To become a nurse practitioner (NP) in any state, a student must be dedicated to his or her education as well as to furthering the nursing profession.
The opportunities for nurse practitioners across the country, including Colorado, are extensive. Overall, demand for the profession is expected to grow a whopping 36% by 2026 (BLS, 2017). This means that now is a great time for anyone interested in becoming a nurse practitioner to begin studying towards that goal. In Colorado, there are options for registered nurses to earn the requisite credentials to become a nurse practitioner all online, so that they can continue to grow their nursing career while studying towards the next goal.
In fact, aside from having a valid and current RN license, the key requirement to become a nurse practitioner in Colorado is to complete a graduate-level nursing degree (MSN or DNP) with a nurse practitioner specialization. Once a nurse has completed a graduate-level nurse practitioner program, he or she may apply for an NP license from the state.
In order to become a nurse practitioner, a good deal of formal education is required. High school graduates should expect to spend at least least 6 additional years in school in order to become a licensed nurse practitioner in Colorado. Those students that choose to earn a doctoral degree may spend up to 10 years after high school in undergraduate and graduate education. Keep reading to learn more about the steps to become a nurse practitioner in Colorado.
STEP 1: Earn an Undergraduate Degree (duration: 2 – 4 years)After high school, those who know with some certainty that they want to pursue a career as a nurse practitioner should enroll in a 4-year university Bachelor of Science in Nursing program. If a 4-year program is unavailable or impossible, a 2-year Associate of Nursing degree can act as a stepping stone. In either case, applicants should look for an accredited program in order to ensure that they are able to apply for licensure down the line.
STEP 2: Apply for RN Licensure (duration: less than 1 year)After earning an undergraduate degree, Colorado nurses are able to apply for RN licensure. First, RNs must sit for and pass the NCLEX-RN exam. After the exam is completed, prospective nurses can complete an application for their RN license, and submit that along with a background check and application fee.
STEP 3: Earn a Graduate Degree (duration: 2 – 4 years)Most RNs choose to work in the field for a number of years before purusing further education, however this is not strictly a requirement. To earn a nurse practitioner credential, RNs must complete graduate education. Either a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is required to become a nurse practitioner. Completing one of these programs can take between 2 and 4 years, depending on the program as well as how much time the nurse can dedicate to his or her studies.
Those nurses who only completed an Associate’s degree prior to becoming an RN will need to seek out an RN to MSN bridge program in order to fulfill their undergraduate requirements before pursuing graduate studies full time, which can add 1 to 2 years to the total time required for a graduate degree.
Nurses should choose a program that focuses on the population with which they intend to work, as well as one that is accredited for that particular specialty. A population focus and degree that indicates a nurse’s experience in the focus is required for licensure in Colorado.
STEP 4: Apply for Nurse Practitioner License (duration: less than 1 year)When a nurse has an RN license in good standing and has successfully completed a graduate program, he or she is eligible to apply for a nurse practitioner license from the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, Division of Professions and Occupations. Applicants must complete an application, submit official transcripts, and submit to a criminal background check before becoming licensed. There is a $75 processing fee for a nurse practitioner license application.
The most basic requirements for admission an online NP program are a RN license in good standing and the requisite education that entails. However, there are generally requirements beyond that for successful application to an online NP program. For instance, applicants should have a background in statistics, nursing research, and basic health assessment. There are currently three schools in Colorado that offer an online nurse practitioner program. The requirements for these programs may include a minimum GPA, a resume, letters of recommendation, an unrestricted RN license, and prerequisite courses.
Applications for online NP programs can, unsurprisingly, be completed online and students usually must pay an application fee. Because coursework is completed online, applicants should also have a familiarity with computer and online technology as well as the ability to be self-motivated and organized.
Accreditation, which indicates that a program’s faculty, facilities, and curriculum has been approved by a professional organization, is an important thing to look for when choosing an online NP program. The program at UCCS has earned accredited status from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education as well as the Colorado Commission on Higher Education (CCHE).
UCCS as a whole has accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs offers a wide array of online program options for aspiring nurses. Students may pursue either a master’s degree or a post-master’s certificate, and can specialize in family nursing, psychiatric-mental health, or adult-gerontology. Additionally, each of these programs is offered 100 percent online, meaning that students are not required to visit the campus at any time. Clinicals are completed at an approved facility where the student resides. UCCS is home to a number of clinics and facilities that contribute to the high-quality learning environment, including the Aging Center, the Center for Active Living, the Lane Center for Academic Health Sciences, the Primary Care Clinic, the Simulation Learning Center, and the Veterans Health and Trauma Clinic. These resources affiliated with the university ensure that students are able to obtain valuable hands-on training as they complete their online studies.
The University of Colorado at Denver offers an online post-graduate certificate for students who already possess a master’s degree in nursing. Students in this program will specialize in adult-gerontology acute care throughout the duration of this three-semester program. The program encompasses 19 credits including four practicum experiences. The University of Colorado, Denver, offers an array of nurse practitioner degrees that are mostly online, with one or more classes that must be completed on campus. Some of these degrees do offer video connections for students outside the 7-county Denver area by special arrangement. UC Denver boasts a beautiful urban campus within easy distance of the Rocky Mountains.
The University of Northern Colorado located in Greeley, offers an MSN, a DNP, and a post-master’s certificate for nurses. Programs are available for students who currently possess a BSN or MSN, and each focuses specifically on adult-gerontological acute care. Students in the MSN and DNP programs are required to attend two summer intensive sessions in Greeley during the program. Students in the post-master's program attend a 1-week summer intensive during their program. The university is proudly embracing a You Are Welcome Here Campaign, which is intended to serve as a welcome message to both international and domestic students alike, embracing differences and making sure students know that UNC is a diverse, friendly and inclusive institution committed to student development.
Although online programs do not always indicate how many campus visitation requirements are required, the program at UCCS does clearly indicate that there are no campus visitation requirements for any of their online NP programs.
While classroom training such as one can receive in an online nurse practitioner program is certainly important to pursuing the NP career, it is impossible to put this education into real world practice without clinical experience. The clinical experience portion of the NP training is called a preceptorship. The UCCS program has a preceptorship coordinator who will help students to find a working NP with whom they can work in order to earn their required clinical hours.
Once nurse practitioners in Colorado have earned their NP license, they will have a great deal of autonomy as practitioners. In fact, the NP restrictions in Colorado are few. Nurse Practitioners in colorful Colorado are able to:
This makes Colorado one of the best states in which the pursue a nurse practitioner career, in terms of autonomy and level of responsibility.