The Educational Highway: The Pros and Cons of Gaining Clinical Experience Before Going Back to School

Sandra Nettina, MSN, APRN, BC, ANP


May 08, 2003

In This Article


The development of advanced practice nursing positions over the past 30-50 years has greatly expanded the options for men and women seeking a career in healthcare. Advanced practice nursing is becoming more and more popular because it offers more autonomy, a more desirable work schedule, and, in many cases, better compensation than basic nursing positions. Of the 2.2 million working nurses in the United States, about 9% are advanced practice nurses (APNs).

Among those attracted to advanced practice are registered nurses who have worked at the bedside or in other traditional nursing positions for a number of years and feel the need for growth and change. Advanced practice has also become attractive to those who have an interest in science, may or may not have started college and received a degree, but who have never been interested in a staff nursing position in a hospital.

For these individuals, traditional baccalaureate nursing education followed by at least 1 year of staff nursing experience before applying to a Master's degree program for advanced practice nursing is too long and unpredictable a route. Like a clinical social worker who plans to counsel patients, or a physical therapist who wants to treat musculoskeletal pain and injuries, they desire a Master's degree inclusive of training and clinical experience and tailored for their desired role.

But the key question many ask is whether the APN who has never been responsible for a floor full of patients recovering from surgery or being treated for serious illness is as prepared and competent as the APN who has clinical experience as a registered nurse.


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