As the population continues to expand in Colorado and more nurses and physicians retire, nurse practitioners (NPs) can find exciting job opportunities in many different specializations. Becoming an NP requires you to earn a graduate degree, receive national certification, and obtain a Colorado advanced practice registration. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment for NPs to increase by 45.6% in Colorado from 2016-26.
Colorado's schools help registered nurses (RNs) gain the clinical expertise necessary to apply for advanced practice registration through the Colorado Board of Nursing. However, the training and licensing processes include rigorous certification and thorough examination in an area of specialization. This guide helps prospective applicants to NP programs in Colorado find the best schools for their careers and navigate the state's licensing process.
Online Nurse Practitioner Programs Based in Colorado
Your graduate degree in nursing should prepare you to take the lead in providing high-quality, patient-centered care. Most graduate schools require that applicants to NP programs in CO must already hold valid RN licenses, while some schools also look for a year or more of nursing practice. Some schools set minimum undergraduate GPAs, as well.
Online NP programs in CO utilize distance technology to prepare students for advanced nursing practice, but some schools require on-campus visits.
The best nurse practitioner programs in Colorado offer an intensive study of a medical specialty, such as family nurse practitioner (FNP), midwifery, women's health, pediatric care, or adult-gerontology. A master of science in nursing (MSN) degree may require 45-60 credits with a mix of classroom and clinical work. Online courses allow nurses to continue to work while earning their degrees, though some students may elect to attend school full time. Specific credit requirements vary by program and specialty, so you should always verify information with prospective schools.
Some MSNs were designed for people changing their careers or as accelerated educational paths for students who earned their RNs through diploma or associate degree programs. To become an NP, your plan must include focused clinical education in a specialty area. If you already possess an MSN, you may consider a doctorate of nursing practice (DNP). Some organizations have recommended that states should set DNPs as the minimum education level for NPs. These nurses can take on jobs as clinical nurse educators, clinical administrators, or healthcare executives.
Complete List of Online Nurse Practitioner Programs in Colorado
Colorado Nurse Practitioner Career Information
NPs in Colorado can expect to earn salaries above the national average, with 2018 mean annual wages for NPs in the state reaching $111,210. Wages range from $78,450 for the bottom 10th percentile to more than $146,820 for top earners. High wages haven't helped fill the state's need for more NPs and primary care providers, however. A study by the Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence found the state needs 1,100 new primary care providers every year to meet the needs of a growing population and fill openings created by retiring providers. However, NP programs in Colorado and other primary care preparation programs only graduate about 550 new providers each year.
Rural areas face the greatest need for providers, where NPs make up to 75% of the primary care workforce. But six counties in the state report no NPs working in the community. However, the state saw a 23% growth in the number of APRN licenses issued from 2000-13, with 81% of all nursing licenses issued in 2013 for advanced practice, but the state has struggled to retain its graduates, with only 55% of NPs remaining in Colorado after completing their graduate programs.
Nurse Practitioner Salary and Projected Job Growth in Colorado and Nearby States
The Colorado Nurse Practice Act defines APRNs as RNs with specialized education or training. These highly trained nurses can diagnose and treat patients, along with prescribing medication, once they obtain an APRN license from the Colorado Board of Nursing.
Applicants must already possess active RN licenses. The state requires completion of a graduate or postgraduate training program that prepares nurses to care for a specific population or provide specialized services, such as FNPs or nurse anesthetists. Schools must hold programmatic accreditation for their nursing programs from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education, Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, or a nationally recognized accrediting agency. NP programs in Colorado prepare graduates to obtain national certification in a specialty area, which the state also requires for licensure.
Nursing applicants pay a fee for their licenses. The application includes information on your educational program, national certification, and healthcare licenses. The online portal allows you to upload documents for review. The state also requires NPs to obtain liability insurance and establish a collaborative relationship with a physician. Licenses expire September 30 every other year. You must renew the RN and advanced practice licenses, along with maintaining your national certification.
Other Requirements for Colorado Nurse Practitioners
The certification term also varies but may remain valid for up to five years. Credentialing organizations require evidence that providers meet current professional standards. Continuing education and clinical practice often meet these requirements.
NPs who aim to prescribe medication must meet additional state licensing requirements.
NPs who aim to prescribe medication must meet additional state licensing requirements. The prescriptive authority application requires graduate courses in physical assessment, pathophysiology, and pharmacology. Each applicant must possess three years of clinical work experience as a professional or APRN and complete a 1,000-hour mentorship under a provider with prescriptive authority.
As part of the state's effort to provide greater transparency in medical license information, Colorado requires medical providers to create profiles on the state website. The provider profiles help consumers find providers who meet their needs. These profiles also include information about disciplinary action or convictions, insurance settlements for malpractice, and business interests.
Information for Out-Of-State Nurse Practitioners
Colorado participates in the enhanced nurse licensure compact, making it easier for nurses licensed in other states to practice in Colorado. The compact ensures that states meet minimum education and testing standards and includes background checks. Nurses can practice in any member state, including providing telehealth services, but they must declare their primary state of residence. All RN licenses granted by Colorado serve as multi-state licenses.
The compact license does not apply to advanced practice licensing, however. NPs looking to practice in the Centennial State must apply for a Colorado license, which is available by endorsement if they have practiced in another state for at least two of the last five years. You must also hold national certification from a credentialing agency and have completed an appropriate graduate education program. Nurses with multiple credentials may apply for registration in multiple specialties.
Resources for Colorado Nurse Practitioners
Colorado Society of Advanced Practice Nurses This organization offers scholarships for continuing education or to offset the costs of enrolling in NP programs in Colorado. The society brings together advanced practice nurses to discuss professional issues, advocates for legislation to support the profession, and provides timely and relevant continuing education opportunities.
Colorado Health Institute This institute uses evidence-based analysis and data to support the creation of public health policy and strategic planning. Experts offer guidance in community health, healthcare affordability, and healthcare equity.
Colorado Board of Nursing You must apply to the board for an advanced practice nursing registration. The board also administers the state's Nurses Practice Act, along with the rules and regulations set by the state. Users can verify licensure and access the Healthcare Professions Profile Program site.
Colorado Nurses Association This organization represents all RNs in Colorado. It offers an employment section with Colorado career opportunities, professional development, and legislative advocacy. It also supports scholarships for prospective nurses and APRNs, keeping members informed through its quarterly Colorado Nurse publication.
Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence This center focuses on the nursing workforce and works with clinical and educational partners to provide data on the state's nursing needs and workforce pipeline. It supports clinical education, provides student financial help, and delivers conference events to promote workforce development.