Registered nurses who wish to advance their careers can return to school to become nurse practitioners (NP). To become a nurse, a four-year Bachelor of Science in nursing is required. Students must complete an NP master’s program to become a nurse practitioner.
There are many potential careers for those with an online nurse practitioner degree. Learn what it takes to become a nurse practitioner, including course requirements, certifications, and professional organizations in this article.
What is a Nurse Practitioner?
Advanced practice nurses, a nurse practitioner, is a mid-level advanced registered nurse who can treat certain medical conditions without the direct supervision of a doctor. Accessing patient needs, ordering and interpreting diagnostic laboratory tests, diagnosing diseases, and prescribing treatment plans are just a few of the tasks that fall upon nurse practitioners. Nurse practitioners can work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, schools, clinics, doctors’ offices, private practices, and emergency rooms, among other places. Nurse practitioners have at least a master’s degree, but some go on to acquire doctorates.
NPs must have empathy, flexibility, and tenacity. They must also have integrity and compassion to succeed at their job. Clarity, advocacy, and communication are also needed to carry out the day to day duties of a nurse practitioner. The job can also be physically demanding as it requires nurses to spend hours on their feet dealing with patients who need care. The ability to handle stress is critical to a nurse practitioner.
How to Choose an Online Nurse Practitioner Program
Online nurse practitioner programs are offered at both masters and doctoral levels. When attending an online program, it is crucial to ensure that the university is accredited. The licensing and certification boards do not recognize a degree earned at a school that is not certified.
The Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the US Department of Education are the leading accrediting agencies in the United States. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing also work to evaluate nursing programs. Be sure to look out for these programs when considering an institution.
Online nurse practitioner programs require students to hold a bachelor’s degree in nursing and a registered nurse (RN) license in good standing. Non-specialist degree applicants who wish to pursue a nurse practitioner degree may need to complete statistics and biology courses before beginning the online program. Students must have a minimum GPA of 3.0 with official transcripts to prove it, clinical experience, a personal statement, and possibly GRE or GMAT scores.
Online nurse practitioner programs are good for working professionals and those with other obligations. Flexibility is one of the biggest allures of completing an online program. Professionals can continue working a full-time job while advancing in their profession. Education options can also include a hybrid learning style, which is both in-person and online. It is also important to note that many programs also require an in-person internship.
The duration of an online master’s degree varies depending on the student’s background and the program’s curriculum and pacing, but, in general, students can complete the program in one to five years.
The Best Nurse Practitioner Programs
Some of the best programs in 2020, accredited by the commission, include the University of Southern California, Simmons College, Villanova University, George Washington University, and Drexel University. According to CCNE and ACEN websites, there are over 510 universities with masters-level nursing programs in the United States.
The University of Southern California is one of the best public schools in the country. USC will prepare students for a career as a nurse practitioner with their online Master of Science in Nursing, which has a family nurse practitioner (FNP) focus. The program includes a clinical practicum of 784 hours, with 49 credits in total. The USC program is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).
Simmons College offers an RN-to-MSN (registered nurse to Master of Science in Nursing) program where applicants are only required to have an RN license but not a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Graduates earn an MSN with a focus on family nurse practitioner courses. The university has smaller online classrooms than others with 20 students per course. They help set up online clinicals working with a student’s schedule. Part-time and full-time degrees are both available.
George Washington University, a private university, offers a hybrid MSN program that combines online and in-person learning. The program includes an RN-to-MSN—which is completed in fifteen months—and then an MSN. Students can choose from six specialties. The university is CCNE accredited.
Courses in a Nurse Practitioner Program
Courses in an online nurse practitioner program can vary depending on the university. Classes can include Information Technology and Data Management, Health Politics and Policy, Advanced Pharmacology, Advanced Psychology, Adult and Geriatric Primary Care, and an internship.
Advanced Health Assessment: This course provides the skills of assessment in advanced nursing practice. The course involves problem-solving on psychosocial, developmental, cultural, and physical assessments.
Information Technology and Data Management: This course involves examining intricate technological systems to manage information. Studying the systems helps professionals maintain documentation necessary to provide quality healthcare.
Health Politics and Policy: The ethical and legal issues associated with healthcare are explored in this course. Students formulate government, private, and corporate policy improvements throughout the course.
Advanced Pharmacology: This course allows students to study pharmacological therapy through advanced lectures on medication.
Advanced Psychology: This online course dives into the world of behavioral, cognitive, and social influences with regard to mental imbalance. Psychiatric medications and maintenance are covered in the coursework.
Adult and Geriatric Primary Care: Chronic illness and psychosocial limitations of issues related to adult and aging patients are covered in this course. Skills in patient education, referrals, and follow-up care are all addressed.
Online students must also complete an internship before graduating. Typically, online learners arrange these internships themselves, but some programs help connect students with healthcare facilities. Some may be able to complete the internship at their current place of employment. The internship turns the online coursework into a real-life experience.
What Else to Expect from an Online Nurse Practitioner Program?
Nurse practitioners can specialize in eleven different concentrations. These concentrations ultimately decide which career path the student takes. You will need to decide your focus before choosing a university as different institutions offer different specializations. Specializations can include:
Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner: This concentration provides care to adult and elderly patients with acute medical conditions.
Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner: This specialization focuses on treating patients from adolescence through adulthood and into old age.
Cardiac Nurse Practitioner: A CNP works to provide in-depth cardiovascular assessments. They are responsible for interpreting lab work data, radiology, and acting on their findings.
Family Nurse Practitioner: These professionals care for families and communities. This concentration prepares students for independent practice in their local community, pediatric clinic nurse, and general practice medicine.
Neonatal Nurse Practitioner: This concentration focuses on providing care to infants and toddlers up until the age of two. Students learn to provide care to sick newborns.
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Oncology Nurse Practitioner: In this concentration, students learn to assist cancer patients with their treatments. This concentration is patient-centered and will continue to evolve as cancer research continues to develop.
Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner: Students in this concentration focus on helping to rehabilitate patients from injuries and recover from surgeries as well as helping to manage pain.
Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner: Students who specialize in this learn disease prevention, health promotion, and the management of chronic health problems.
Pediatric Nurse Practitioner: This concentration focuses on providing care for infants, children, and adolescents.
Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner: This concentration focuses on providing psychiatric and physiological analysis and care for patients with mental disorders. Graduates with this concentration often work in a hospital psychiatric ward, psychiatric clinic, or physiological/psychiatric research labs.
Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner: This specialization prepares students to work in women’s clinics, maternity wards, and ambulatory care. Women’s health nurse practitioners give medical assistance to women at various phases of their lives.
Career Possibilities with an Online Nurse Practitioner Program
Students will have access to a wide variety of potential careers upon graduation, such as becoming a nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist, nurse midwife, medical and health services manager, and more.
Nurse Practitioner: A potential career after obtaining an online nurse practitioner degree is to become a nurse practitioner. NPs determine appropriate treatments and medication for patients. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurse practitioners make a median salary of $164,030.
Nurse Anesthetist: A nurse anesthetist works alongside surgeons, dentists, and orthodontists to administer treatment during a medical procedure. The bureau reports a $174,790 average salary for nurse anesthetists.
Nurse Midwife: Nurse midwives assist mothers throughout childbirth. The median salary, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is $106,910.
Medical and Health Services Manager: A career as a medical and health services manager consists of ensuring productivity within hospitals, clinics, and private practices. They manage medical teams, patients, and facilities. The average salary is $99,730, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Post-Secondary Nurse Instructor: These instructors train future nurse practitioners. Post-secondary nurse instructors make $81,350 annually.
Organizations and Resources for Nurse Practitioners
A certificate program can be a logical next step for graduates of a nurse practitioner program. The American Nursing Credentialing Certification, State Licensure, and American Association of Nurse Practitioners Certification are all resources for new graduates and practicing nurse practitioners.
The American Association of Nurse Practitioners certification provides a variety of educational resources and certifications for practitioners that specialize in gerontology, geriatric care, and family care. The AANP also provides networking opportunities nationwide.
The State Licensure is the mandatory state licensing standards of each state in the US. Every state requires a certain number of clinical hours, anywhere from 200 to 300. Depending on the specialization, these hours may have to be mandated by a trained professional. Additionally, the American Nursing Credentialing Certification sanctions and re-certifies nurses in the United States.
Other organizations that can help graduates are the American Nurses Association and the Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association. The American Nurses Association is the primary association of registered nurses. It strives to maintain quality standards and a thorough ethical code among professionals. The Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association provides educational opportunities for healthcare professionals.
Nurse Practitioner Job Outlook
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, careers as nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, and nurse midwives are expected to grow much faster than average. Due to the increased need for healthcare services, the number of jobs in the field is projected to increase by 26 percent by 2028. This applies to all the above careers except for nurse midwives. Due to the size of the profession, the midwife career is only expected to add around 1,000 new positions over the next ten years.
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