For registered nurses (RNs) in Kansas (KS) seeking a healthcare career with greater autonomy, increased responsibilities, and a higher-than-average salary, becoming a nurse practitioner (NP) can help them achieve these goals. The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP 2018) states that NPs are “clinicians that blend clinical expertise in diagnosing and treating health conditions with an added emphasis on disease prevention and health management,” providing vital care to patients and assistance to other healthcare personnel.
However, current RNs cannot simply begin working in this capacity immediately. Instead, an individual interested in working as an NP must first obtain a graduate degree in the field of nursing. According to national certifying agencies—including the AANP and the National Certification Corporation (NCC)—candidates for NP credentialing must have at least a master of science in nursing (MSN) to qualify, and the same is true of Kansas advanced practice nursing (APRN) licensure as well. Other NPs, particularly those interested in leadership or professorship positions, may choose to pursue a doctor of nursing practice (DNP), the terminal degree of the discipline and an increasingly popular option for people in the nursing field.
And although on-campus nursing graduate programs are still the most popular option for Kansas NPs-in-training, others are seeking out accredited NP programs online, especially those who live in more rural regions of the state. As of October 2018, there were a few schools based in Kansas which offer online or blended NP training in the state. That said, there are various other distance-based institutions in other states which award graduate degrees in nursing, providing a convenient, standardized alternative to traditional programs.
In addition to boasting access to accredited NP programs, residents of the Sunflower State also have a wealth of professional associations in this field to support NPs in their line of work. For example, the Kansas Alliance of Advanced Nurse Practitioners, a formal affiliate of the AANP, strives to promote high standards of training and independence for NPs in the state, advancing their goals through direct legislative advocacy, networking, and the provision of educational resources. Similarly, the Northeast Kansas Nurse Practitioner Alliance (aka, the Northeast KS NP Chapter) work tirelessly through their APRN Taskforce to move KS from a ‘reduced practice’ state to a ‘full practice’ state—a step which would create greater autonomy among NPs and increase patient access to healthcare services—through letter-writing, phone-banking, and speaking directly at local legislative events and meetings. In its sample letter for KS NPs to send to government authorities, the group states, “The legislative changes goal is to improve access to health care for Kansans by removing barriers so that APRNs can work within a scope of practice defined by the full extent of their education, training, and competencies. APRNs have the potential to ease the provider shortage, but are constrained by outdated laws that limit consumers’ access to highly-qualified clinicians.”
Finally, NPs in KS and nationwide occupy a high-growth, high-paying career. By illustration, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2017) reported that openings for NPs across the country are expected to swell 36 percent between 2016 and 2026, five times the average growth projected across all occupations during that time period (7.4 percent). Furthermore, the 2,010 working NPs in Kansas had an annual average salary of $97,870, more than double the average salary for all jobs in the state at $44,570 (BLS May 2017). In sum, there are many opportunities in this lucrative career in KS.
This guide outlines the steps to become an nurse practitioner in Kansas, including an examination of the accredited online NP programs, professors, and steps to receive all necessary credentialing in the state.
The path to becoming an NP in Kansas varies by individual. Some aspiring NPs in the state choose to pursue an associate degree in nursing (ADN) and work for a couple of years prior to pursuing a more advanced degree; it may be preferable, however, to earn a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) at this stage since the majority of online NP programs only admit BSN-prepared candidates. Here is one possible pathway to joining this high-growth career in Kansas:
STEP 1: Complete an Undergraduate Degree (2-4 years)
Prospective NPs in Kansas must begin by pursuing an undergraduate degree. According to the Kansas Nurse Practice Act, those interested in RN licensure in the state—one prerequisite on the path to becoming an NP—must ‘have graduated from an approved school of professional nursing.’ The Kansas State Board of Nursing provides a list of approved pre-licensure nursing programs, wherein students may pursue either a professional nursing certificate (PN), an associate degree in nursing (ADN); or a bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN) degree. In addition to the KSBN’s program-approval list, the predominant accreditation organizations for NP programs across the country are the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), discussed in the ‘accreditation’ section below.
As mentioned above, for students who ultimately want to enroll in an online NP program, achieving a BSN at this stage is strongly advised to fulfill many of the enrollment prerequisites for a graduate degree in nursing. One exception is the Olathe-based MidAmerica Nazarene University which provides a blended RN-to-MSN program (discussed in ‘programs’ below) and awards a BSN en route. BSN programs include instruction in health in modern society; human anatomy & physiology; statistics; fundamentals of microbiology; and concepts of pathophysiology, among other classes.
STEP 2: RN Licensure & Nursing Experience (1-2 years)
Once an aspiring NP has obtained an undergraduate degree in the field of nursing, he or she should take the next step of applying to take the NCLEX-RN examination in order to become licensed as an RN. In order to do so, the individual must submit an application to the Kansas State Board of Nursing, which will also require the submission of a $75 fee, background check information, fingerprinting, and other necessary documents.
After receiving licensure as an RN in Kansas, aspiring NPs should begin working in the field as soon as possible, as many graduate programs require applicants to have at least one year of nursing experience before they will be granted admission.
STEP 3: Graduate Education in Nursing (2-4 years)
As mentioned above, aspiring NPs have the option to pursue either a master of science in nursing (MSN) or a doctoral degree (DNP); those with hopes of one day working in management or academia may wish to pursue the latter, although this is only one of the many considerations relevant to this decision. Aspiring NPs typically need to choose one of six specializations for their graduate education: women’s health, adult-gerontology (primary or acute care), family health, pediatrics (primary or acute care), neonatal care, or psychiatric-mental health. At both the MSN and DNP level, advanced nursing coursework includes training in advanced research methods (evidence-based practice); advanced health assessment; pharmacotherapeutics; and health policy, to name a few classes.
STEP 4: Achieve National NP Certification (Up to 1 year)
Prior to achieving state licensure as an advanced practice nurse (APRN), candidates in KS must first pursue national NP certification. To qualify, candidates must send official transcripts from an accredited MSN or DNP program; show proof of relevant experience and education; and pass a comprehensive examination. The main national NP certification entities include the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB); the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP); the National Certification Corporation for Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing Specialties (NCC); the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC); and the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN).
STEP 5: Obtain Licensure as a Nurse Practitioner (up to 1 year)
Finally, once an individual has obtained a graduate degree in nursing and received national NP certification through one of the various certifying bodies, the person must then apply for licensure to become an NP in Kansas. This requires the submission of an Advanced Practice (APRN) Application to the KSBN, as well as the payment of a fee ($50 or $100, depending on whether the person seeks an accompanying ‘temporary permit’). Successful attainment of this license is the culmination of this pathway, and allows the holder to begin working as an NP in the state. Please note that to prescribe medications, NPs in KS must also submit a Controlled Substance Verification Form for the KSBN and the DEA.
The admissions process and requirements to online NP programs vary by institution. Students interested in distance-based educational programs based in other states should verify the ‘state authorization’ status of the programs. Since local laws regarding who can receive and provide online education vary by region of the country, students are strongly encouraged to check with program websites or coordinators to ensure that there’s not a mismatch between their state of residence and the one in which their online NP school is based. Here are some other common admissions materials for applications to online NP programs:
Undergraduate RequirementsTo begin, individuals who wish to pursue a graduate degree at Washburn University (discussed below) and other online NP schools must submit official transcripts from their undergraduate programs, ideally a BSN program with a statistics course. As stated above, having a BSN is a prerequisite for the majority of online NP programs. One exception is Frontier Nursing University of Kentucky, which provides distance-based ADN-to-MSN and ADN-to-DNP programs with minimal campus visitation required.
GPA and Test ScoresWhile many institutions require applicants to have at least a 3.0 GPA to qualify for an online NP program, other schools have higher admissions standards. Washburn University, for example, ‘gives preference’ to applicants with at least a 3.25 GPA in their nursing coursework, although the school does not say that those with a lower GPA will be denied admissions. Some schools give applicants with lower GPAs the option to submit clinical practice portfolios or additional test scores; others may admit these students on a provisional basis pending academic performance in the first year.
Additional Admissions RequirementsFinally, applicants typically must submit the following to gain entry to an online NP school: a copy of an unencumbered RN license, a resume/CV with references, a personal statement (500-600 words), and a nonrefundable application fee. Some schools may even call for letters of recommendation, a background check, proof of immunizations, or candidate interviews completed in-person or by video.
As mentioned above, the Kansas State Board of Nursing provides a list of approved undergraduate and graduate nursing programs within the state. Finding approved or accredited programs is important not only to qualify for various NP credentials, but also to ensure that the quality of program facilities, curriculum, and student outcomes (and other measures) meet basic standards for NP education. The main accreditation agencies nationally are the aforementioned Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Prospective students are strongly encouraged to seek out NP schools with approval from one of these two entities.
Marian Jamison is a professor of nursing at Washburn University, where she also works as the associate dean of the school of nursing. She leads courses on healthcare economics and financial management of the healthcare service, among others, and she’s actively involved in the Kansas State Nurses Association and the Kansas Center for Nursing. She’s also a member of the Institutional Review Board for Stormont Vail HealthCare. Prior to working at Washburn University, she was the associate dean for graduate studies at Graceland University’s Independence, Missouri campus.
Shirley Dinkel is a professor of nursing at Washburn University, where she also serves as the director of student health services. She teaches courses in the DNP program, including those on pediatric care, primary care, and practice inquiry. Her interests and activities include cultural competence in nursing, care of the medically indigent, and international nursing. Notably, she serves with the Shawnee County Advocacy Council on Aging and the Women’s Health Alliance. She’s also a board member and District 17 secretary of the Kansas State Nurses Association, as well as an esteemed manuscript-reviewer with the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.
Washburn University in Topeka, offers several online graduate nursing degrees. Fully online programs include a post-master's certificate in psychiatric mental health nursing, and MSN to DNP degrees in family nursing or psychiatric mental health nursing, as well as MSN to DNP with APRN-NP in psychiatric mental health nursing which has the option of a second specialty. Campus experiences for the MSN to DNP students are optional and offered 3 times per year. In addition, a BSN to DNP degree is available in family nursing and psychiatric mental health nursing, which requires 12 campus experiences throughout the program - three per year. Clinicals are also required for each of these programs. Note that the nuber of credits required for the PMHNP post-master's certificate varies depending on previous degrees: FNP background requires 20 credit hours over 4 semesters; ANP background requires 23 credit hours over four semesters; PMHNP background requires 25-26 credit hours over four semesters; and an MSN without a nurse practitioner foundation requires 31 credit hours over 6 semesters. Each of these paths requires the same 540 clinical hours.
Fort Hays State University offers a BSN to DNP in family nursing with the majority of courses online. A few semesters require minimal visits to campus and FHSU notifies students of campus days at least 6 weeks prior to the first day of class. All clinicals must be commpleted in Kansas, therefore this program is best suited to residents of Kansas. The program comprises 76 credits and takes approximately four years to complete. Courses may include Epidemiology in Public Health, Research in Nursing, Nurse Practitioner Roles in Primary Care, Primary Health and Wellness Promotion, Primary Care Across the Lifespan, and Primary Care I. Students must complete practicums, preceptorships, a residency and a DNP project.
The University of Kansas Medical Center based in Kansas City, offers fully online, mostly online, and hybrid graduate nursing programs. The post-master's certificate in psychiatric-mental health is fully online and includes instruction in advanced psychiatric assessment; mental health assessment of infants, children & adolescents; and psychopharmacology. This program is offered every two years in the spring. An online post-master's certificate is also available in adult-gerontology primary care and requires 9 campus visits throughout the program. In addition, there are several hybrid programs available. First is a post-master's certificate in nurse-midwifery requiring campus visits 2-5 times during each practicum course. Finally, there are four hybrid DNP tracks available as both BSN to DNP and MSN to DNP: family NP, psychiatric mental health NP, nurse midwifery, and adult-gerontology primary care NP. Most courses are online however FNP and AGPCNP tracks require 2 courses to be completed on campus plus 9 campus visits for certain courses. The PMHNP track requires completion of 2 courses on campus, and the nurse midwifery DNP track requires two to five campus visits during each practicum course.
Lastly, there is a wealth of online NP programs available in every specialty for various points of academic entry across the US. To learn more about these options, please visit the online nurse practitioner programs page.
Fortunately for students at Washburn University, the programs are conducted entirely online and classes are delivered asynchronously, allowing students to complete coursework at their own pace (as long as they are finished by a set date). However, students are required to visit the campus three times during each academic year, which the institutions declares is for the purposes of networking; sharing ‘emerging topics in the profession;’ developing skills for succeeding in the final DNP project; and completing high-stakes testing. Prior to enrolling in any online NP program, interested students are advised to find out how many campus visits are required.
As mentioned above, the Kansas State Board of Nursing issues licenses to advanced practice nurses (APRNs), including nurse practitioners. To qualify, candidates need to submit a completed, notarized application; a fee ($50 or $100, depending on classification); a fingerprint card; official transcripts from at least an MSN program with three hours (minimum) of qualifying education in pharmacology; and copies of both an active RN license and national NP certification.
Finally, aspiring NPs in the state should be aware that Kansas is considered a ‘reduced practice’ state by the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, although this may change in coming years due to the tireless advocacy for ‘full practice’ status by local professional associations. ‘Reduced practice’ means that state laws and regulations impede the ability of nurse practitioners to engage in at least one aspect of nursing practice, requiring a collaborative agreement with an outside health discipline in order for the NP to provide some forms of patient care.