Introduction to Nurse Practitioners
A nurse practitioner is a registered nurse (RN) who has additional education and training in a specialty area such as family, pediatrics, geriatrics, adult health or acute care, among other possible specialties. NPs treat both physical and mental conditions through comprehensive history taking, physical exams, and diagnostic tests. NPs can diagnose the disease and provide appropriate treatment for the patients, including prescribing medications. NPs can serve as patients’ primary health care providers, and can work with patients of all ages. Nurse practitioner programs normally focus on one specialized field within nursing and graduates generally choose to seek certification in the same specialty.
After completing a master’s degree program, graduates are qualified, and usually required, to get professional nurse practitioner certification. Through the national board exam, NPs can acquire additional credentials as certified pediatric nurse practitioners (CPNP) or certified family nurse practitioners (CFNP), or other specific types of advanced practice nurse. The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners and the American Nurses Credentialing Center are two credentialing organizations that offer certifications in nursing. These certifications must be renewed every five years in order to continue development within the profession.
Earn an Online Nurse Practitioner Degree
Online nurse practitioner programs have grown in popularity in recent years as more accredited schools have begun offering online alternatives to these degrees. Combining flexibility with the lack of campus visitation required these programs are ideal for working professionals. By clicking on links below, you can request information from each school about its tuition, classes, and programs.
||Georgetown University — Stationed out of Washington DC, Georgetown University is a cultural and social hub and is one of the oldest schools in the nation. The school has two online nursing programs available, an MSN in Family Nursing and an MSN in Midwifery and Women's Health. Georgetown is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Read more about Georgetown University.|
||University of Cincinnati — The University of Cincinnati is an Ohio-based school with more than 42,000 students and over 300 programs. Many of these programs have online options available like MSN in Clinical Nursing and MSN in Nurse Midwifery, which are great for students who need the flexibility to study around work and family. UC is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission. Read more about University of Cincinnati.|
||South University — South University began operations over 100 years ago in Savannah, Georgia and now has 12 campuses and an online division, including an MSN for Nurse Practitioners program. The program can be completed in less than two years and there is an RN to MSN bridge option available for you if you do not have a bachelor degree. South is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Read more about South University.|
||Capella University — Based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota, Capella University is an online school with over 37000 current students across the nation. Its online programs like MSN in Nurse Educator (Bridge option also available) have one-to-one tutoring, accelerated study, and low student to teacher ratios. Capella holds several accreditations, including The Higher Learning Commission and Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Read more about Capella University.|
||Walden University — Walden University is private institution headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Boasting almost 50,000 students enrolled, Walden is one of the largest online schools conferring mostly master’s or doctorate degrees, like the Doctor of Nursing Practice. Walden is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. Read more about Walden University.|
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Frequently Asked Questions About Nurse Practitioners
What exactly is a Nurse Practitioner?
Nurse practitioners are generally registered nurses (RN) who have completed advanced degrees and training in a variety of medical areas related to the management and diagnostic procedures of many illnesses and diseases. A nurse practitioner must be both skilled in individualized patient care and able to handle a plethora of medical responsibilities. Those interested in this field have many opportunities to specialize their skills including; becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner, travel nurse pratitioner, oncology nurse practitioner, women's health nurse practitioner, adult nurse practitioner, and many more. Being able to accurately inform patients about their conditions, while providing support to better the lives of both patients and families is core to any successful nurse practitioner career.
What are the different types of degrees in this field?
If you are serious about joining this field, keep in mind that many nurse practitioner programs require prospective students to have completed a baccalaureate degree in nursing, and all require that the student be a registered nurse.
Master of Science in Nursing: An MSN is the most common degree obtained by those interested in becoming a Nurse Practitioner. Programs generally last a minimum of two years and will provide degree candidates with a solid education that will prepare them to diagnose, and treat, many different illnesses and diseases. Within an MSN program, students can often select an area of specialization. Listed below are some of the most popular MSN specializations.
- MSN - Acute Care
- MSN - Adult Nursing
- MSN - Adult Psychiatric Care
- MSN - Family Nursing
- MSN - Psychiatric Nursing
- MSN - Women's Health
- MSN - Nurse Midwifery
- MSN - Infection Prevention & Control
- MSN - Nurse Informatics
MSN Bridge Programs: For RNs who have already completed some education or training, the following types of MSN bridge programs allow the student to take advantage of his/her education level or licensure and complete an MSN in less time.
Doctor of Nursing Practice: Much like an MSN, this degree will often take a minimum of two years, and will prepare students to become an NP in different specialty areas, depending on the students desired focus. These specialty areas include, but are not limited to, training for becoming a certified pediatric nurse practitioner, psychiatric nurse practitioner, and more.
- DNP - Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
- DNP - Family Psychiatric & Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
- DNP - Gerontological Nurse Practitioner
- DNP - Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
- DNP - Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
DNP Bridge Programs:
What is an online Nurse Practitioner degree?
An online nurse practitioner degree is a degree that allows nurses to attend school while continuing to work. Many online nurse practitioner degrees are geared toward working nurses who are looking to increase their job opportunities and earning potential. Nurse practitioners are increasingly needed at hospitals and clinics, and it is an area that’s rapidly growing. Nurse practitioners continue with the nursing model when treating and caring for patients. Nurse practitioners build on their knowledge as nurses, and patient care experiences with additional training and courses that prepare them to diagnose and prescribe treatment for patients.
Is an online Nurse Practitioner degree acceptable?
The medical community was one of the first industries to welcome online degrees. Many in the medical field will work in different jobs within the span of their careers. Online programs allow a person who is currently working full time to continue with work while studying part time. This is ideal because students are able to make a living and continue their education for better opportunities and pay. Most jobs in the medical field require ongoing training and certification, so online degree programs are an extension of that additional training. There are numerous legitimate programs for medical assistants, medical technicians, nurses, and doctors to add to their areas of expertise and explore new career possibilities within the medical field. Your focus should be finding an accredited nurse practitioner program that suits your needs. As long as the program is accredited, you will not have an issue finding employment after graduating and completing clinicals.
Can I attend a Nurse Practitioner program online full time?
If you have taken a break from work, you can choose to attend school full time through an accredited online program. This is not usual, but it can be done and does speed up the process of landing you a higher-paying job with more responsibilities. Full time programs are intense and require proper time commitment. Those working full time, especially the long hours required by nurses, are usually best fit for part time degree programs. Online programs allow you to access course work 24 hours a day, giving students flexibility that works around their schedules.
How do I find an online Nurse Practitioner program?
Start with an online search of accredited online nurse practitioner programs. Most programs will state their accreditation source on the website. Many programs are accredited by the same organizations that accredit traditional schools. Schedule a meeting with a school advisor to learn more about the program. The one thing to consider with online nurse practitioner programs is you may be required to set up your own clinicals. For most nurses who are currently working, this is not a problem. Most hospitals or clinics will allow you to conduct clinicals at their facility. You may also know other people within the industry who can set up clinicals for you. Some online programs that have been around a number of years are able to set up clinicals for you, but this is not always the case. For the majority of online medical degrees and certificates, a student is responsible for setting up their own clinicals. Ask your school advisor about this prior to registering for any program.
What states offer Nurse Practitioner programs?
Each state and the District of Columbia offer a variety of nursing education programs that prepare individuals to become nurse practitioners. Click on your location below to find useful salary information, certification criteria, nursing board regulations, and a list of nurse training programs in your area.
What kinds of financial aid are available for Nurse Practitioning schools?
Financial aid is generally always available in the form of loans and grants for those who demonstrate need. There are also many scholarships available to those prospective students who meet the requirements for such an award. In fact, there are many nurse practitioner scholarships and grants that may be availabe to you. More info.
Is a Nurse Practitioner a doctor?
A nurse practitioner is not a doctor, though they perform many of the same duties. In most states, a nurse practitioner is able to prescribe medication to patients, as well as diagnose illnesses and create a treatment plan. The difference between a nurse practitioner and a doctor lies in the way the medical professional is helping the patient. Nurse practitioners operate on a nursing model versus a medical model, which is practiced by doctors. The nursing model centers around ongoing patient care and teaching people how to treat and prevent an illness or ailment for the long term. The medical model focuses solely on treatment for that particular illness. Nurse practitioners look to many sources before treating patients, including past experiences, what other nurses have experienced with similar patients, and the patient’s own lifestyle. For the same patient, a doctor would typically diagnose and treat the illness without looking as the causes or showing the patient how to prevent the issue in the future.
What is the average salary of a Nurse Practitioner?
Nurse Practitioners are able to command highly competitive salaries in today's job market. Nurses who have specialized skill sets, such as emergency nurse practitioners, and family nurse practitioners, are in even higher demand. With healthcare demands expected to continually increase in the future, this trend should hold true. Currently, the average salary for a nurse practitioner in the United States is around $82,000 yearly with variations ranging from $75,000 to $89,000. More info.
Why are Nurse Practitioners needed?
Nurse practitioners are increasingly needed in almost all facets of the medical community because more and more doctors are going into specialized care. Instead of becoming a general doctor who is the primary care contact for patients, doctors are specializing in areas such as:
Fewer doctors are becoming general physicians, which has left a hole in the medical community. Patients need a primary care contact for issues such as the flu or diabetes. These are things that can be diagnosed and need ongoing care for prevention or maintenance. Nurse practitioners fill this void and are becoming the source of primary care in clinics, doctor’s offices, and hospitals.
Can a Nurse Practitioner have an office?
Many nurse practitioners have their own practices. This is becoming the norm, as the number of nurse practitioners grows. Nurse practitioners can operate their own clinics or practices and have nurses and medical assistants on staff to help check vitals and perform other basic tasks on patients. Nurse practitioners also work at clinics as the primary medical professional on staff, essentially taking on the role of a doctor. In these clinics, all nurses and medical assistants report to the nurse practitioner. Planned Parenthood and other nonprofit organizations often run clinics where a nurse practitioner is in charge. This is more affordable for the organization. If a patient has an issue a nurse practitioner cannot diagnose or address, the patient is referred to a specialist.
What are the prerequisites for becoming a Nurse Practitioner?
For most nurse practitioner programs, you must work as a nurse for a minimum of one year. Some programs require nurses to have more experience, but usually do not require any more than three years of experience. This varies by program, so be sure you understand what your potential program’s requirements are. Nurse practitioners often go to school while working full time. This allows a nurse to continue a full-time career while receiving additional education and training. The majority of nurse practitioner programs last three to four years, and how long it takes a student to complete the program depends on how many hours they’re in school per semester. All students must complete additional clinicals under the supervision of a nurse practitioner. These clinicals are usually broken into:
- General care
- An additional area of the student’s choice
Students can specialize in an area of medicine as a nurse practitioner, but the most demand at the moment is in primary care.
Some programs require the GRE, as well as a letter of recommendation or an essay from the student. This varies widely and is more common among traditional schools. If you’re applying to a program through a traditional school, understand these prerequisites are more common than schools that conduct business only online.
Do I have to take the GRE for a Nurse Practitioner program?
Before online programs existed, it was common for a student to have a master’s degree in nursing prior to applying for a nurse practitioner program. Some programs that operate through traditional schools require students to submit a Graduate Records Examination (GRE) score along with their application. This is typical of any online program that is an extension of a traditional school. Seldom will an online only school require a GRE. If this is your primary concern, rest assured you can find accredited programs that do not require a GRE.
Do I have to take another exam to practice as a Nurse Practitioner?
Students sit for the nurse practitioner exam administered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). This is the largest certification organization for nurses in the U.S., and exams are given throughout the year. Preparing for the exam can be overwhelming, but there are many online guides, books, and resources to help you study. It is common for students in an online nurse practitioner program to study for the exam on a messageboard, sharing study materials and helping each other with the sometimes confusing wording on the ANCC exam. One common issue with the ANCC nurse practitioner exam is there are often multiple right answers, but the exam is looking for the best answer. Nurses trained under an accredited program will be able to dissect answers and make the best choice. The fee for the ANCC nurse practitioner exam is $350. Every five years this must be renewed, and practicing nurse practitioners receive a discounted price. In order to sit for the exam, your degree must be from an accredited program, which is why it is imperative to do proper research when finding your online nurse practitioner program.
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