Pursuing a career as a nurse practitioner in Tennessee is an excellent choice for registered nurses (RNs) who wish to achieve a higher level of expertise and adopt greater responsibilities in their practice. Nurse practitioners provide critical care to patients in a variety of settings, specializing in NP subfields such as adult-gerontology, women’s health, family care, pediatrics, or psychiatric-mental health.
Although a master of science in nursing (MSN) is the minimum academic credential to qualify for most national NP certifications, a growing number of students are opting for the terminal degree in the discipline: the doctor of nursing practice (DNP). This degree is especially relevant to Tennessee NPs who are seeking management roles or professorships, and it may set a person up for higher earning potential as well.
While many individuals choose the traditional path of attending on-campus NP programs, others are discovering the efficiency and flexibility of online degrees. Distance-based NP programs are becoming increasingly common and standardized, and they can be a convenient option for students living in more rural regions of the state. For Tennessee residents interested in becoming NPs, this guide examines the steps necessary to become a nurse practitioner, including an an overview of accredited online NP programs, professors, and credentialing in the state.
The pathway to becoming an NP in Tennessee varies by subfield, degree program, and other factors. Here is one possible route to joining this rewarding field.
In order to become a nurse practitioner in Tennessee, a person must first obtain his or her undergraduate degree. This process takes between two and four years, depending on the degree desired. Associate degrees in nursing (ADNs) generally require two years of continuous study, whereas bachelor’s degrees in nursing (BSN) take four years. Aspiring NPs are advised to seek out programs approved by the Tennessee Board of Nursing in order to sit for the NCLEX-RN or the State Board Test Pool Examination (SBTPE) to obtain RN licensure.
Upon graduation from an approved undergraduate program, an individual must then sit for the NCLEX-RN or the SBTPE in order to be granted state licensure as a registered nurse (RN). Prospective RNs must apply for approval through the state Tennessee Board of Nursing (BON), a process that requires the following information:
Please note that Tennessee belongs to a multistate nursing compact. As of August 2016, there were 23 states covered in the Nurse Licensure Compact Law, which grants reciprocal RN practice privileges across state lines as long as multistate licensure conditions are met. Contact the TN BON for details.
Finally, to qualify for a graduate NP program, RNs typically garner at least one year of experience, preferably in their intended area of expertise (e.g., family care, pediatrics, women’s health, etc).
After at least one year of experience as an RN, aspiring NPs in TN typically pursue a graduate degree in nursing to ensure eligibility for national certification. Two typical degrees are the master of science in nursing (MSN) and the doctor of nursing practice (DNP). At the master’s level, NPs typically specialize in one of six recognized subfields which deal with specific populations: adult-gerontology (acute or primary care), pediatrics (acute or primary care), neonates, family care, psychiatric-mental health, or women’s health. The Tennessee Board of Nursing reports that there are four categories of advanced practice nurses (APNs) in the state, including NPs. An APN is defined as “a Tennessee licensed registered nurse who has a master’s degree or higher in a nursing specialty and has national specialty certification as a nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist, nurse midwife, or clinical nurse specialist.” The Tennessee BON provides a list of approved nursing schools from which an individual may choose to obtain his or her graduate degree. Students are encouraged to seek out programs accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, Inc. (ACEN).
Depending on one’s NP specialization, there are several national certifications available through organizations such as the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), and the National Certification Corporation (NCC). To learn in-depth about this step, please visit the how to become an NP page.
Lastly, upon receipt of a graduate degree in nursing and fulfillment of national certification requirements, an individual may submit a notarized application to the Tennessee BON for NP state licensure. This requires the submission of an official transcript of graduate studies, a completed Declaration of Citizenship form, a Mandatory Practitioner Profile Questionnaire, proof of national NP certification, and a fee of $210.
While admissions processes vary, a majority of online NP programs in Tennessee call for the following:
Many online graduate NP programs call for candidates to have completed a BSN and prerequisite coursework (e.g., statistics), although there are exceptions. For example, there are online RN-to-MSN “bridge” programs such as the one at Austin Peay State University, which is open to RNs with non-nursing bachelor’s degrees. Please note that bridge programs typically take longer than traditional online MSN or DNP pathways and may involve more on-campus requirements.
It’s no surprise that online NP programs prefer candidates with competitive GPAs.Middle Tennessee State University, for instance, calls for applicants with an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or above. Other online NP schools such as East Tennessee State University call for GRE scores from applicants with GPAs less than 3.2.
In addition to submitting proof of an undergraduate degree, GPA, and test scores, applicants may be asked for the following: copy of unencumbered RN license, a personal statement, a curriculum vitae or resume, verification of a clinical practice form, letters of recommendation from healthcare professors or professionals who can attest to an applicant’s abilities, and an application fee. Finally, some online NP programs also require candidate interviews (on-campus or video).
The Tennessee Board of Nursing provides a full list of approved nursing programs, many of which are in the state of Tennessee, and a number of which offer online graduate programs. An aspiring advanced practice registered nurse is advised to ensure their choice institution is present on this list before enrolling, as obtaining a degree from a program not on this list could result in the applicant remaining ineligible for eventual licensure.
Lastly, most credentialing bodies which provide national NP certification call for candidates to have completed graduate NP programs accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, Inc. (ACEN). Prospective NPs are encouraged to keep this in mind while evaluating online program options.
William C. Crowe is a program coordinator and assistant professor at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga School of Nursing. Notably, he won the 2012 Gold Humanism Honor Award from the Arnold P. Gold Foundation for his continued compassion, empathy, and dedication to his patients.
Anne W. Alexandrov is a professor at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, where her research focuses on intracranial blood flow augmentation in acute stroke. She has received a host of honors throughout her career, including the 2013 American Association of Critical-Care Nurses’ Flame of Excellence Award for her work in understanding acute strokes.
Courtney Pitts is the director of the family nurse practitioner specialty at Vanderbilt University. She holds both her master’s and doctorate degrees in nursing from Vanderbilt and is a member of several professional associations, including the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF) and the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP).
There are several schools which offer online NP programs in Tennessee. Four of the following six universities belong to the Tennessee Board of Regents system — an association of colleges which jointly offer online programs—and there’s an abundance of educational opportunities at all degree levels, particularly in the family NP subfield.
Students at Austin Peay State University may pursue a master of science degree in nursing, which requires a total of 46 credit hours to complete. This family nurse practitioner program is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN), featuring courses such as advanced health assessment, pharmacology, and pathophysiology. Please note that this FNP program also available as a post-master’s certificate or an RN-to-MSN “bridge” program, although the latter pathway may have additional on-campus requirements.
This school also provides a 46-credit, online MSN program in the FNP specialty. Courses at East Tennessee include healthcare policy, advanced role development, and a scholarly research project. Additionally, online MSN candidates must complete 720 contact hours at approved preceptor sites.
Similar to Austin Peay State and East Tennessee, Middle Tennessee provides a 46-credit online FNP program with courses such as theoretical foundations, advanced nursing research, and several FNP-intensives which teach nursing across the lifespan. Please note that to qualify, candidates must be RNs living in Tennessee.
This school has an online MSN program in the FNP subfield, a program which is also offered as a post-master’s certificate. Coursework includes healthcare policy, advanced nursing research, and advanced pharmacology, as well as three FNP clinical courses and a residency.
This school provides online MSN degrees in the adult-gerontology (acute care) and family specialties. Core NP coursework in these programs includes health promotion & disease prevention in primary care; health policy, finance & economics; and nursing research with statistical applications. The ACNP-AG program involves 630 clinical hours and 49 credits of specialized instruction in areas such as acute diagnostic reasoning. The FNP program also has 630 clinical hours and 48 credits in areas such as the primary care of adults. Please note that these programs are also available as online post-master’s NP certificates. Additionally, the school provides an online MSN-to-DNP program with classes such as evidence-based practice & nursing systems and meeting population demands through biostatistics.
This school’s online DNP program is offered across several NP specialties: adult-gerontology (acute care), family nursing, psychiatric mental health, pediatrics (primary care), and neonatal nursing. Students also have the option to pursue a dual specialty: AGNP-AC/FNP or PMHNP/FNP. Core DNP preparation involves courses such as biostatistics & epidemiology for advanced practice; advanced pathology; and theory & philosophy of nursing. Although the number of credits and clinical hours vary based on a student’s prior accomplishments, the post-BSN pathways features 1,140 clinical hours and 62 credits of classes. The Health Sciences Center also provides a post-master’s certificate program in the AGNP-AC specialty.
Campus visitation requirements for each online program depends on the institution and students should familiarize themselves with the on-site requirements before applying or enrolling. For example, DNP candidates at the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center are required to be on campus for three weeklong visits annually. Contact program coordinators for details about on-campus requirements in online or hybrid NP programs.
|School Name||Program Name||Degree Offered
|Accreditor||Campus Visits Required (Yearly)||Requires RN?||Requires BSN?||Requires MSN?|
|Vanderbilt UniversityNashville , TN||Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner||Post-Graduate Certificate||AG-PCNP||ACEN||>3||yes||no||yes|
|Vanderbilt UniversityNashville , TN||Neonatal Nurse Practitioner||Post-Graduate Certificate||NNP||ACEN||>3||yes||no||yes|
|Vanderbilt UniversityNashville , TN||Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (Lifespan)||Post-Graduate Certificate||PMHNP||ACEN||>3||yes||no||yes|
|Vanderbilt UniversityNashville , TN||Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Acute Care||Post-Graduate Certificate||PNP-AC||ACEN||>3||yes||no||yes|
|Vanderbilt UniversityNashville , TN||Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Primary Care||Post-Graduate Certificate||PNP-PC||ACEN||>3||yes||no||yes|
|Vanderbilt UniversityNashville , TN||Women's Health Nurse Practitioner||Post-Graduate Certificate||WHNP||ACEN||>3||yes||no||yes|
|Vanderbilt UniversityNashville , TN||Women's Health and Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner||Post-Graduate Certificate||WHNP/AG-PCNP||ACEN||>3||yes||no||yes|
|Austin Peay State University (Regents Online Campus Collaborative)Clarksville , TN||Family Nurse Practitioner Concentration||MSN||FNP||ACEN||0||yes||no||no|
|Austin Peay State University (Regents Online Campus Collaborative)Clarksville , TN||Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) Post Master's Certificate in Nursing||Post-Graduate Certificate||FNP||ACEN||0||yes||no||yes|
|Middle Tennessee State University (Regents Online Campus Collaborative)Murfreesboro , TN||Nursing M.S.N: Family Nurse Practitioner Concentration||MSN||FNP||ACEN||limited||yes||yes||no|
|Middle Tennessee State University (Regents Online Campus Collaborative)Murfreesboro , TN||Nursing Post-Master's Certificate: Family Nurse Practitioner Concentration||Post-Graduate Certificate||FNP||ACEN||limited||yes||no||yes|
|University of Memphis (Regents Online Campus Collaborative)Memphis , TN||MSN Advanced Practice Nursing Family Nurse Practitioner||MSN||FNP||ACEN||limited||yes||yes||no|
|University of Memphis (Regents Online Campus Collaborative)Memphis , TN||Certificate Advanced Practice Nursing Family Nurse Practitioner||Post-Graduate Certificate||FNP||ACEN||limited||yes||no||yes|
|University of Tennessee Health Science CenterMemphis , TN||Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nursing Certificate Program||Post-Graduate Certificate||AG-ACNP||CCNE||limited||yes||no||yes|
|University of Tennessee Health Science CenterMemphis , TN||Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nursing||DNP||AG-ACNP||CCNE||3||yes||yes||no|
|University of Tennessee Health Science CenterMemphis , TN||Dual Concentration: Adult-Gerontology Acute Care/Family Nursing||DNP||AG-ACNP/FNP||CCNE||3||yes||yes||no|
|University of Tennessee Health Science CenterMemphis , TN||Family Nursing||DNP||FNP||CCNE||3||yes||yes||no|
|University of Tennessee Health Science CenterMemphis , TN||DNP in Neonatal Nursing||DNP||NNP||CCNE||3||yes||yes||no|
|University of Tennessee Health Science CenterMemphis , TN||Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing||DNP||PMHNP||CCNE||3||yes||yes||no|
|University of Tennessee Health Science CenterMemphis , TN||Dual Concentration: Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing/Family Nursing||DNP||PMHNP/FNP||CCNE||3||yes||yes||no|
|Vanderbilt UniversityNashville , TN||Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner||Post-Graduate Certificate||AG-ACNP||ACEN||>3||yes||no||yes|
Aspiring advanced practice nurses in the state of Tennessee should be aware that the state’s BON does not require a number of preceptorship hours in order to pursue licensure, which is a departure from the process in many other states. Many other states require preceptorship hours in order to obtain state licensure or to be awarded prescriptive authority.
That said, the national NP certification bodies do typically require candidates to have at least 500 clinical hours in their area of expertise. Organizations which offer national NP credentialing vary by subfield, and include the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN), the National Certification Corporation (NCC), and the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB). Please check individual sites for certification prerequisites, or discover how to join each NP specialty through the detailed how to become a nurse practitioner guide.
Finally, aspiring nurse practitioners should also note that Tennessee is a “restricted practice” state; this means that state practice and licensure law restricts the ability of a nurse practitioner to engage in at least one element of NP practice. The as determined by the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) reports that the “state requires supervision, delegation, or team-management by an outside health discipline in order for the NP to provide patient care.”
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