First and foremost, I'd like to welcome you to the nursing profession! I'm glad to hear of your love for nursing and I hope you continue to feel that way throughout the remainder of your studies and for many years to come! Before answering your question, I'd like to start off by saying that my response to you is solely my personal and honest opinion regarding advanced practice registered nurses (APRN). With that being said...
I STRONGLY advise you, and any nursing student and/or new graduate nurse, work at the bedside for a MINIMUM of 1-2 years before applying to any APRN program. Personally, I don't even believe a year is enough time. That's why I think all universities should require 2-3 years of recent and relevant bedside nursing experience prior to allowing entrance into an APRN program, but I digress!
Most, if not all, APRN programs are meant for baccalaureate prepared nurses who are experts in their specialty care area. This foundation allows for a smooth transition from the bedside nurse to the advanced practice provider role. Furthermore, many of the NP programs are now only offered online (distance learning/education) and mostly autodidactic (self-teaching & self-learning), with few to NO required days on campus. So, you can see why I can't stress enough how important it is to get your "on-the-job" training and "hands-on" experiences. I know this all too well as I, myself, am third year Family NP student currently enrolled in a part-time "distance education program" at a local state university and let me tell you... it is not easy! Even with my seven years of bedside clinical nursing experience in critical care, emergency med, and hospice & palliative care. I also have two board certifications through the AACN and ANCC in critical care (CCRN) and med/surg (RN-BC) nursing.
I know you expressed your concerns about losing your "bedside nursing skills" once you become and NP. My answer to that is: Yes and No. You will inevitably lose the skills that you no longer perform regularly, like managing a patient district, getting patient's out of bed for meals, and timely medication administration. Believe it or not, many of your nursing skills will be enhanced. You'll build on the foundation of your nursing assessments through performing detailed physical exams that will ultimately lead you to a diagnosis and prescribed treatment plan. You'll also gain more pertinent skills and knowledge that relate directly to your specialty area, like for example, in the acute care setting, the NP will be suturing and debriding wounds, inserting arterial lines, and maintain a patent airway through intubation and etc. In my experience I would say that the primary care NPs lose the most of their nursing skills as they won't be doing any of the fun acute/critical care interventions like I mentioned above. Although they have weekends and holidays off, so you'll have to decide which you want. Also remember that you will no longer be carrying out the provider's orders but actually calling all the shots! It's a tough transition for many nurses at first but most get through it!
I think I've said all I can. So, I'll leave you with this saying I always tell my nursing students and fellow colleagues, "the more knowledgeable you are, the safer the patient". No matter what path you choose please don't ever forget that. You can truly never learn or know enough! Good luck and keep us posted!