Advancing to a career as a nurse practitioner (NP) may give you more autonomy and decision-making responsibility, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, 2017) reports the mean annual wages for NPs are well over those of registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical nurses (LPNs). For example, the mean annual wage for nurse practitioners across the U.S. is $107,480, where as RNs earn an average of $73,550, and LPNs an average of $45,710. As an NP, you also specialize in treating and caring for a specific patient population and develop expertise in pediatric nursing, women’s health, adult gerontology, neonatal nursing, family nursing, or psychiatric/mental health.
An NP degree program often requires at least two years of education at the graduate level, but this can vary depending on whether you are completing a master’s degree, post-master’s certificate or doctoral degree. Even within some Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree programs, there can be variations for full-time or part-time enrollment. Yet, as the demand for advanced health care practitioners increases and the reported shortage of physicians persists, one thing seems certain: the need for nurse practitioners and other advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) will remain strong. NPs will not only be needed to help provide services at hospitals, long-term healthcare facilities, private practices and outpatient care, but also in rural areas where access to health services may not be readily available, suggests the BLS. Nationwide, demand for NPs is expected to grow at a much faster than average rate (36%) than for all occupations (7.4%) through 2024 (BLS). And, in Idaho, the Idaho Department of Labor reports job growth for NPs should be just over 35 percent from 2016 to 2026 – an excellent projection for anyone thinking about enrollment in an NP degree program in Idaho.
A nursing education at the undergraduate level is the first step toward becoming an NP in Idaho. A nursing education through a certificate or associate degree is one choice, but a four-year bachelor’s degree, which provides more extensive knowledge, is another. All are essential to gaining the skills and clinical knowledge to continuing an education later on, although entry to NP programs without a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree may require more coursework.
STEP 1: Complete an Undergraduate Nursing Education (duration: 2 – 4 years)While an RN can complete an associate degree in nursing (ADN), the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) identifies the bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) as the minimum requirement for the professional nurse in the field. A nurse can learn about nursing fundamentals, health assessment, evidence-based practices and nursing for a variety of populations in a BSN program. Clinical hours and even a capstone project could also be included. Additionally, the BSN is the most common entry point for an NP program, and BSN to nurse practitioner programs require less time to complete (typically 2 years) than do NP programs that accept ADN-prepared nurses, or nurses with bachelor’s degrees in other subjects.
STEP 2: Secure RN Licensure (duration: less than 1 year)As in many other states, Registered Nurse (RN) licensure is available through examination or endorsement. However, endorsement is offered to nurses who already have a license in a state other than Idaho through a set-up called a Compact Agreement. New nurses seeking their RN license in Idaho will do so through the process of examination, with details listed on the State of Idaho Board of Nursing. Some of the steps for RN licensure in Idaho include:
The NCLEX-RN exam can be difficult to pass, but in 2018 over 92 percent of those with a bachelor’s degree in the field passed on their first attempt. Once RN licensure in Idaho has been obtained, it needs to be renewed every two years in odd-numbered years.
STEP 3: Complete Post-Graduate Education (duration: 1 – 4 years)Obtaining a nurse practitioner (NP) education means completing Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree with an NP specialization, a post-master’s NP certificate, or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree with an NP specialization. Current NPs and other MSN-prepared nurses may pursue a post-master’s NP certificate either to earn an NP credential, or an additional one. ADN- and BSN-prepared RNs may pursue an MSN, or in some cases even a DNP program. An MSN-prepared registered nurse might complete a post-master’s NP certificate in a year, but most typically NP programs will take 2-4 years to complete, and can be completely largely or totally online except for the required clinical hours, which can typically be completed at a facility convenient to the student. NP curricula typically include courses in pharmacotherapeutics, pathophysiology and physiology and a preceptorship where the student works in their specialty area under the tutelage of another NP.
STEP 4: Obtain Nurse Practitioner License (duration: less than 1 year)Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) licensure is available for nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives, clinical nurse specialists, and certified registered nurse anesthetists. The steps to APRN practice in Idaho are numerous, but include:
Of course, the Idaho State Board of Nursing website has more details (additional questions can be answered by calling (208) 577-2476 or e-mailing email@example.com). Like the RN license, the APRN license must be renewed every two years in the odd-numbered years.
Application processes for online nurse practitioner programs in Idaho vary, with some schools wanting students to reach out before they apply, particularly when students are from another state. The process can require completion of many different steps, so it may be best to understand all of these up front ahead of time.
Application ProcessMost often, students need to start by filling out an application. This could be an item that they can download and fill out or that they could actually complete online without printing out and having to send back. Filing out an application requires detailing a variety of background information and also submitting an application fee. Students may also need to apply to the graduate school at the same time as applying to its nursing school. Again, starting the process early and giving yourself plenty of time may help the process go more smoothly.
GPA + Test ScoresMany nursing schools have a minimum undergraduate GPA requirement of 3.0. However, this can vary from school to school and may pertain solely to nursing classes or to specific undergraduate nursing classes, as is the case at Boise State University, which offers online NP programs in acute and primary adult-gerontological care. GRE scores also may be required for admission. This is not the case for Boise State’s online nursing program, but it could be true for other schools.
Other Common Admissions RequirementsThere can be many other steps to admission for online NP schools. This can include proficiency in the English language, having an unencumbered RN license, having a bachelor’s degree from an accredited nursing program, having completed an undergraduate statistics course with a ‘C’ or better, and even having a year’s nursing experience. Some schools may want you to submit a curriculum vitae, resume, or essay stating your goals and could also require you to complete an admissions interview. In fact, at Idaho State University, in Pocatello, which offers online DNP programs with NP specializations in both family and psychiatric/mental health care, three letters of recommendation are required, as is a 3-4 page professional essay. Two years of experience is additionally recommended for application.
School accreditation is necessary for many reasons, including applying for national certification through an organization like the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board and others. It also could be helpful if you ever want to continue on in your education to a post-master’s certificate or DNP program. Accreditation can be an assurance that your school has undergone rigorous review by an outside agency and has met certain standards in terms of education.
Two of the major nurse accreditation agencies are the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN), formerly the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC), and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). The ACEN primarily accredits programs from the undergraduate diploma to the graduate-level clinical doctorate while the CCNE accredits nursing programs from the bachelor’s on up. Accreditation for some of the online NP schools in Idaho include:
Kathleen Baron, DNP, FNP, PNP, RN, is a clinical assistant professor at Idaho State University’s School of Nursing and is certified as a nurse practitioner in both family and pediatric nurse care. She has research interests that include health promotion, health website usability and preconception health education. She completed her DNP at the University of Utah, her BSN at Brigham Young University and her associate degree in nursing at Chaffey College. She brings nearly a decade of previous RN experience to her teaching, including in critical care, emergency room care and NICU.
Vivian Schrader, PhD, MSN, RN, CNE, is a professor and chair of the RN-BS Completion Track, AGNP, and DNP programs at Boise State University’s School of Nursing. She earned her PhD in Education from the University of Idaho, her MSN with a focus in nursing education from Idaho State University and her BSN degree from the University of Colorado. As well, she has published articles in media as varied as the Journal of Nursing Education, Journal of Nursing Administration, Nursing Ethics, and others. She has done international presentations and has been a Fulbright Senior Specialist since 2008.
Boise State University offers an Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner MSN degree with a focus on primary care or acute care. A graduate certificate in these areas is also offered online. The programs are CCNE accredited. Students pursuing the MSN complete four clinicals where the students live and work, and attend three 7-10 day summer intensives throughout the program at the campus in Boise. The programs are available to residents residing in California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. The AGNP MSN consists of 50 credits and 700 clinical hours, which include core nursing courses, nurse practitioner courses, and specialization courses in either acute care or primary care. Courses may include Advanced Research and Scholarly Inquiry for Advanced Nursing; Professional Role for the Advanced Practice Nurse; Health Assessment for the Advanced Practice Nurse; Diagnosis and Management of Adult/Geriatric Health and Illness; and more. The graduate certificates consist of 19 credits, 3 clinical rotations and two 7-10 day, on-campus summer intensives.
Idaho State University in Pocatello, offers two online BSN to DNP programs in family nursing and psychiatric mental health nursing. Those who already have a masters degree in FNP or PMHNP can also pursue the DNP, but must remain in their master's specialization. Courses are offered online and students in SARA states may participate in the program. Students must be sure to complete all clinical requirements for their particular state board of nursing certification. In addition to online courses and 1,000 hours of clinical practicums, students attend campus in Pocatello, ID, 2-3 days per semester. The DNP program is offered full-time which takes 3 years or part-time which takes 5 years for BSN students. Those with a master's degree complete the program in less time. Courses in the FNP DNP track may include Primary Care of the Young Adult; Primay Care of Child & Adolescent; Primary Care of the Middle and Older Adult; Primary Care Throughout the Lifespan FNP; and more. Courses in the PMHNP DNP curriculum may include Adult Psychiatric Mental Health; Statistical Analysis in Evidence Based Practice; Child/Adolescent Psychiatric Mental Health; Genetics for Health Care Professionals; and more.
Online nurse practitioner programs in Idaho have different expectations for students as far being on campus, but most of the work – except for clinical hours – can be completed through online learning. This is actually true for many online NP degrees available at schools across the U.S. Many just require a few days on campus or for an orientation or seminar before the start of the program or during each semester. Let’s take a closer look at two schools offering online NP degrees in Idaho.
No matter how much of your program is available online, you do need to complete clinical hours at a physical healthcare site. Depending on your program, this could mean around the location of your school, or if your program allows it, in the area in which you live.
As stated above, students studying to become nurse practitioners do need to complete clinical hours as part of their graduate-level education. This is needed for them to seek certification and licensing, but also to gain skills working with their specific patient population. NPs work under a full practice environment in Idaho, meaning they have more autonomy compared to states that have reduced or restricted practice environments. According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), this means they can prescribe medications as well as evaluate patients, diagnose them, order tests and manage treatment. More about the scope of practice available to advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) in Idaho can be found in the Idaho Statutes.