Introduction to Nurse Practitioner Degrees

OnlineNursePractitionerDegree is a site focused on guides for students interested in becoming nurse practitioners. One of the most rewarding and flexible careers today is that of a nurse practitioner. In order to pursue a nurse practitioner degree, one should have either an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree in a related field.

For a nurse who enjoys working with patients, but wants to increase his or her earning potential and responsibilities, a nurse practitioner degree is ideal. Because so few doctors practice general medicine, the primary care physician is often now a nurse practitioner.

Georgetown University
MSN in Family Nursing
MSN in Midwifery
Georgetown University — Georgetown University's online MS in nursing (MSN) programs in family nursing and midwifery follow the School of Nursing and Health Studies nursing model, which includes a mission of providing morally reflective healthcare scholars and leaders who strive to improve the wellbeing and health of all people with sensitivity to cultural differences and issues of justice.
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Walden University
Doctor of Nursing Practice
RN to MSN: Adult Gerontology NP
RN to MSN: Adult Gerontology Acute Care NP
Walden University — Students in the Doctor of Nursing Practice online program from Walden University study advanced methods in the practice of nursing across a variety of healthcare environments. Registered nurses with a master’s degree in nursing are able to obtain their diploma in an accelerated format.
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Purdue University
MSN in Nurse Practitioners
Purdue University — Purdue University MSN for Nurse Practitioners program prepares students to apply advanced methods in nursing in a dynamic healthcare environment. Courses include Advanced Nursing Roles, Theoretical Foundations of Advanced Nursing, and Health Promotion and Disease Prevention in a Diverse Community.
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South University
MSN in Nurse Practitioner
South University — The South University Master of Science in Nursing program offers a Nurse Practitioner specialization which is designed for Registered Nurses who wish to advance their skills, manage their patients care, and make critical decisions using evidence-based information. The program is offered online.
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Grand Canyon University
MSN in Nurse Education
MSN in Nurse Leadership
MBA/MSN in Leadership
Grand Canyon University — The Grand Canyon University College of Nursing and Health Sciences offers a wide variety of Master's programs tailored to meet the students specific interests. Specializations include Education, Nurse Leadership, and Leadership in Health Care Systems.
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Simmons College
RN to MSN for Family Nurse Practitioner
MSN in Family Nurse Practitioner
Simmons College — Simmons College offers an online MSN for Family Nurse Practitioners degree, a 36- to 47-credit program consisting of a Nursing Leadership Core, which features a theoretical curriculum, and a Nursing Practice Core, which puts theory into practice in real-world situations.
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What is a Nurse Practitioner Degree?

A nurse practitioner (NP) degree allows a nurse to become a nurse practitioner. Nurse practitioners are advanced medical personnel who are able to diagnose and treat illnesses, and in most states can also prescribe drugs. Nurse practitioners use the nursing model to care for patients versus the medical model. Nurse practitioners are becoming increasingly needed by clinics and hospitals, and they also have the ability to open their own practices.

Learn the Difference Between a Nurse Practitioner and a Doctor

The primary difference between a nurse practitioner and a doctor is their approach to patient care. While a doctor employs a medical model to care for patients, nurse practitioners continue with the nursing model to care for patients. Though the role is much larger than a nurse, the nurse practitioner continues to show a patient how to maintain health while working through an illness; they also take lifestyle into account when treating a patient and focus on the response to the disease versus only diagnosing the disease and recommending treatment. Nurse practitioners are now common for diagnosing and treating things like the common cold, flu, or other mild illnesses that can be treated easily. If the nurse practitioner feels the patient needs further care or assessment, he or she refers the patient to a specialist.

Is There a Demand for Nurse Practitioners?

Because of the lack of general practice doctors, nurse practitioners are very in demand in rural areas and urban cities; NPs earn substantially more than standard nurses, but not as much as doctors, which means they cost less to employ for performing very similar duties. The demand for nurse practitioners is in all facets of the medical industry; because of this, programs have been created to take nurses and train them to be NPs, while the nurse is still working. Nurse practitioners learn about treating patients from various sources, including other nurse practitioners. While an NP is able to diagnose and treat a patient, he or she is far more likely to take into account the things the led to the disease and steps toward future prevention. Nurse practitioners offer a more holistic approach to health, though they are able to prescribe drugs.

Where Can I Work as a Nurse Practitioner?

As a nurse practitioner, you can work anywhere a doctor would work providing general care to patients. This includes seeing elderly patients, adults, and children. You are the primary care provider and the first person a patient sees when feeling ill. Many doctors are specialists, so they are working exclusively with patients who need in help in the designated area, such as cardiovascular, diabetes, or oncology. Nurse practitioners are not specialists, but primary care providers who are able to see many patients in one day and provide proper treatment without working under a doctor.

Nurse practitioners are also employed by clinics and hospitals because they are less costly to have on staff than a doctor. It is for this same reason, non-profit medical clinics and organizations employ nurse practitioners. A registered nursed earned a mean annual wage of $69,110 in May 2011, according to The Bureau of Labor Statistics.

How Does an Online NP Degree Work?

Because a nurse must have work experience, an online nurse practitioner degree is ideal for those who need convenience and flexibility in their schedules. An online nurse practitioner program involves experienced nurses completing coursework online and then continuing on to complete clinicals in the field. If a nurse is already employed by a hospital, the nurse is free to complete clinicals at that same hospital (if the hospital agrees to it). This is acceptable throughout the medical community, and clinical hours are not considered work hours. For nurses who have current licenses and are currently employed, this is a great way to increase opportunities and earning potential while staying at your same place of work and committing to online courses. Online nurse practitioner degree programs can be completed full or part-time, allowing nurses to do what suits their schedules best.

How Do I Find an Online Nurse Practitioner Degree Program?

Start your search online. You want to find a reputable, accredited online degree program. The medical community is one of the first industries to readily accept online degrees; because of this, there are many nurse practitioner degree programs to choose from. Some of these programs are attached to traditional colleges and universities who are well known for their medical programs. Others are online only schools that are still accredited, and therefore just as worthy of a candidate as traditional learning institutions. It is up to you to find a school that is the right fit. An online nurse practitioner degree program should be accredited; this is essential in order to sit for your licensing exam.

What Exam Do I Take to Become a Nurse Practitioner?

In order to practice, NPs must take the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners National Certification Exam (AANP). This is a comprehensive test which tests the student’s practical skills and medical knowledge. Passing this exam is required by every state in the U.S. to work as a nurse practitioner. Any online program promising immediate licensing or certification without this exam should not be considered for your nurse practitioner degree. You do not want to waste time or money on a program that will prevent you from practicing. The exam costs $240, and although you can retake the test if you do not do well, you will have to pay the exam fee again. Nurse practitioners must be re-certified every five years when working. The fee for this is $120, although discounted prices are available for members of the AANP.

What are Online Courses Like for a Nurse Practitioner?

Online courses can take getting used to if you are not accustomed to them or you have been out of the classroom for a number of years. Experienced nurses should not be intimidated by online courses, as they are only building on their knowledge of nursing and the medical field by going to school to become a nurse practitioner. Courses are much like those in a conventional classroom, though all work is done online. You still have an objective with each lesson and work that must be completed in a timely manner. Due dates and the like are explained in a syllabus issued during the first week of the program. If you are enrolled in an online program that is an extension of a traditional school, you may be asked to attend an orientation prior to beginning your courses. After the coursework portion of the program is complete, you work through clinicals like you would if you attended a traditional degree program. Clinicals are typically divided into three parts: geriatrics, adults, and primary care. Some nurses choose to specialize in one of these areas and may spend extended time completing clinicals in the respective area.

How Long Does it Take to Complete a Nurse Practitioner Degree?

It takes about two years to obtain your nurse practitioner degree, although it can take longer if you are attending classes part-time. The length of coursework and clinicals are the same, but those participating in online degree programs have the ability to schedule this in a manner that works for their lifestyle. Coursework is always completed first in any nurse practitioner degree program, and clinicals follow. Clinicals may be completed at the place you work or may be coordinated with a hospital or clinic affiliated with the college or university.

Many well-established nurse practitioner programs work with the same hospitals and clinics for every group of medical students who enter clinicals. After completing your nurse practitioner degree, you are able to sit for the certification exam and upon passing, apply for a position as a nurse practitioner. Many hospitals and clinics where students complete clinicals hire graduating students. This is an exciting time for aspiring nurse practitioners, as opportunities are growing because of doctors focusing on specialized care. Regardless of where you are located, nurse practitioners are highly sought after due to their expertise and salaries. Hospitals and clinics want the same level of care for patients, but a nurse practitioner allows them to provide this care while staying within budgets.

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