With a looming physician shortage in primary care across the United States, there’s one group of healthcare professionals poised to meet the needs of aging Baby Boomers and a growing population: nurse practitioners.
While not all states allow NPs the exercise of their full clinical abilities, leaders across the country are fighting for expanded scope of practice so that more NPs will be able to practice independently across the nation. Team-based care is becoming more mainstream, leading to the need for savvy NPs who can bring advanced nursing-specific skill sets to teams responsible for patient care.
The United States Bureau for Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that the NP occupation will add 56,100 jobs nationally between 2016 and 2026—a stunning 36 percent growth. Online NP programs can provide nurses at any level of practice the possibility to step into an APRN role in a medical landscape.
Most online NP programs are built with the flexibility that working registered nurses (RNs) need to step up into NP-level skills, knowledge, and clinical judgment without requiring the RN to stop working or to relocate. These programs typically feature online didactic coursework and allow for clinical hours to be completed with a local preceptor. All on-campus requirements are communicated in advance and are as minimally disruptive to a working RNs schedule as possible.
While most online NP programs are designed for working RNs with a bachelor's of science in nursing (BSN), there are also RN-to-MSN programs available to current associate degree (ADN) holders. Additionally, many universities offer online, postmaster’s certificates for APRNs who want to change specialties.
Because the nursing profession has challenges that do not always fit neatly within standard academic calendars, NP programs often offer starts at various times throughout the year. While most NP programs begin in the fall, there are online programs available that have multiple start dates throughout the year.
Continue reading to learn more about inspiring professors teaching online NP programs and programs that offer spring start dates.
Sacred Heart University offers a master’s of science in nursing (MSN) in family health. In addition to learning how to care for patients all throughout the lifespan and face the upcoming challenges inherent to primary care, graduates are prepared to sit for national certification exams.
Coursework in the MSN-FNP program includes healthcare policy and ethics for contemporary nursing practice, family and community context for healthcare, advanced primary care of families in complex systems, and advanced pathophysiology for the nurse practitioner. The 42-credit program requires students to visit campus once for an orientation to the program, and an additional two visits are required for evaluations. GREs are not required for admission into the program, but the minimum GPA threshold is a 3.2.
Sacred Heart also offers MSN programs in clinical nurse leadership (CNL), nursing management and executive leadership, and nursing education.
Columbus State University’s (CSU) online MSN -FNP prepares graduates to become family health specialists. CSU’s program is designed to help students succeed in their lives and careers through intellectual, personal, and social growth.
Coursework in the MSN-FNP program includes scientific underpinnings of the APN role, health promotion of women and children, diagnostic and clinical reasoning for advanced practice nurses, and healthcare delivery models, economics, and policy. The 44-credit MSN-FNP program does not require students to visit campus and allows for students to complete residency nearby to where they live. No GREs are required for admission into the program.
CSU also offers nurse educator, nurse leader, and nurse informaticist tracks in its MSN program.
Indiana State University (ISU) offers an online MSN-FNP and FNP postmaster’s certificate through the College of Health and Human Services. Both programs are designed to help graduates meet diverse patient needs with a holistic approach. Graduates of ISU’s MSN-FNP program or post-MSN FNP certificate program are prepared to meet ANCC and AANP certification competencies.
Examples of coursework in both programs include health assessment and health promotion for advanced practice nursing, diagnostic labwork for family nurse practitioners, theoretical foundations of family health care nursing, and research design and data analysis in health and human performance. The ISU MSN-FNP is 47 to 50 credits, and the post-MSN certificate in FNP comprises 26 credits. No GRE scores or campus visits are required for ISU’s programs. Students are required to acquire their own preceptor(s) to fulfill clinical requirements.
ISU also offers a DNP, an MSN, and a post-MSN certificate in nursing education.
Clarkson College (CC) has several tracks for aspiring FNPs: a master’s of science in nursing, an RN-to-MSN program, and postmaster’s certificates. The same programs are available with a specialization in primary care adult-gerontology (AGNP-PC).
The rigorous FNP program prepares students to function both collaboratively and independently in diverse advanced practice roles. Graduates are prepared to sit for the AANP national certification exam.
Coursework in the MSN and post-MSN programs include nursing law and ethics, the application and evaluation of theory in nursing, primary care of children and adolescents, and primary care of the adult-gerontology client. In addition to the programs already mentioned, CC offers a DNP, an LPN-to-BSN, as well as an MSN and a post-MSN certificate in nursing education, nursing healthcare administration, and nurse anesthesia.
The MSN-FNP and MSN-AGNP programs require 47 credits, and the postmaster’s certificate takes 29 credits to complete. The RN-to-MSN program is 130 semester-hours. All students must attend a graduate symposium and graduate luncheon on-campus when registered for NS 912. None of CC’s programs require the GRE for admission, but MSN applicants need two years of RN work experience.
Middle Tennessee State University (Tennessee students only)
Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) offers an MSN-FNP as well as a post-graduate certificate in FNP for students who have already earned an MSN. These high-quality, affordable, and time-efficient programs were specifically created to address the critical shortage of FNPs.
Coursework in the MSN-FNP program includes advanced health assessment, women’s health, adult health, and pediatrics. The 47-credit program does not require any campus visits, and preceptorships, when possible, can be completed in the student’s home area. GRE scores are not required, but students must have completed an undergraduate-level statistics course before admission.
MTSU also offers an MSN and post-graduate certificate in nursing administration and nursing education. At the time of this writing, MTSU’s program is only open to Tennessee residents.