It may be time for a shift in your nursing career, or, if you are starting off, you may be one of those people who know from the very beginning that you want to seek an advanced education. A nurse practitioner (NP) education, enabling you to become an advanced practice nurse (APN), in Illinois could just be for you. NP educational opportunities are even available online, and, just like campus-based programs, engage students in learning, but decrease or eliminate the need to commute to campus.
One advantage to online learning is that you don’t necessarily need to live in Illinois to pursue education. Students can often enroll in programs based out of Illinois from all over the U.S., although there certainly are some programs that do have restrictions. Similarly, a degree program in Illinois does not necessarily mean that you need to complete clinical hours there. Often, but not always, these can be completed in the area in which you live.
From Rush University to Saint Francis Medical Center and even the University of Illinois at Chicago, there are many opportunities for distance-based learning in the state. By 2020, it’s estimated there will be a shortage of 21,000 nursing in Illinois, but that need and demand for nurses also will be strong elsewhere. Keep on reading to find out more about online NP programs in Illinois and that steps that are necessary to seek education and APN licensure in the state.
As in other states, you need a nursing education to be able to enter the field and to start developing your knowledge and skills. Although there are sometimes unique routes into entry for a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree–typically needed for an NP education–the more common steps for doing so are listed here.
STEP 1 : Undergraduate Education (duration: 2 – 4 years)A bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN) is the most beneficial degree to later obtaining an NP education, although some bridge programs from the associate degree in nursing (ADN) level may be found at schools. A four-year nursing degree provides you with fundamental skills in nursing and gives you hands-on nursing experiences through clinical hours and practicums. A bachelor’s level nursing program should also prepare students to seek NCLEX-RN (registered nurse examination).
STEP 2 : RN Licensure (duration: less than 1 year)The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) oversees licensing in Illinois. Applicants seeking RN licensure have three years following the date of application to finalize their application and remit all needed materials. Generally, RN applicants to the state need to:
Applicants who do pass the state exam can even practice for three months as a license-pending RN. Once issued, RN licenses expire on May 31 of every even-numbered year, no matter what year you received it. Reminder cards are typically sent out three months in advance. The IDFPR also oversees other RN licensure routes, including through endorsement or for restoration.
STEP 3 : Post-Graduate Education (duration: 2 – 4 years)Pursuing your masters of science in nursing (MSN) degree in Illinois really is the key to gaining NP education. A master’s degree typically takes at least two to three years of full-time study to finish and includes clinical hours and experiences. At this level of education, you will specialize in a specific NP field, any of which in Illinois could include family nurse practitioner (FNP), adult-gerontology nurse practitioner, women’s health nurse practitioner, pediatric nurse practitioner and others. If you already have an MSN degree in another field (yes that can happen!), then you may want to look into a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree to receive specialized NP education.
STEP 4 : Obtain Nurse Practitioner License (duration: less than 1 year)Similar to the RN license, the advanced practice nurse (APN) license is overseen by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. (In many other states, this license is referred to as APRN licensure, but Illinois uses the term APN). There are four categories of APN licensing in Illinois including for the nurse practitioner. Some of the steps needed for APN licensure include:
As with an RN license in Illinois, you have three years to complete the requirements before your initial APN application is void. Also, once granted, the license expires on May 31 of every even-numbered year. The IDFPR website also provides information for APN licensure by endorsement, for restoration, and even for temporary issue. A separate APN mid-level practitioner controlled substances license also can be found on the website.
The application process for admission into online nursing programs in Illinois varies, but at the graduate level does often require a minimum completion of a BSN degree. Most schools now post their criteria on their nursing school web pages, but more specific details can always be obtained by placing a call to the school. Some of the more general requirements for online programs can include:
Application ProcessAn application detailing personal information, such as prior education, place of residency, and career or job experience may be needed on an application. These applications can usually be found and submitted online or printed off and sent into a school through traditional mail. As well, there almost always is a fee that is required with submission of a graduate-school application – as an example, Bradley University, based in Peoria, IL, requires a $40 application fee for students interested in its online nursing program.
GPA + Test ScoresMany schools look for students who have a minimum specific grade point average (GPA) because this can speak about their potential for success in a program. Typically, this is a 3.0 GPA, but there may be leniency for lower grades. As an example, at Loyola, applicants who have an undergraduate GPA of 2.69 or lower are also required to submit their GRE scores. Another school offering online MSN degrees, Saint Francis Medical Center, in Peoria, may require applicants who have GPAs between a 2.5 and 2.79 to complete an in-person interview and supply a writing sample.
Other Common Admission RequirementsThe other requirements needed for application to schools will be different, but often are requested to provide a more well-rounded picture of who you are, what your education and career plans are, and whether you would be a student likely to succeed. Although these requirements are not set in stone, some of these may include: Letters of recommendation, an essay detailing career objectives and goals, proof of a year of professional nursing experience (such as is required for application at St. Francis), a statistics class, proof of a current nursing license, a resume, and copies of original transcripts. Also, as stated previously, graduation from an accredited BSN program is typically a requirement. More on the importance of accreditation is provided directly below.
To seek admission into a master’s level program, graduation from a bachelor’s level accredited school is usually needed. That’s because accreditation means that the program that you attended was rigorously assessed by an outside agency in terms of material taught, clinical hours and practicum experiences required and even the depth of education of instructors. Today, most programs in the U.S. are accredited either through the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).
As well, the MSN program that you apply to should be similarly accredited. Why is this? Graduation from an accredited program is not only imperative to state licensing, but also to seeking national certification at the NP level. Again, accreditation shows that your school has been found to meet certain standards and expectations in instruction and learning, and that graduates are likely to be competent in modern-day nursing practices, theories and understandings. Let’s a look at a few of the online nursing schools in Illinois and their accrediting agencies
Cathleen Crowley-Koschnitzki, DNP, CNM, WHNP-BC, FNP-C has worked for more than a decade in various universities instructing students and is now an assistant professor in the MSN-FNP specialty track at Chamberlain College. Overall, she has close to 30 years of academic and clinical experience, and is a member of organizations that include, but are not limited to, the American College of Nurse Midwives and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.
Julie Carbray, PhD, PMHNP-BC, PMHCNS-BC, a clinical professor in the college of nursing at the University of Chicago at Illinois, has both her master’s and doctoral degrees from Rush University. She teaches coursework in mood disorders, psychopharmacology and other areas as well as content for the university’s psychiatric mental health doctor of nursing and NP programs. While her involvement in online instruction is not elucidated, she does teach at the graduate level at which some online programming is available.
Deborah Terrell, PhD, FNP-BC, RN is an associate professor of nursing at St. Francis Leach College of Nursing, in Joliet, Illinois, who obtained both her doctoral degree and FNP education from Rush University. She was the recipient of a Pioneer Medical Miracles award from Provident Foundation and has been on the cover of Nursing Spectrum magazine. Dr. Terrell teaches a variety of clinical courses in the Family Nurse Practitioner Program as well as a introductory course in the Doctor of Nursing Practice Program.
Judith A. Jennrich, PhD, RN, APN received her PhD from Loyola University in the School of Education and her MSN from the school, as well. Although her involvement in online education is not clear, she is the director of the NP acute care (as well as clinical nurse specialist acute care) programs at Loyola University and teaches at the mater’s level. As well, she assists both nursing and medical students on service trips in Belize.
You can find a broad number of online NP programs in Illinois, some of which offer blended programs, meaning the school utilizes both campus-based and distance learning instruction, and others that are completely online. Below is a list of the mostly online schools, but keep in mind that there are other opportunities in the state as well such as the hybrid programs at The University of Illinois at Chicago which offers hybrid programs. No matter what program you choose, just remember that clinical hours still need to be completed at a physical healthcare site, meaning that your actual presence is a requirement.
Bradley University offers 3 degree paths for those seeking a family nurse practitioner specialty: BSN to MSN, BSN to DNP, and a post-master's certificate. The program is taught asynchronously, completely online, with clinicals completed in the areas where students live. Bradley University boasts a 12 to 1 student/faculty ratio as well as that all classes are taught by faculty. The MSN degree comprises 67 credits, the DNP comprises 83 credits, the FNP certificate is 44 credit hours. All degrees include 5 practicums. Each of the degrees include Principles of FNP Practice in the areas of Acute/Chronic Care, Women's Health, Children, and Aging Adult Populations, among other courses.
Rachel Borton, MSN, BC-FNP is the director of the FNP online program at Bradley University and an assistant professor of nursing. She became a full-time assistant professor of nursing at the school in 2011 and teaches full-time online in the program.
Cindy Brubaker, EdD, MS, FNP is a department chair and associate professor of nursing at Bradley University. She has more than 20 years of clinical experience including in adult medical-surgical, cardiac and medical intensive care, home health, and more.
Chamberlain University located in Downer's Grove, offers an online MSN degree in family nursing. The program includes one campus immersion weekend during the course Advanced Physical Assessment. All courses are taught online and practicums are completed near the student's location. The program can be completed in as quickly as two-and-a-half years, there are six start dates through the year, and there are no GRE scores required with application. There are five practicum courses built into the 45-credit hour program with each practicum course being seven weeks in length and consisting of 125 hours. Note that students from some states may not be eligible for the program. See the Chamberlain University College of Nursing State Approvals page for details.
Rush University offers a wide array of online options for aspiring nursing students. Specifically, Rush offers a DNP program for applicants with either a BSN or MSN. Students in the DNP program may specialize in psychiatric/mental health, family nursing, neonatal care, primary care pediatric nursing, acute care pediatric nursing, pediatric clinical care, and neonatal clinical care. In addition, Rush University offers two post-graduate certificates in neonatal nursing and acute care pediatric nursing. The post-graduate certificate in adult gerontology acute care is a hybrid program. Depending on the path chosen, most students will visit campus 1-9 times throughout the program. Some on-campus activities are optional such as the initial orientation, but are highly recommended. Others are mandatory. Note that the family nurse practitioner DNP is only offered to students residing in the Chicago-land area as clinicals are completed in the Chicago area.
Beth N. Bolick, DNP, CPNP-AC, FAAN is a professor and director of the acute care pediatric nurse practitioner program at Rush University. She received her post-masters and DNP from the school, as well.
Fawn Cothran, PhD, RN, GCNS-BC, an assistant professor at Rush University in the department of adult health and gerontological nursing, has primary instructional responsibilities that include the graduate entry to master’s program and the Adult-Gerontological DNP Specialty program.
Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing located in Peoria, offers several online programs including post-master's certificate programs specializing in adult gerontology acute care nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. Additionally Saint Francis offers MSN and BSN to DNP programs specializing in adult gerontology acute care NP, family NP, neonatal NP, and psychiatric mental health NP. All of these programs are taught fully online with practicums where students live, however please note that certain degree paths require one visit per semester during practicums.
Saint Francis Leach College of Nursing located in Joliet, offers an online post-master's certificate and a BSN to MSN degree specializing in family nurse practitioner and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. There is also a RN/BS to MSN option that requires a minimum of 15 more credits to complete. Each degree offers nine optional support credits over 3 courses that students can take to bolster their degree education. Students are required to come to campus a minimum of 4 times throughout the programs.
There will be variation from school to school regarding on-campus visits for online NP programs. Some schools will have no campus requirement and promote their program as 100 percent online, while others will require a visit or visits so that you can learn more about your program, meet your student cohort or professors, or meet for a final project. Other programs could provide a mix of online and campus-based learning. Bradley University reports that its program is 100 percent online, whereas Rush University requires a a certain number of campus visits over the course of its programs.
Clinical hours are required as part of NP programs in Illinois and, in some instances, may be able to be completed where you live if you are out of state, but for others may need to be done close to the school site. For example, at Rush University, clinical placement is within the Chicago area and nurses need to have an RN license prior to placement. However, at St. Francis Leach College of Nursing, students must reside within a limited number of states, including Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, New Mexico or Wisconsin, due to limited clinical sites for placement. Before enrolling in an online NP school in Illinois be sure to be clear on the details for placement.
NPs in Illinois practice under a restricted scope. This means that while they may have specific privileges, they also need to have a collaborative agreement with a physician or physicians to be able to carry out one or more elements of their NP work. In other states, such as Iowa, Maine, and Nevada, NPs have full practice authority through their state boards of nursing, but the Illinois Center for Nursing is doing much to advocate for nurses of all levels in the state.