It may be time for a shift in your nursing career, or, if you are starting off, you may be one of those people who know from the very beginning that you want to seek an advanced education. A nurse practitioner (NP) education, enabling you to become an advanced practice nurse (APN), in Illinois could just be for you. NP educational opportunities are even available online, and, just like campus-based programs, engage students in learning, but decrease or eliminate the need to commute to campus.
One advantage to online learning is that you don’t necessarily need to live in Illinois to pursue education. Students can often enroll in programs based out of Illinois from all over the U.S., although there certainly are some programs that do have restrictions. Similarly, a degree program in Illinois does not necessarily mean that you need to complete clinical hours there. Often, but not always, these can be completed in the area in which you live.
From Rush University to Saint Francis Medical Center and even the University of Illinois at Chicago, there are many opportunities for distance-based learning in the state. By 2020, it’s estimated there will be a shortage of 21,000 nursing in Illinois, but that need and demand for nurses also will be strong elsewhere. Keep on reading to find out more about online NP programs in Illinois and that steps that are necessary to seek education and APN licensure in the state.
As in other states, you need a nursing education to be able to enter the field and to start developing your knowledge and skills. Although there are sometimes unique routes into entry for a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree–typically needed for an NP education–the more common steps for doing so are listed here.
A bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN) is the most beneficial degree to later obtaining an NP education, although some bridge programs from the associate degree in nursing (ADN) level may be found at schools. A four-year nursing degree provides you with fundamental skills in nursing and gives you hands-on nursing experiences through clinical hours and practicums. A bachelor’s level nursing program should also prepare students to seek NCLEX-RN (registered nurse examination).
The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) oversees licensing in Illinois. Applicants seeking RN licensure have three years following the date of application to finalize their application and remit all needed materials. Generally, RN applicants to the state need to:
Applicants who do pass the state exam can even practice for three months as a license-pending RN. Once issued, RN licenses expire on May 31 of every even-numbered year, no matter what year you received it. Reminder cards are typically sent out three months in advance. The IDFPR also oversees other RN licensure routes, including through endorsement or for restoration.
Pursuing your masters of science in nursing (MSN) degree in Illinois really is the key to gaining NP education. A master’s degree typically takes at least two to three years of full-time study to finish and includes clinical hours and experiences. At this level of education, you will specialize in a specific NP field, any of which in Illinois could include family nurse practitioner (FNP), adult-gerontology nurse practitioner, women’s health nurse practitioner, pediatric nurse practitioner and others. If you already have an MSN degree in another field (yes that can happen!), then you may want to look into a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree to receive specialized NP education.
Similar to the RN license, the advanced practice nurse (APN) license is overseen by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. (In many other states, this license is referred to as APRN licensure, but Illinois uses the term APN). There are four categories of APN licensing in Illinois including for the nurse practitioner. Some of the steps needed for APN licensure include:
As with an RN license in Illinois, you have three years to complete the requirements before your initial APN application is void. Also, once granted, the license expires on May 31 of every even-numbered year. The IDFPR website also provides information for APN licensure by endorsement, for restoration, and even for temporary issue. A separate APN mid-level practitioner controlled substances license also can be found on the website.
The application process for admission into online nursing programs in Illinois varies, but at the graduate level does often require a minimum completion of a BSN degree. Most schools now post their criteria on their nursing school web pages, but more specific details can always be obtained by placing a call to the school. Some of the more general requirements for online programs can include:
An application detailing personal information, such as prior education, place of residency, and career or job experience may be needed on an application. These applications can usually be found and submitted online or printed off and sent into a school through traditional mail. In fact, both options are available for the online nursing program at Loyola University, in Chicago, although its website indicates a preference for candidates to use the online option. As well, there almost always is a fee that is required with submission of a graduate-school application – as an example, Bradley University, based in Peoria, Ill, requires a $40 application fee for students interested in its online nursing program.
Many schools look for students who have a minimum specific grade point average (GPA) because this can speak about their potential for success in a program. Typically, this is a 3.0 GPA, but there may be leniency for lower grades. As an example, at Loyola, applicants who have an undergraduate GPA of 2.69 or lower are also required to submit their GRE scores. Another school offering online MSN degrees, Saint Francis Medical Center, in Peoria, may require applicants who have GPAs between a 2.5 and 2.79 to complete an in-person interview and supply a writing sample.
The other requirements needed for application to schools will be different, but often are requested to provide a more well-rounded picture of who you are, what your education and career plans are, and whether you would be a student likely to succeed. Although these requirements are not set in stone, some of these may include: Letters of recommendation, an essay detailing career objectives and goals, proof of a year of professional nursing experience (such as is required for application at St. Francis), a statistics class, proof of a current nursing license, a resume, and copies of original transcripts. Also, as stated previously, graduation from an accredited BSN program is typically a requirement. More on the importance of accreditation is provided directly below.
To seek admission into a master’s level program, graduation from a bachelor’s level accredited school is usually needed. That’s because accreditation means that the program that you attended was rigorously assessed by an outside agency in terms of material taught, clinical hours and practicum experiences required and even the depth of education of instructors. Today, most programs in the U.S. are accredited either through the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).
As well, the MSN program that you apply to should be similarly accredited. Why is this? Graduation from an accredited program is not only imperative to state licensing, but also to seeking national certification at the NP level. Again, accreditation shows that your school has been found to meet certain standards and expectations in instruction and learning, and that graduates are likely to be competent in modern-day nursing practices, theories and understandings. Let’s a look at a few of the online nursing schools in Illinois and their accrediting agencies
Cathleen Crowley-Koschnitzki, DNP, CNM, WHNP-BC, FNP-C has worked for more than a decade in various universities instructing students and is now an assistant professor in the MSN-FNP specialty track at Chamberlain College. Overall, she has close to 30 years of academic and clinical experience, and is a member of organizations that include, but are not limited to, the American College of Nurse Midwives and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.
Julie Carbray, PhD, PMHNP-BC, PMHCNS-BC, a clinical professor in the college of nursing at the University of Chicago at Illinois, has both her master’s and doctoral degrees from Rush University. She teaches coursework in mood disorders, psychopharmacology and other areas as well as content for the university’s psychiatric mental health doctor of nursing and NP programs. While her involvement in online instruction is not elucidated, she does teach at the graduate level at which some online programming is available.
Deborah Terrell, PhD, FNP-BC, RN is an associate professor of nursing at St. Francis Leach College of Nursing, in Joliet, Illinois, who obtained both her doctoral degree and FNP education from Rush University. She was the recipient of a Pioneer Medical Miracles award from Provident Foundation and has been on the cover of Nursing Spectrum magazine. Dr. Terrell teaches a variety of clinical courses in the Family Nurse Practitioner Program as well as a introductory course in the Doctor of Nursing Practice Program.
Judith A. Jennrich, PhD, RN, APN received her PhD from Loyola University in the School of Education and her MSN from the school, as well. Although her involvement in online education is not clear, she is the director of the NP acute care (as well as clinical nurse specialist acute care) programs at Loyola University and teaches at the mater’s level. As well, she assists both nursing and medical students on service trips in Belize.
You can find a broad number of online NP programs in Illinois, some of which offer blended programs, meaning the school utilizes both campus-based and distance learning instruction, and others that are completely online. Below is a list of just a few of these schools, but keep in mind that there are other opportunities in the state as well, some of which may be briefly mentioned in other instances in this article. No matter what program you choose, just remember that clinical hours still need to be completed at a physical healthcare site, meaning that your actual presence is a requirement.
The online nursing programs available through Bradley University include an MSN degree in family nurse practitioner, a FNP certificate, and a DNP program with a FNP focus. The MSN degree is 64 to 67 credits in all, while the FNP certificate is 43 credit hours. The DNP is 73 credits, and includes five clinical practicums, three practice seminars, and a course in database management systems. Clinicals can be completed locally and there is no campus attendance required.
Rachel Borton, MSN, BC-FNP is the director of the FNP online program at Bradley University and an assistant professor of nursing. She became a full-time assistant professor of nursing at the school in 2011 and teaches full-time online in the program.
Cindy Brubaker, EdD, MS, FNP is a department chair and associate professor of nursing at Bradley University. She has more than 20 years of clinical experience including in adult medical-surgical, cardiac and medical intensive care, home health, and more.
A fully online family nurse practitioner (FNP) program is available through the Chamberlain College of Nursing. The program can be completed in as quickly as two-and-a-half years, there are six start dates through the year, and there are no GRE scores required with application. There are five practicum courses built into the 45-credit hour program with each practicum course being eight weeks in length. As well, the school ranked among the best online graduate nursing programs in 2015 by U.S. News & World Report. (However, students from some states may not be eligible for the program. See here for details.)
Kevin L. Letz, DNP, MBA, MSN, RN, CEN, FNP-C, ANP-BC, PNP-BC is assistant dean at Chamberlain College of Nursing and an associate professor in the MSN FNP specialty track at the school. He has a DNP from Rush University and an MBA from the Keller Graduate School of Management at DeVry University, also in Downer's Grove.
Patricia Bailey, PhD, MSN, RN, FNP-C, an assistant professor of the MSN degree program at Chamberlain College, particularly works with students in the FNP specialty track. She is a member of organizations that include the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, the American Nurses Association, and the Ohio Nurses Association.
Loyola University offers numerous NP tracks at the MSN level to help students gain advanced skills and learning in nursing. These concentration areas include: Family Nurse Practitioner, Family Nurse Practitioner with Emergency Nurse Subspecialty, Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner with an Oncology Specialty, and Women's Health Nurse Practitioner. Most of the programs utilize a blended format, meaning classes are offered online or face-to-face, and clinical placements occur in the Chicago area. Several post-graduate certificates are offered online in similar fields, as well.
Sandi Tenfelde, PhD, RN, APN is an assistant professor and director of the women's health nurse practitioner (WHNP) program at Loyola University. She obtained her own MSN and PhD from the school and teaches classes on reproductive health and childbearing as well as helps to coordinate the advanced practice clinical nursing course.
MariJo Letizia, PhD, RN, APN/ANP-BC, FAANP is the associate dean of the masters and DNP programs at the Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing at Loyola University. She has professional memberships that range from the Illinois Society of Advanced Practice Nurses to the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners and has been published or given presentations multiple times.
Rush University offers several online options for students interested in advanced nursing education. These include the Acute Care NP, Adult NP, Family NP, Gerontological NP, Pediatric NP, Psychiatric/Mental Health NP and others. According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, the degree programs at the school are 51 to 99 percent online, but there are other online options related to post-master's certificates and DNP degrees available too.
Beth N. Bolick, DNP, CPNP-AC, FAAN is a professor and director of the acute care pediatric nurse practitioner program at Rush University. She received her post-masters and DNP from the school, as well.
Fawn Cothran, PhD, RN, GCNS-BC, an assistant professor at Rush University in the department of adult health and gerontological nursing, has primary instructional responsibilities that include the graduate entry to master’s program and the Adult-Gerontological DNP Specialty program.
There will be variation from school to school regarding on-campus visits for online NP programs. Some schools will have no campus requirement and promote their program as 100 percent online, while others will require a visit or visits so that you can learn more about your program, meet your student cohort or professors, or meet for a final project. Other programs could provide a mix of online and campus-based learning, like at Loyola, which reports that: "All [of its] nurse practitioner programs are offered in a blended format. Blended programs include online and face-to-face courses," meaning that you need to be on-campus some of the time. Bradley University reports that its program is 100 percent online, whereas Rush University requires a few campus visits over the course of its program.
|School Name||Program Name||Degree Offered
|Accreditor||Campus Visits Required (Yearly)||Requires RN?||Requires BSN?||Requires MSN?|
|University of Illinois at ChicagoChicago , IL||Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner||DNP||AG-ACNP||CCNE||limited||yes||no||no|
|University of Illinois at ChicagoChicago , IL||Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner||DNP||AG-PCNP||CCNE||limited||yes||no||no|
|University of Illinois at ChicagoChicago , IL||Family Nurse Practitioner||DNP||FNP||CCNE||limited||yes||no||no|
|University of Illinois at ChicagoChicago , IL||Nurse Midwifery/Women's Health Nurse Practitioner||DNP||NM/WHNP||CCNE||limited||yes||no||no|
|University of Illinois at ChicagoChicago , IL||Neonatal Nurse Practitioner||DNP||NNP||CCNE||limited||yes||no||no|
|University of Illinois at ChicagoChicago , IL||Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner||DNP||PMHNP||CCNE||limited||yes||no||no|
|University of Illinois at ChicagoChicago , IL||Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner||DNP||PNP-AC||CCNE||limited||yes||no||no|
|University of Illinois at ChicagoChicago , IL||Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner||DNP||PNP-PC||CCNE||limited||yes||no||no|
|University of Illinois at ChicagoChicago , IL||Women's Health Nurse Practitioner||DNP||WHNP||CCNE||limited||yes||no||no|
|Kaplan UniversityChicago , IL||Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP): Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner Population Focus||DNP||Adult/GNP||HLC-NCA||limited||yes||yes||no|
|Kaplan UniversityChicago , IL||Master of Science in Nursing (MSN): Family NP Focus||MSN||FNP||CCNE||limited||yes||no||no|
|Kaplan UniversityChicago , IL||Family Nurse Practitioner Certificate||Post-Graduate Certificate||FNP||CCNE||limited||yes||no||yes|
|Kaplan UniversityChicago , IL||Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP): Family Nurse Practitioner Focus||DNP||FNP||HLC-NCA||limited||yes||yes||no|
|Loyola University ChicagoMaywood , IL||Women's Health Nurse Practitioner||MSN||WHNP||CCNE||limited||yes||no||no|
|Loyola University ChicagoMaywood , IL||Women's Health Nurse Practitioner||Post-Graduate Certificate||WHNP||CCNE||limited||yes||no||yes|
|Loyola UniversityMaywood , IL||Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner||MSN||AG-ACNP||CCNE||limited||yes||no||no|
|Loyola UniversityMaywood , IL||Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner With Oncology Specialty||MSN||AG-ACNP||CCNE||limited||yes||no||no|
|Loyola UniversityMaywood , IL||Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Certificate||Post-Graduate Certificate||AG-ACNP||CCNE||limited||yes||no||yes|
|Loyola UniversityMaywood , IL||Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner With Oncology Specialty Certificate||Post-Graduate Certificate||AG-ACNP||CCNE||limited||yes||no||yes|
|Loyola UniversityMaywood , IL||Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner||MSN||AG-PCNP||CCNE||limited||yes||no||no|
|Loyola UniversityMaywood , IL||Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Certificate||Post-Graduate Certificate||AG-PCNP||CCNE||limited||yes||no||yes|
|Loyola UniversityMaywood , IL||Family Nurse Practitioner||MSN||FNP||CCNE||limited||yes||no||no|
|Loyola UniversityMaywood , IL||Family Nurse Practitioner with Emergency Nurse Subspecialty||MSN||FNP||CCNE||limited||yes||no||no|
|Loyola UniversityMaywood , IL||Family Nurse Practitioner Certificate||Post-Graduate Certificate||FNP||CCNE||limited||yes||no||yes|
|Loyola UniversityMaywood , IL||Family Nurse Practitioner Certificate with Emergency Nurse Subspecialty||Post-Graduate Certificate||FNP||CCNE||limited||yes||no||yes|
|Rush UniversityChicago , IL||Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (DNP)||DNP||AG-ACNP||CCNE||>3||yes||yes||no|
|Rush UniversityChicago , IL||Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (DNP)||DNP||AG-PCNP||CCNE||>3||yes||yes||no|
|Rush UniversityChicago , IL||Family Nurse Practitioner (DNP)||DNP||FNP||CCNE||limited||yes||yes||no|
|Rush UniversityChicago , IL||Post-Graduate Certificate: Neonatal Nurse Practitioner||Post-Graduate Certificate||NNP||CCNE||>3||yes||no||yes|
|Rush UniversityChicago , IL||Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (DNP)||DNP||NNP||CCNE||>3||yes||yes||no|
|Rush UniversityChicago , IL||Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (DNP)||DNP||PMHNP||CCNE||>3||yes||yes||no|
|Rush UniversityChicago , IL||Post-graduate Certificate: Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner||Post-Graduate Certificate||PMHNP||CCNE||>3||yes||no||yes|
|Rush UniversityChicago , IL||Post-Graduate Certificate: Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner||Post-Graduate Certificate||PNP-AC||CCNE||>3||yes||no||yes|
|Rush UniversityChicago , IL||Acute Care Pediatric NP (DNP)||DNP||PNP-AC||CCNE||>3||yes||yes||no|
|Rush UniversityChicago , IL||Primary Care Pediatric NP (DNP)||DNP||PNP-PC||CCNE||>3||yes||yes||no|
|Saint Francis Medical Center College of NursingPeoria , IL||Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) Master's Program||MSN||FNP||ACEN||limited||yes||no||no|
|Saint Francis Medical Center College of NursingPeoria , IL||Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) Post-Graduate Certificate Program||Post-Graduate Certificate||FNP||ACEN||limited||yes||no||yes|
|Saint Francis Medical Center College of NursingPeoria , IL||Family Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner||MSN||FPMHNP||ACEN||limited||yes||yes||no|
|Saint Francis Medical Center College of NursingPeoria , IL||Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP) Master's Program||MSN||NNP||ACEN||limited||yes||yes||no|
|St. Francis Leach College of NursingJoliet , IL||MSN: Family Nurse Practitioner||MSN||FNP||CCNE||0||yes||no||no|
|St. Francis Leach College of NursingJoliet , IL||Post-Master's Certificate: Family Nurse Practitioner||Post-Graduate Certificate||FNP||CCNE||0||yes||no||no|
|St. Francis Leach College of NursingJoliet , IL||Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner||MSN||PMHNP||CCNE||0||yes||no||no|
|St. Francis Leach College of NursingJoliet , IL||Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Certificate - Post-Master's Certificate||Post-Graduate Certificate||PMHNP||CCNE||0||yes||no||no|
|Bradley UniversityPeoria , IL||Family Nurse Practitioner||MSN||FNP||ACEN||0||yes||yes||no|
|Bradley UniversityPeoria , IL||Family Nurse Practitioner Certificate||Post-Graduate Certificate||FNP||ACEN||0||yes||no||yes|
|Bradley UniversityPeoria , IL||Family Nurse Practitioner||DNP||FNP||ACEN||0||yes||yes||no|
|Chamberlain College of NursingDowner's Grove , IL||Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) Track||MSN||FNP||CCNE||1||yes||yes||no|
|Kaplan UniversityChicago , IL||Master of Science in Nursing (MSN): Adult-Gerontology Population Focus||MSN||Adult/GNP||CCNE||limited||yes||no||no|
|Kaplan UniversityChicago , IL||Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner Certificate||Post-Graduate Certificate||Adult/GNP||CCNE||limited||yes||no||yes|
Clinical hours are required as part of NP programs in Illinois and, in some instances, may be able to be completed where you live if you are out of state, but for others may need to be done close to the school site. For example, at Rush University, clinical placement is within the Chicago area and nurses need to have an RN license prior to placement. However, at St. Francis Leach College of Nursing, students must reside within a limited number of states, including Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, New Mexico or Wisconsin, due to limited clinical sites for placement. Before enrolling in an online NP school in Illinois be sure to be clear on the details for placement.
NPs in Illinois practice under a restricted scope. This means that while they may have specific privileges, they also need to have a collaborative agreement with a physician or physicians to be able to carry out one or more elements of their NP work. In other states, such as Iowa, Maine, and Nevada, NPs have full practice authority through their state boards of nursing, but the Illinois Center for Nursing is doing much to advocate for nurses of all levels in the state.
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