Like many regions across the country, rural and low-income areas of Arkansas are experiencing a shortage of adequate primary care healthcare services. Statistics suggest about a fifth of Arkansas residents on Medicare actually receive healthcare services outside of the state as a result of this shortage. Compounding statewide challenges, nurse practitioners (NPs) in Arkansas operate on a reduced practice status, which effectively limits their authority to carry out certain services.
However, universities and researchers in the state assert the importance of empowering NPs to provide primary care services in addressing healthcare shortages. Increased demand for healthcare professionals has contributed to continued job growth for NPs, both in Arkansas and nationally. As a result, many prospective and practicing nurses want to learn more about available NP specializations and how to become an NP.
This page introduces the NP field in Arkansas, including licensure requirements, career and salary outlooks, and other valuable information for prospective NPs. Keep reading to learn more about NP programs in Arkansas, and how to begin a career in this growing field.
Online Nurse Practitioner Programs Based in Arkansas
Many full-time students can complete online NP programs in Arkansas in about four semesters, while part-time learners may take longer to earn their degree. Individual programs maintain different requirements that may also affect completion time. Typically, graduate students can earn an MSN in around 2-3 years.
Colleges and universities in Arkansas offer a variety of online, on-campus, and hybrid NP programs. Some programs allow students to complete all coursework online and any required practice hours at a site local to them. In contrast, hybrid programs require students to attend some classes on campus and complete their remaining coursework through distance learning.
Graduate nursing programs typically require some form of supervised clinical practice or internship. Often, students can complete in-person requirements at their current workplace, or their program can assist them in finding an approved site.
Graduate nursing programs often allow students to focus their studies on a specialty area. For NPs, this generally includes specialties like family and general practice, pediatric care, acute and critical care, and neonatal. Students often begin pursuing a specialty from their first semester of study.
Most graduate nursing programs require applicants to hold a valid RN license at the time of admission. Some may also expect candidates to hold at least a year or two of RN experience, or require a BSN for admission.
In Arkansas, the MSN serves as the minimum educational requirement for NPs. However, many NPs choose to pursue a DNP after completing their MSN, as some employers may prefer to hire DNP-holders.
Complete List of Online Nurse Practitioner Programs in Arkansas
Arkansas Nurse Practitioner Career Information
Arkansas employs fewer NPs than most neighboring states, despite the state's growing demand for primary care providers and a lack of accessible care for Arkansas residents. However, this increased demand has also led to consistent and substantial job growth for NPs in Arkansas and its surrounding states. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 37.3% growth in the advanced nursing field in Arkansas in the coming years. This rate is slightly higher than the national average rate for the profession.
Of Arkansas' neighboring states, only Texas and Tennessee demonstrate higher projected job growth rates. The average salary for Arkansas NPs is also comparable to the national average and higher than that of neighboring states like Kansas, Kentucky, and Missouri. A variety of factors can influence salary potential, including employer. In Arkansas, nearly half of NPs work in clinics or offices.
Nurse Practitioner Salary and Projected Job Growth in Arkansas and Nearby States
Candidates pursuing APRN licensure in Arkansas must meet the following criteria:
Hold a valid, active license qualifying the candidate to work as an RN in Arkansas. As a part of the Nursing Licensure Compact, Arkansas accepts multi-state licenses from other states in the compact.
Earn a graduate degree in nursing from an accredited program. The graduate program should specifically prepare nurses for advanced practice roles.
Earn certification from an approved credentialing body in the candidate's specific practice area, such as family and general practice, neonatal, adult-gerontology, or pediatrics. Each credentialing organization may hold different requirements, and applicants must follow their agency's specific guidelines.
Submit an application and a collaborative practice agreement. NPs in Arkansas with prescriptive authority must hold an active collaborative practice agreement with a licensed physician. This agreement must be resubmitted with each renewal.
Renew your NP license. NPs renew their licenses at the same time as their RN license. Renewal takes place during each nurse's birth month every other year. Each license requires its own renewal application.
Other Requirements for Arkansas Nurse Practitioners
Arkansas offers four advanced nursing roles: certified nurse practitioner, certified registered nurse anesthetist, certified nurse midwife, and clinical nurse specialist. While the requirements for each role are somewhat different, all Arkansas APRNs must hold a graduate degree in nursing and a certification in their specialty.
NPs in Arkansas must focus their practice in one of the following areas: family/individual across the lifespan, neonatal, pediatrics, psychiatric/mental health, or women's/gender-related health. These speciality areas require certification through credentialing bodies approved by the state nursing board. Each credentialing agency holds unique certification requirements, which may differ from the state's licensing requirements.
Arkansas requires NPs and RNs to complete at least 15 hours of continuing education during each two-year renewal period. NPs with prescriptive authority must complete a minimum of five continuing education hours in pharmacotherapeutics. Alternatively, NPs may meet the continuing education requirement by holding a nationally recognized certification, or by completing a college nursing course with a grade of "C" or better.
Arkansas NPs may hold prescriptive authority under a collaborative practice agreement with a licensed physician with an unrestricted DEA number. The NP and physician must submit the collaborative practice agreement with each renewal to keep the agreement valid and active. The agreement outlines the NPs authority to prescribe differently scheduled medications.
Information for Out-Of-State Nurse Practitioners
The Nursing Licensure Compact (NLC) permits nurses to earn multi-state licenses, which allow them to practice in any participating compact state. The NLC helps to address nursing shortages and makes it easier for NPs to earn advanced licensure outside of their home state.
NPs who wish to earn an Arkansas advanced practice RN (APRN) license must hold a valid RN license. As a participating NLC state, Arkansas accepts RN licenses from other states within the compact. However, NLC licenses only include RN and LPN licenses, so NPs must earn an APRN license in each individual state they wish to practice in. The NLC simply streamlines the preliminary requirement of a valid RN license.
Prescriptive authority laws for NPs vary from state to state. Out-of-state NPs moving to Arkansas may hold more or less prescriptive authority in their home state. You can learn more about differing prescriptive authority laws on this page.
Resources for Arkansas Nurse Practitioners
Arkansas Nurse Practitioner Association Part of the ENP Network, the Arkansas Nurse Practitioner Association aims to advance NP practice in the state through continuing education, advancing policy and legislation, and providing resources to NPs.
Arkansas Nurses Association ARNA aims to improve healthcare and nursing standards through professional development and advocacy. Members gain access to a job board, networking events, and continuing education opportunities.
Arkansas State Board of Nursing The Arkansas State Board of Nursing regulates nursing policies and procedures. All nursing professionals must meet board-defined requirements to practice.
Arkansas Center for Nursing The Arkansas Center for Nursing collects and distributes data on the supply and demand of nurses in the state workforce, aiming to improve healthcare through education, leadership, and resources for nurses.
Arkansas Nursing Students' Association ANSA provides resources and support for nursing students as they pursue Arkansas state licensure. Student members may start their own college chapters and apply for ANSA scholarships.