Nurse Practitioner Programs
A Nurse practitioner (NP) is a Registered Nurse who has completed graduate-level education (either a Master’s or Doctoral degree) in nursing and has been certified by a national certification organization. Nurse Practitioners have a dramatically expanded scope of practice over the traditional RN role. Nurse practitioners focus on a patient’s health and illness making illness prevention, wellness promotion, and patient education top priorities of practice. The role of the NP focuses on both care and cure. Nurses in the NP role see almost 600 million visits each year in a variety of practice settings. If you think this sounds like the job for you, read on!
What are the requirements to become a Nurse Practitioner?
First, to become an NP, you must be licensed as a Registered Nurse. Most states also require that the nurse have an advanced degree in nursing (master’s or doctoral degree) in order to qualify for certification. There are some people who believe that a nurse should be required to have a doctoral degree prior to certification. Because the nursing profession is state-regulated, the logistics for this change would require that each state change the rules governing the profession. Despite a push to have this higher level required by 2015, it is doubtful that this will happen in that short a period of time.
Currently, in theUnited States, a nurse must be certified by a national certification organization in order to practice as an NP. The two most well-known certifying organizations are the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and theAmericanAcademyof Nurse Practitioners (AANP).
- Both of these organizations require that the candidate must have an advanced degree from an accredited nursing school in order to sit for the certification exam.
- In addition, each certification requires a minimum number of practice hours in an area related to the specialty.
- Certification is typically for a time period of two to five years. In order to maintain certification, the NP is required to either obtain a minimum number of continuing education units (CEUs) during each certification period or complete and pass the certification exam again.
- Most certifications also have minimum practice requirements for maintaining certification.
Once you have decided to obtain an advanced practice certification, you will have to decide whether to attend a “bricks and mortar” program in a traditional school setting or an online program. If you are the type of person who needs face-to-face teaching, an online program may NOT be for you. If you know that you need more structure in order to learn best, read on – a “bricks and mortar” clinical program preparing you for Nurse Practitioner certification may be perfect for you!
Best Nurse Practitioner Programs
When we talk about Nurse Practitioner programs, what we are really talking about is a program that offers advanced degrees in nursing (Master’s or Doctoral) that will qualify a Registered Nurse to take a credentialing examination. The critical point to remember when selecting any advanced degree program is that the program MUST be accredited in order to apply for the Nurse Practitioner credentialing exam with one of the major credentialing organizations. The programs listed here are all accredited…and some of the top-ranked schools for Nurse Practitioner preparation.
Depending on how you want to specialize as an advanced practitioner, the top graduate schools of nursing will vary; however, for 2011, the US News and World Report ranks the top graduate nursing schools overall as follows:
1. Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD (tied for 1st)
1. University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA (tied for 1st)
1. University of Washington in Seattle, WA (tied for 1st)
4. University of California: San Francisco in San Francisco, CA (tied for 4th)
4. University of North Carolina: Chapel Hill in Chapel Hill, NC (tied for 4th)
6. University of Michigan: Ann Arbor in Ann Arbor, MI
7. Duke University in Durham, NC (tied for 7th)
7. Oregon Health And Science University in Portland, OR (tied for 7th)
7. University of Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh, PA (tied for 7th)
7. Yale University in New Haven, CT (tied for 7th)
Of course, you do NOT have to attend one of the highest ranked nursing schools to get a great education that will prepare you well as a nurse. Nurses often find that their local state colleges and universities are much less expensive than the top schools – and still provide a top-notch education! Talk to nurses in the local hospitals and at your local nursing schools. Most of them will be more than happy to give you candid opinions on the caliber of education you can get at your local university.
Why a Nurse Practitioner?
Becoming a Nurse Practitioner requires a great deal of commitment to nursing. However, attaining this high level of practice can be done a step at a time getting an ADN or BSN degree and gradually working toward the higher educational levels and experience required for certification. While NP certification can take six or more years, you CAN work, take care of patients, learn your art, and make money while working toward the final goal.
Sources for Further Reading
American Nurses Credentialing Center website: http://www.nursecredentialing.org/
American Association of Diabetes Educators website: http://www.diabeteseducator.org/