of April 15, 2013, this entry has 6,152 (six thousand, one hundred and fiftytwo!) separate views. It’s the single most popular blog entry I have written. Please feel free to add your feedback and comments. and, buy my book on Amazon. The book has nothing to do with APRNs, but might give you some insight as to why any body would ever want to be a nurse….
Disclaimer: I myself went to grad school fairly early in my career – after just one year as an RN. In those days (the 1970s) the federal government supported nursing education with generous grants and stipends which we knew would not last forever. I did not incur any debt for grad school, whatsoever. sweet! I continued to work as an RN after grad school, and the MS credential surely came in handy when I finally needed to have it. So – I am in favor of graduate education.
Buzzwords. The Trend Du Jour.
Advanced Practice Nursing is a big buzzword nowadays and we are using the idea of it to attract people to the nursing profession. Throughout the USA there is a proliferation of “three-year’s wonder” programs, the idea being that the student does an entire nursing program the first year, then takes NCLEX, then spend two more years getting their MSN and NP while they work part-time as an RN. It’s particularly attractive during the down economy we are experiencing, because there are plenty of people out there with prior BS degrees who are looking for a fulfilling job. It is oh-so-seductive to think they can gain the RN skill in just one year.
Okay, so it’s a wave – lots of schools and universities are offering these programs. there are plenty of stats to provide a rationale for the career track we are inventing.
The aging of the population
The lack of Medical Doctors to provide primary care
the overall need for RNs to replace the RNs in the baby boom who will be retiring soon.
etc etc etc
I am not disputing those trends, but I am bemoaning some things that seem to be getting lost along the way.
Myth One – no need to learn basic personal care
To begin with, role socialization into nursing goes out the window when the time is compressed. Many of the persons who come from these programs seem to me to be unaware of how nurses work as a team, how nurses work in a hospital, and how to do any kind of personal care for a sick person. In other words, such things as cleaning up “fecal incontinence.” When this comes up in conversation, they say “oh, well, I am going to be a nurse practitioner and I will be in an independent practice, I don’t need to learn those things.”
My retort would be: If You are hoping to get a part-time nursing job to put yourself through school while you get the next two years of grad school under your belt, you will be judged according to the standard of the nurses around you, not to the other standard. It is extremely unlikely that you will be getting anything other than a staff nurse job while you work during school.
also, don’t discount what a staff nurse learns. accountability and integrity are a big piece of the socialization process. A staff nurse in a labor-intensive setting like a hospital, gets daily role modeling from the older nurses. daily mentoring. any new nurse needs to develop trust with those already in the setting, and people will trust you more if you aren’t afraid to get your (gloved) hands dirty.
Think about this: if a patient has been incontinent of feces, no real nurse ever just lets them lay there. Never ever. You may not have to clean them yourself, but you do need to know how. Being clean is a critical element in the dignity of human beings. a very simple precept, really….. and if you as a student disrespect this, you will not gain the trust of the nurses around you.
Myth Two – independent practice
The next myth for Advanced Practice is that “I will be in an independent practice and I am not going to need to learn to work in the kind of subservient hierarchy that a traditional staff nurse needs to navigate through”
If that is truly the case, you will need to borrow money to rent office space, hire a billing agency, advertise to the community, all those things just like you were opening up a furniture store. Ask yourself if you have the business skills to do it, or to get a loan. There are some great resources out there, I particularly recommend one book by Carolyn Buppert; but – is that what you want to do? Most Medical Doctors gave that up twenty years ago, the hassle of “hanging out a shingle” was way too much. We are training you to provide population-based care, which means many of you will be making frequent rounds in a Long Term Care Facility, as part of a group practice. The retired frail elderly population of USA is burgeoning, right? your job will consist of freeing up time for the doc you work with so they can focus more on the technical side.
The small population of ARNPs who will be doing more acute care will be drawn from among those nurses who went the hospital- nursing route and solidified their skills before they enrolled in NP school.
let’s reserve the topic of subservience for some future blog, shall we?
I will be making a lot more money than a staff nurse
In many states the recertification requirement for any ARNP is 40 to 80 hours per year. If you maintain dual-certification, you may have more. This works out to ten working days per year where you are in classes (or being online). When you are in class, you are not seeing patients, and your income is affected. You will also have to pay higher malpractice costs. If you are in a family specialty, you will have many patients who don’t have insurance. All these things detract from the bottom line.
If it doesn’t work out, I can always fall back on a job as a faculty member somewhere.
Yes, we do have a shortage of nursing faculty. and the minimal requirement to teach is a Master’s Degree. This is one that puzzles me. For years now there has been such emphasis on going the NP route, that very few nurses enroll in an education track for graduate school. The result? a shortage of faculty, now being filled by recruiting from among those Master’s Prepared nurses who are unsatisfied with an NP job, and who get hired to teach.
There is a problem with this. A converted-over NP with a MS degree does not automatically have the clinical knowledge base to teach in an inpatient clinical setting; and they also don’t have any course work in pedagogy, the science of teaching, how to lecture, how to construct a valid exam, none of the things an educator needs to know in order to be effective.
So far this trend has been under the radar. Any school of nursing where the administration is addressing this, will be ahead of the game.
Myth Five “I can work as an RN after the first year, and use that money to pay for the second and third years, so it’s really not so expensive after all!” go to my latest blog entry to explore this one. Plan carefully.
Got it off my chest!
So, what you have just read was a “rant” - the kind of complaining I always dislike. If I were to stand up at a professional meeting, I am sure there would be a pregnant pause when I was done. People would look around the room, and then some sweet and wise person would bravely ask And what do you propose that we do about this?
My answer would be:
for the student: realize that you are entering a profession with a long history of service and where you will learn from all those around you in any setting you enter. The more responsibility you are given, the more direct (and sometimes brutal) the feedback will be.
study the idea of role socialization. don’t let it be a hit-or-miss proposition. realize that your thinking style will be changed by becoming a nurse. oh yes it will…..
don’t disrespect the basic skills of personal care. paradoxically, the more likely you are to work in critical care, the more you will need the kind of teamwork and excellent personal care skills you learn at a basic level.
don’t disrespect the work done by staff nurses, whether it is in a hospital, long-term care facility, or other setting. not ever.
for the schools: be realistic when advertising what a fast-track program can provide and how it fits into a clinical track. When a MEPN student is disrespecting the work of staff nurses, call them out.
emphasize the whole role socialization piece. Insist that the skills portion of undergrad curriculum is rigorous and incorporates socialization, not simply mechanical performance.
insist that converted over NPs who take on a faculty role be given the maximum in mentorship
reclaim the nursing focus of advanced practice nursing. I think it is too easy to slip in to a purely medical model…..
I am fully aware that I will get feedback on this one……. I don’t pretend that this is the end-all and be all of the discussion – if you have another idea, fire away!