Advanced Practice Registered Nurse

By Gwen Wodiuk, DNP, FNP-C
Faculty, College of Nursing and Health Care Professions

Nurse working on a tablet

There are several pathways nurses can pursue after the initial stage of caring for people who are hospitalized. There are four types of nurses who are considered “advanced practice.” These nurses work as nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives and clinical nurse specialists.

The History of Nursing

The earliest role to develop was that of the nurse anesthetist. Nurses during the American Civil War began to administer the anesthetic for surgeries performed. Keeping patients asleep was initially a specialized nursing function for a few decades. Having nurses perform this task allowed the physician to focus on the work of the operation.

The next group that developed was nurse midwives. This group grew out of nurses that provided care to underserved communities in the early 1900s. Some of these nurses began to focus more on improving care and health outcomes for women who were pregnant or had recently given birth, and on the care of the newborn. The education and care they provided improved life expectancy for these populations.

In the 1950s and '60s, new categories of nursing developed. Nurses who provided care for patients with mental health issues realized that they were helping a distinct population. This grew into a graduate level preparation specializing in the care of patients with psychiatric issues.

Clinical nurse specialists grew from a similar beginning. They continue to focus on specific populations of patients to provide them with the best care possible. Today, much of their time working in healthcare organizations is spent supporting patients by educating staff and working on policy with the administration of the organization, in addition to directly caring for patients.

Nurse Practitioner

The newest of the roles is the nurse practitioner. The first public health education program was intended to help provide wellness care for children. Since the 1960s, this specialization has expanded to include nurses who provide care for patients in offices and hospitals. They work with newborns, children, adults and older patients. Many specialize in a specific group of people or health care concern.

These nurses have gone back to school and usually earned a master’s degree or a doctorate in their specialized area to care for patients. Advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) can meet many health needs of Americans. As our nation’s healthcare needs continue to grow, this is a group of caring and educated nurses who can help fill some of the gaps in care availability. Much of the time, APRNs choose to help promote health in smaller communities or areas that are underserved with available healthcare professionals. These nurses bring both knowledge and empathy to their interactions with patients.

The College of Nursing and Health Care Professions helps students prepare for rewarding careers in the healthcare field. Learn more by contacting us using the Request Information button at the top of the page.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

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