The Real Skinny On Becoming An NP

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

11 months and counting. I’m almost there. It’s only been three years since I started my post-diploma journey, but I’m ready for it to be complete. Graduation is just around the corner for me, then I can ruminate over a whole new set of stressors, including (but not limited to) passing my certification boards in order to practice as an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner.

I’ve finally discovered the employment conundrum Nurse Practitioners have that other advanced practice providers do not.

The short answer is, not all entry-level Nurse Practitioners are the same. Allow me to explain.

All Nurse Practitioners must possess an RN license. In order to apply to and enter an NP program, most institutions require a minimum of one to two years of clinical experience. (I’m making a very broad and general description here.)

Once an NP student completes his or her respective educational program, he or she can then sit for the certification exam. Upon passing that exam (and after many, many other additional steps and requirements), he or she can then begin practicing as an entry-level NP.

The entry-level NP has zero experience as an advance practitioner, but has any number of years of experience as a registered nurse. The point I’m making is that a 20-year RN veteran and a 2-year RN veteran will apply for the same entry-level NP position. Will the number of years of experience prior to the advanced degree matter?

Of course, there is a profound difference between the responsibilities of the bedside nurse versus the advanced practice provider. My argument is that those years as a bedside nurse have to matter! The level of decision-making, maturity and critical thinking navigation are not the same.

I just wonder if employers take this information into account when making their decisions to hire a candidate, and pay them a set salary?

While not all experience is the same, having none versus some versus a lot of years of clinical knowledge has to speak to one’s abilities.

This tangled web is not something the entry-level Physician Assistant or even the entry-level physician has to wrestle with. I just can’t decide if it weakens or strengthens the solidarity of my soon-to-be new position?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.


  1. Thank you !!! For posting this. I am looking to go back for my NP certificate. I have 10 years experience as a bedside RN, and was contemplating if I should go for an FNP or just change all together and do Psych NP. I have always thought that my years at bedside would have to count to a prospective employer hiring a new NP.

  2. I don’t think it would ruin the solidarity because its sort of like a new beginning when you enter the profession either way. To me, all the years of nursing are great experience and go towards your learning as well as the betterment of your patients.

  3. In NY it does matter, greatly. If you’re an NP with NYSNA, Your RN experience counts.
    And if you’re not in a union, most hospitals in NY will count your RN experience.

    It IS a different role, but the pay does increase at the starting level for RNs with great experience.

  4. Nurse for 47 years, NP for 17 years. One should not even be accepted in a NP program until they have a certain number of years as a RN under their belts. The quantum leap from RN to NP, is something that the nursing leadership still does not understand. No substitute for experience. BS to NP without working at the bedside will lead to some very unhappy collaborating md’s and potentially some very sick patients.

  5. Those years of seeing outcomes, learning to listen to your gut, making mistakes, learning to truly listen, learning to say things in a way patients and patient’s family understand, learning to be compassionate yet direct, detecting B.S. and sorting it out for the truth, all those skills are beyond valuable! I only hire RNs but if you show me an RN who is new BUT was an LPN for years vs. a brand new RN…….I am giving much more value to the LPN conversion to RN. We all learn our lessons best by learning them ourselves.

  6. I’ve been a nurse 30 plus years. I applaud nurses who have decided to further their education and expand their expertise. Unfortunately more often than not it has been my experience that whenever a nurse makes a change in employment ( i.e. Changing hospitals or facilities) we often have to negotiate and sometimes down right fight for salaries above entry level, no matter the years of proven experience.

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