Becoming a nurse practitioner is an excellent way to contribute to patient well-being and expand your educational and career opportunities beyond those of an RN. For working nurses, an online nurse practitioner program can be the best way to earn a degree without leaving your current job. In Arizona, there are a few schools that offer online nurse practitioner programs, granting access to top faculty in the state while allowing for schedule flexibility.
In addition to completing an accredited nurse practitioner program, nurses in Arizona must also pass their national board certification examination in their chosen NP specialty area, at which point they may secure their Registered Nurse Practitioner (RNP) license from the state, and begin practicing as nurse practitioners.
Keep reading for more details about the application process and requirements for nurse practitioner programs offered by Arizona-based universities, as well as program accreditation and RNP licensure offered by the state.
Becoming a nurse practitioner starts with a solid educational foundation. Students should be sure to complete their high school education with high marks in sciences and a demonstrated interest in patient care through volunteerism and extracurriculars, where possible.
STEP 1: Earn an Undergraduate Degree (duration: 2 – 4 years)Ultimately aspiring nurse practitioners will need to earn a graduate level degree, but the prerequisite for that is an undergraduate degree. The quickest path is to enter an Bachelor of Nursing (BSN) program immediately following high school, which should take four years to complete. However, students that are unable to commit to that type of program immediately can start on the path to becoming a nurse practitioner by earning an Associate Degree in nursing, which takes only two years.
STEP 2: Apply for an RN License (duration: less than 1 year)Upon completion of the undergraduate program, new nurses can apply for their Registered Nurse license in Arizona. It is important to apply for an RN license from the state where you intend to practice as not all states have agreements in place to allow for interstate nursing work. In order to earn licensure, nurses must complete the NCLEX-RN exam and be fingerprinted in addition to filing an application with the Arizona Board of Nursing.
STEP 3: Earn a Graduate Degree (duration: 2 – 4 years)Nurse practitioners must earn a graduate level degree: either a Master of Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) with an NP specialization. An MSN degree generally takes 2 years to complete, but can take longer depending on whether the student chooses to continue working during school. A DNP program can take longer, with 3 to 4 years being typical.
STEP 4: Apply for an RNP License In Arizona, nurse practitioners are known as Registered Nurse Practitioners (RNP). Upon graduating from an accredited nurse practitioner program, students must register for a national certification exam in their chosen specialty, at which point they are eligible to apply for a temporary RNP license from the Board of Nursing. Once the nurse passes the national certification exam, they can receive their official licensure and keep it so long as they maintain their continuing education requirements and renew the license when necessary.
STEP 5: Apply for Prescribing Privileges (duration: optional)
Nurse practitioners in Arizona are able to write prescriptions, but they must submit a separate application for the privilege, which includes verifying 45 hours of pharmacology education in the 3 years prior to applying. RNPs must obtain a DEA number as well if they wish to prescribe controlled substances. RNPs in Arizona do not require physician supervision once granted prescribing privileges.
Online nurse practitioner programs can be somewhat competitive, so it is important for applicants to put their best foot forward during the application process. Many programs require a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0, in addition to full transcripts from any undergraduate programs, letters of recommendation and a personal statement. Fortunately, few programs require a GRE score, though this can be a requirement for any international student who did not attend their undergraduate program in the U.S.
In order to be eligible for an RN and subsequently an RNP license in Arizona, nurses must have completed programs at accredited institutions. The same groups that provide accreditation to campus programs offer accreditation to approved online schools. These agencies include the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Accreditation from these agencies exists on the programmatic level. Most schools also have a broader accreditation from a group such as the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
Dr. Anna Schwartz is an Associate Professor in the School of Nursing at Northern Arizona University in addition to being co-Director of the Research Core for the Center for American Indian Resilience. In 2005 she was named Alumnus of the Year by her alma mater the University of Florida and in 2012 she was the recipient of the Rose Mary Carol Johnson Oncology Nursing Society Distinguished Award.
Dr. Ted Rigney is a Clinical Associate Professor in the Community and Systems Health Science Division of the University of Arizona’s College of Nursing. His career has found him the recipient of many awards and accolades, including the 2010 Excellence in Teaching Award for Graduate programs. In 2007, he was inducted as a Fellow in the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.
Dr. Janet DuBois is a Clinical Assistant Professor and FNP Specialty Coordinator at the University of Arizona College of Nursing. In she became a Distinguished Practice Fellow from the National Academies of Practice and in 2013, she was the recipient of the Excellence in Teaching Award from the College of Nursing.
The University of Arizona offers several online nurse practitioner programs through its Outreach College online system. Students can earn a BSN to DNP degree in family nursing, anesthesia, pediatric nursing, psychiatric mental health nursing, and adult-gerontology acute care nursing. The programs are offered both full-time and part-time and students must follow a course sequence as courses are only offered once per year. In addition to online courses all students must attend 2-3 Summer Intensive Resident Experiences (RISE) at the Tucson, AZ campus, which last 1 week each August. For all programs except nurse anesthesia, students must also attend one Clinical Skills Intensive (CSI) on campus. Prospective students should contact the university directly to learn the next semester for which applications are being accepted.
Dr. Terry Badger, PhD, RN, PMHCNS-BC, FAAN is a Professor and Director in the Community and Systems Health Science Division of the University of Arizona School of Nursing as well as Director of the DNP Program. During her career she has been the recipient of many awards, including the Ana M. Shannon Mentorship Award and a Distinguished Research Lecturer Award, both from the Western Institute of Nursing.
Dr. Judith Berg, PhD, RN, WHNP-BC, FAAN, FAANP is a Clinical Professor in the Biobehavioral Health Sciences Division of the University of Arizona College of Nursing. In 2015, Dr. Berg was the recipient of the Loretta C. Ford Award for Advancement of the Nurse Practitioner Role in Health Care from the Fellows of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.
Based in Phoenix, Grand Canyon University offers four online nurse practitioner programs, including those needed to earn a graduate nursing degree. GCU offers both an MSN and a post-master's certificate program in Family Nurse Practitioner as well as Acute Care with a focus on Adult-Gerontology. Courses may include Advanced Physiology and Pathophysiology; Advanced Health Assessment and Diagnostic Reasoning with Skills; Introduction to Advanced Registered Nursing; and more. All four degrees include two campus visits which give students the opportunity to practice skills as wells as participate in intensive certification exam practice. In addition students complete 675 hours of supervised clinical practice throughout the MSN programs and 650 hours for the certificate programs. GCU offers an affordable MSN degree that is almost completely online and offers the flexibility students need to advance their education.
It is important to note that online nurse practitioner programs do not have a uniform structure for reporting their campus visitation requirements. Indeed, programs can vary from year to year in terms of what they require of their students. Where the terminology "Limited" is used in the table below, concrete details as to how many visits may be required wsa unavailable. Before accepting admission to an online NP program, applicants should be sure that they are able to meet the visitation requirements for the program.
The preceptorship is an important part of the nurse practitioner educational program as it allows nurses studying for their advanced degrees to work directly under a nurse practitioner who is experienced in his or her field. In most cases, it falls to the student to find a preceptor who is willing to take the time to teach and supervise a student. Online schools should have resources to help with this search, so applicants should be sure to check with the program administrators as to see how they can help in this important element of a new NP’s education.
Without this clinical experience, which is rolled into the requirements of the nurse practitioner programs, nurses will be unable to apply for licensure in Arizona or any other state.