Unlocking New Horizons: 5 Advanced Practice Pathways for Nurses

Nurses play a vital role in providing quality patient care and improving outcomes. As the demand for highly skilled and specialized nursing professionals continues to rise, it becomes imperative for nurses to explore advanced practice pathways that can unlock new horizons in their careers.

This article aims to shed light on five exciting and rewarding advanced practice options for nurses, offering them the opportunity to expand their scope of practice, make a greater impact, and advance their professional journey. Join us on this enlightening journey as we unlock new horizons and discover the exciting opportunities that await nurses in the realm of advanced practice.

1. Family Nurse Practitioner

Becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) is a prominent advanced practice pathway for nurses. With an advanced degree in nursing and specialized training, FNPs are equipped to provide comprehensive primary healthcare to individuals and families of all ages. In addition, they play a vital role in promoting health, preventing diseases, and managing chronic conditions.

FNPs are trained to assess, diagnose, and treat patients, order and interpret diagnostic tests, prescribe medications, and provide patient education and counseling.

With over 355,000 licensed nurse practitioners (NPs) in the United States, as reported by the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), it is evident that these advanced practice professionals play a vital role in healthcare delivery.

Among them, Family Nurse Practitioners (FNPs) make up a significant portion, accounting for 70.3% of the NP population 1https://www.aanp.org/about/all-about-nps/np-fact-sheet. It highlights the significant presence and impact of FNPs in the healthcare industry.

The role of an FNP encompasses a wide range of responsibilities, including conducting physical exams, developing treatment plans, managing acute and chronic illnesses, and collaborating with other healthcare professionals.

With their holistic approach to care, FNPs prioritize patient-centeredness, continuity of care, and health promotion. They also serve as trusted healthcare providers, building strong relationships with their patients and communities.

2. Adult-Gerontology Acute Care

The field of Adult-Gerontology Acute Care (AGAC) nursing presents an exciting and rewarding pathway for nurses seeking to specialize in the care of adult and older adult populations with complex, acute, and critical health conditions.

AGAC nurse practitioners have advanced knowledge and skills to provide specialized care in various healthcare settings, including hospitals, intensive care units, emergency departments, and specialty clinics.

AGAC nurse practitioners are trained to manage and coordinate care for patients with acute and chronic illnesses, often dealing with complex and rapidly changing conditions. They conduct comprehensive assessments, order and interpret diagnostic tests, prescribe medications, perform procedures, and collaborate with interdisciplinary teams to deliver timely, evidence-based care.

AGAC nurse practitioners are skilled in providing acute interventions, monitoring patients' progress, and ensuring continuity of care throughout their healthcare journey.

With the aging population and the increasing prevalence of chronic diseases, the demand for skilled Adult-Gerontology Acute Care nurse practitioners is rising. Their expertise in managing acute and complex health conditions improves patient outcomes and enhances healthcare delivery in critical care settings.

According to Rockhurst University, Adult-Gerontology Acute Care (AGAC) nursing also offers diverse subspecialties to address the unique healthcare needs of older patients. Chronic or acute health issues affecting cardiovascular, pulmonological, and nephrological systems are prevalent among this population, making AGAC nurse practitioners vital in delivering specialized care.

Whether focusing on these specific areas or other subspecialties, AGAC nurse practitioners are crucial in managing complex health conditions in older adults.

3. Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)

They are advanced practice registered nurses specializing in a specific area of clinical expertise. They possess an advanced degree in nursing, typically a Master's or Doctorate, and undergo specialized training in their chosen specialty.

CNSs are known for their deep knowledge and expertise in diagnosing and treating complex health conditions. They work closely with patients, families, and healthcare teams to provide advanced clinical care, promote health education, and facilitate evidence-based practice.

According to EveryNurse, the number of clinical nurse specialists in the United States exceeds 72,000. However, to become a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS), one must meet certain education, licensing, and experience requirements. These include obtaining a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), followed by an MSN degree or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).

An active and unencumbered registered nurse (RN) license is also required. Aspiring CNSs must also complete at least 500 supervised clinical practice hours as part of the process.

You must also get certification from esteemed organizations such as the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN). These certifications validate the advanced knowledge and specialized skills of CNSs in their respective practice areas.

As the healthcare landscape becomes increasingly complex and diverse, the demand for CNSs is projected to rise. Their expertise and ability to provide specialized care make them indispensable in various clinical settings. CNSs play a vital role in improving patient outcomes, enhancing the quality of care, and driving innovation in healthcare delivery.

4. Certified Nurse Midwife

Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs) are crucial in providing comprehensive healthcare to women throughout their reproductive years. With an advanced degree in nursing and specialized training in midwifery, CNMs are qualified to provide prenatal care, assist in childbirth, and offer postpartum care to mothers and their newborns.

CNMs work in various settings, including hospitals, birthing centers, and patients' homes, offering personalized care and supporting natural childbirth experiences. They are also trained to manage complications and collaborate with other healthcare professionals as needed.

According to the American College of Nurse-Midwives, in 2020, CNMs and CMs played a crucial role in attending a significant number of births, with a total of 372,991 births being attended by these professionals. It marked a noteworthy increase of 10% compared to the previous year.

In 2019, CNMs/CMs were responsible for overseeing a significant portion of midwife-attended births, accounting for 92% of all such births. Additionally, they accounted for 10.3% of the total number of births in the country.

Their scope of practice extends beyond pregnancy and childbirth, as they provide primary care, gynecological services, family planning, and menopausal care. This versatile role allows CNMs to make a significant impact on women's health and well-being, fostering a holistic approach to care throughout their lifespan.

5. Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs)

They play a critical role in ensuring the safe and effective administration of anesthesia during surgical procedures. These highly skilled professionals are trained to assess patients, develop individualized anesthesia plans, administer anesthesia medications, monitor patients throughout the procedure, and manage their recovery.

CRNAs work closely with the surgical team, collaborating with surgeons, anesthesiologists, and other healthcare professionals to ensure optimal patient outcomes.

According to the American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology, CRNAs administer approximately 50 million anesthetics2https://www.aana.com/membership/become-a-crna/crna-fact-sheet to patients in the United States each year. They are widely recognized for their expertise, with studies consistently demonstrating the safety and effectiveness of their care.

CRNAs are in high demand, particularly in rural and underserved areas, where they often serve as the primary providers of anesthesia care. In addition, their advanced training and competencies make them valuable members of the healthcare team, contributing to the delivery of quality anesthesia services across a wide range of surgical specialties.


The field of nursing offers a multitude of advanced practice pathways that allow nurses to unlock new horizons in their careers. As a result, nurses can expand their scope of practice, enhance their knowledge and skills, and significantly impact patient care.

These advanced practice pathways allow nurses to specialize in specific areas, work in diverse healthcare settings, and take on leadership roles. With the demand for advanced practice nurses on the rise and increasing recognition of their expertise, nurses with advanced degrees and specialized certifications are well-positioned to thrive in their careers and contribute to healthcare.


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Isreal Olabanji DST RN
Isreal Olabanji DST RNhttps://www.healthsoothe.com
Am Isreal olabanji a dental assistant and public health professionals and has years of experience in assisting the dentist with all sorts of dental issues. We regularly post timely and trustworthy medical information and news. My goal is to enlighten everyone in all aspects of health towards participating in fitness, Dental care, healthy recipes, child health, obstetrics, and more.

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