What Does An APRN Nursing Degree Focus On?

Doctors are often heralded as the heroes of the healthcare system, but it’s often nurses that prove to be the actual backbone of many medical operations. Many states are allowing new nursing roles under the APRN umbrella to fill in gaps where more patient care is needed. Becoming an APRN means you could take advantage of these newer career paths, but first you need an APRN nursing degree in order to qualify for your license.

What Does APRN Mean?

First, it helps to know what the APRN meaning is. APRN is an acronym for Advanced Practice Registered Nurse.

These are nurses who meet two different criteria:

They serve in one of four distinct roles.


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They have a nursing practice degree at the master’s, post master’s, or practice-focused doctorate level.

APRNs get their licenses through state-level nursing boards before they provide patients with appropriate care as defined by their role. Many states allow them to practice independently, free of physician oversight. Some can even prescribe medications.

These professionals are meeting the needs of the healthcare system in both primary and specialist roles. They have expert-level knowledge and the ability to make complex decisions.

What Does an APRN Nursing Degree Emphasize?

Becoming an APRN involves getting a nursing degree and then getting licensed for one of the specific roles. Some schools offer APRN-specific degrees that emphasize each role. In all routes, you still have to get a nursing degree.

Nursing Degree Areas of Focus

Nursing degrees emphasize many different things.



According to U.S. News, nursing degrees emphasize four primary areas of education:

  • Anatomy:The study of the physical structure of the human body.
  • Chemistry:Identifying various molecular and atomic substances and how they interact.
  • Physiology:Studying normal functions of all biological beings.
  • Psychology:The study of the human mind and its many functions.

Getting into nursing means learning how to think critically, exercise clinical judgment, and provide service to those who need it. Those who study nursing in an educational setting will learn the theory before moving into practical learning. Classroom time will be devoted to sciences, the humanities, and the basics of delivering health care through nursing. This gets applied in clinical settings and lab work.

Specific courses include the four areas mentioned already but can also cover other natural, physical, behavioral, and social sciences. Nursing fundamentals might include how to position patients, transport them, administer their medications, and help them with regular daily activities. Students will learn specifics about dealing with families, children, teens, adults, and the elderly.

Core areas of emphasis in a nursing degree path can also include community health, psychiatric nursing, mental wellness, ethics, management/leadership, and pharmacology. Students spend a lot of time learning things in the classroom, but in the latter half of their degree, they might spend a significant portion of their week in clinical settings to apply the theory in practical environments.

Working in clinical settings might require certain non-educational requirements. These can include passing a background check, having professional liability insurance coverage, and going through an annual physical.

APRN Degree Specializations

At the time of writing, there were four APRN roles throughout the country. APRNs can get licensed in more than half the states, although the availability of these roles can vary from state to state. These are the four areas in which an APRN nursing degree might add curriculum past the normal nursing degree, often elevating it to a master’s or even post-master’s certificate:

  • Clinical Nurse Specialists:A CNS works in a very specialized area of medicine as defined by certain parameters. These parameters include population, disease/medical specialty, setting, kind of care and kind of problem. CNS professionals often serve in management or advisory roles within their particular healthcare settings, focusing on education and facilitation.
  • Nurse Anesthetist:The demand for administering anesthesia is on the rise across the healthcare industry. Unfortunately, so is the cost. Nurse anesthetists can help alleviate the burdens of both. They help patients prepare for procedures and surgery and give them care after the fact. This usually involves patient screening and monitoring.
  • Nurse-Midwife:A nurse-midwife can offer women primary health care from their teenage years to the end of their natural life. They can also focus on family planning, gynecological care, pregnancy matters, childbirth preparation, and postpartum situations. They can also treat male partners if there are STDs involved. Most of their work happens through hospitals.
  • Nurse Practitioners:Also known as NPs, this APRN role is dedicated to alleviating shortages in primary care physicians. In fact, NPs account for more APRN professionals than the other three roles combined. NPs diagnose medical conditions and treat many of them. Roughly 20 states let them write prescriptions just like doctors do.

Is This the Right Degree for You?

As career choices go, nursing is a very demanding one. It can drain you physically, mentally, and emotionally. However, the rewards are also there. You can work with families and patients to help them improve their health. You can also help physicians and other nurses with their work. Interpersonal skills, such as communication, are a must.

You also need to be able to think fast. You’ll be forced to navigate complicated situations, sometimes with emergency urgency.

Flexibility is another requirement. That’s not just because of the situations that might arise but also because nurses are needed at all hours of every day. Despite the high demands of the profession, however, there are several factors that play into why choosing a medical degree is a smart choice.

You might find this career path a good fit if you have a lot of compassion and a desire to help others. For all the complexity of the profession, nursing always comes back to the fundamentals of caring for others.

What You Should Remember

Becoming an APRN is something you might do before you’re a nurse of any kind or a means of career advancement if you’re already a nurse. The various roles that APRNs play in the healthcare system are crucial positions that help patients in need. Getting a nursing degree that qualifies you to be an APRN opens the door to these exciting career paths and the opportunities that come with them.

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