Earning an MSN or DNP degree can help you to become a nurse practitioner (NP), allowing you to bring unique skills in healthcare to a specialty area, such as family care, women’s health, or even adult-gerontology care. While there are many campus-based programs available in the Bluegrass State, earning your degree from a Kentucky-based online NP program enables you to complete most or all of your education through distance learning, and complete your clinical hours at a nearby hospital or facility.
There are three universities in Kentucky that offer online NP degrees. While an nurse practitioner program typically takes two to four years to complete, depending on your starting point and whether you attend full-time or part-time, the potential pay-offs can be rewarding. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that growth in job demand for NPs is expected to be 36 percent from 2016-2026, which is not only five times faster than the average for all occupations (7 percent), but also greater than the percentage growth in job demand for registered nurses.
Also, career opportunities for NPs are no longer limited to a clinical setting. As Melissa, a DNP and certified psychiatric NP, points out in 5 Reasons to Become a Nurse Practitioner, the role of the NP has grown tremendously since its inception 50 years ago, becoming ever more autonomous, and NPs now play a part in research, advocacy, corporations, and more.
You must work your way up to at least an MSN degree in order to be able to seek advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) licensure and work as an NP in Kentucky. If you already have an MSN degree, you could seek a post-master’s certificate or even work on a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), but the MSN degree is still the baseline terminal degree for becoming an NP.
STEP 1: Undergraduate Education (duration: 2 – 4 years)An undergraduate education is typically necessary to later advance toward NP education and licensure. An associate degree in nursing (ADN) usually takes around two years to finish and a bachelor’s degree typically takes four years. Both provide an education in nursing fundamentals, but a bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN) degree includes more advanced coursework, such as in statistics, and broader-based courses like HealthCare Systems or Partnerships in Community Health. While an ADN could enable you to become a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or registered nurse (RN), depending on the scope of the program, a BSN degree is the baseline for acceptance into most MSN programs. However, some schools, like Frontier Nursing University in Kentucky, do provide a bridge option for a licensed RN with an ADN degree to earn an MSN degree and become either a nurse practitioner or nurse-midwife.
STEP 2: RN Licensure (duration: less than 1 year)RN licensing in Kentucky is overseen by the Kentucky Board of Nursing, and new applications are generally reviewed within seven to 14 days, once submitted. It’s easy for nursing graduates to know what is expected next by looking at the status of their application online after applying. The general steps to RN licensing in Kentucky are listed below, but keep in mind that there are usually fees associated with applications and tests.
Also, once applicants have been granted their RN licensure, they need to complete three hours of domestic violence education and 1.5 hours of pediatric head abuse trauma within three years. Additionally, information on a provisional license and license by endorsement also can be found on the Kentucky Board of Nursing website. Since Kentucky is part of the Nursing Licensure Compact, nurses who have RN licensure in other compact states should be able to have their RN license recognized in Kentucky.
STEP 3: Post-Graduate Education (duration: 2 – 4 years)Graduate-level education for becoming an NP in Kentucky typically takes two to four years to complete, but this can depend on the requirements of the program, whether you attend full- or part-time, and whether there are pre-requisites that you need to complete.
Typically, in an MSN program, you learn about evidence-based practices, advanced health assessment, health statistics and more, and also work toward obtaining more skills in your area of specialization and complete clinical hours in this area.
STEP 4: Obtain Nurse Practitioner License (duration: less than 1 year)After you have completed your MSN degree, you will need to take several steps to work toward advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) licensing in Kentucky. The very first step will be to apply for APRN licensure through the Kentucky Board of Nursing. Other steps include:
There are also other application options listed on the Kentucky Board of Nursing website that include having an RN license in another state and applying for APRN licensure in Kentucky, having RN licensing in another state and endorsing an APRN license in Kentucky, or having an RN license in Kentucky or another state and applying for APRN licensing after a lapse.
Admission requirements for acceptance into NP programs in Kentucky vary, but, in general, necessitate applicants having an ADN or BSN degree and an RN license before applying. Schools have their own lists of requirements and some can be more extensive than others. However, applicants generally need to submit a number of materials to be eligible for admission. Some of the more common steps for admission into an MSN degree program include:
Application ProcessMost schools now offer online forms for students to begin the application process to an MSN program. This typically requires creating a username and password and applying for admissions through a school’s Graduate Department of Education. Students are typically asked to include background information on themselves and to provide undergraduate transcripts that show the classes they have taken and their grade point average (GPA).
GPA + Test ScoresMost nursing schools require students to have a specific grade point average to be eligible for acceptance, and although this will vary from school to school, it is typically around a B average. For example, this is true at Northern Kentucky University, in Highland Heights, which requires a 3.0 GPA of MSN degree applicants. Some schools also require students to submit Graduate Record Examination (GRE) test scores, but this does not appear to be the case for any of the online NP programs in Kentucky discussed in this article.
Other Common Admission RequirementsThere are many different admission requirements for the online NP programs in Kentucky mentioned in this piece and even other online NP schools. Some may seek professional references, a resume or curriculum vitae and even an essay while others may look for an in-person interview or even a year of experience before students apply for admission. Frontier Nursing University, in Hyden, Kentucky, for example, requires applicants to submit both a goal-statement essay and time-management statement essay. Other schools, like Eastern Kentucky University, in Richmond, require students to have an undergraduate or graduate level statistics class. Finally, be sure to keep upcoming deadlines in mind. While some schools nationwide offer enrollment on a continual basis, other schools do have specific deadlines for admission. At Eastern Kentucky University, these are three specific deadlines every year to apply for MSN admission in the fall, winter or summer terms.
It is important to attend a school that is accredited either by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). This is because graduation from an accredited program is usually necessary to seek national certification, but also a requirement to seek APRN licensure in Kentucky. In fact, the Kentucky state statutes say that: “An applicant for licensure as an advanced practice registered nurse shall complete an accredited education program that prepares a registered nurse for one (1) of the four (4) APRN roles established under Section 12(5) of this administrative regulation and clinical experience.”
What is accreditation? It is a process through which a school’s nursing program is closely examined by an outside, independent organization. The qualifications of faculty members are assessed, as are the types of nursing topics being taught, the methods for instruction and delivery, and other facets. Accreditation can be a rigorous process for a school, and, after it is granted, the school has to meet specific guidelines to be able to maintain future accreditation. The online nurse practitioner schools in Kentucky discussed in this article all have accreditation from:
Sarah Sauntry, MS,RN, CPNP-PC is the pediatric nurse practitioner coordinator at Northern Kentucky University and a member of a number of national organizations, including the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners and the Association of Faculties of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners. She has APRN licensure in both Kentucky and Ohio and also provides care at the Northern Kentucky Pediatric Group.
Rhonda Arthur, DNP, CNM, WHNP-BC, FNP-BC, CNE is an associate professor at Frontier Nursing University who began teaching at the school in 2006 and was the program director of family nursing from 2010 to 2015. Not only did she complete her own Certificate in Midwifery and MSN at the university, she also finished both a post-master’s certificate in family NP and women’s health NP at Frontier. She’s presented on positive communication and precepting students at state and national conferences, been involved in research, and even provided volunteer relief in Haiti in 2010 and 2011 in a mobile clinic and field hospital. In addition to teaching, she continues to work clinically in a rural area.
Alison Connell, PhD, APRN is an associate professor at Eastern Kentucky University with expertise as a family nurse practitioner. She has given a presentation on the effects of fitness training and education on the cardiovascular health of inmates in Kentucky state prisons, and was a co-investigator in the project, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health.
Online nurse practitioner programs in Kentucky give you the opportunity to complete your education over the internet while keeping a full-time job, raising a family or balancing your schooling with other commitments. While much of the theory-based learning of an MSN program is offered through online delivery, the practicum hours still need to be completed at a physical location, like a local hospital.
Eastern Kentucky University offers MSN degrees in two tracks: rural health family NP and psychiatric mental health NP. In addition EKU offers post-master's certificates in rural health NP, psychiatric mental health NP, family psychiatric mental health NP, and family NP. All degrees listed here are 100% online requiring no campus visits and are offered full-time or part-time. The programs runs on 8-week terms and multiple start dates are offered. In addition, these advanced nursing degrees are CCNE-accredited.
Frontier Nursing University offers a wide array of online graduate nursing degrees. Degree paths include BSN to MSN, BS/BA to MSN, ADN to MSN, MSN with DNP, ADN to MSN with DNP, post-master's DNP, and post-master's certificates. Concentrations include family NP, psychiatric mental health NP, women's health NP, and nurse midwifery. Each of these programs has at least one on campus visit, but not more than three campus visits. Bridge Bound is for ADN bridge students and lasts 3 nights and four days. Crossing the Bridge is a 3 night, four day stay for ADN students in preparation for the MSN. Finally ADN bridge students return to campus for a 5 night, 6 day stay before clinicals. MSN and post-graduate certificate students participate in Frontier/DNP Bound which is a new student orientation lasting 3 nights and four days, and the same Clinical Bound intensive that lasts 6 days. DNP students come to campus once for four days. Various time to completion programs are offered to fit each student's lifestyle and goals. Students complete clinicals in the community in which they live.
Lisa Chappell, PhD, FNP-BC is an associate profession at Frontier Nursing University, but has been employed at the school since 2009. She also is the associate dean of family nursing and has been in nursing for more than 40 years, including 20 as an FNP.
Dr.Nicole Lassiter, CNM, MSN, WHNP, a senior instructor at Frontier Nursing University, has taught at the university for close to eight years and teaches primary care and nurse-midwife courses online and on campus.
Northern Kentucky University offers MSN and post-master's certificates in family nursing, psychiatric mental health nursing, adult gerontology acute care, and adult gerontology primary care. Start dates are offered 6 times per year--two each in fall, spring, and summer. The courses are 100% online and clinicals are completed where students live and work. Courses run in seven week cycles. NKU has streamlined their admissions process to make it easier to apply, and no GRE is required. The programs are ACEN-accredited.
Roxanne Gall, MSN, ARNP, CNS is the program concentration coordinator in the adult-gerontology acute care NP concentration at Northern Kentucky.
Tracey Adams, MSN, APRN, ANP-BC is a full-time faculty member at Northern Kentucky University, board certified in adult nurse practitioner care, and a member of the American Nurses Association and the Kentucky Nurses Association, among other organizations.
One of the three online NP schools in Kentucky featured in this article does necessitate some on-campus attendance, while the others are 100 percent online. Frontier Nursing University requires one to three on-campus sessions lasting 4 to 6 days each. And while the coursework at Frontier can be completed online, clinical hours can be completed in a student's home community. The MSN NP programs offered through Northern Kentucky University are now 100 percent online, requiring no campus visits. Eastern Kentucky University reports that its classes are 100 percent online and that clinical hours can be completed by students in their hometown. This can be advantageous, as it opens up enrollment to students from other states. By contrast, some online NP schools do require clinical hours to be completed within the state where the campus is located.
Students in online NP programs in Kentucky do need to complete clinical hours as part of their degree program. These provide students with hands-on skills in their area of concentration and are necessary to be able to seek licensure in the state. Also, NPs in the state work under a reduced practice authority. This means that although they can apply for licensure to prescribe some types of medications in Kentucky, they can only do this after obtaining a collaborative agreement with a licensed physician in the state. As an important note, all APRNs in the state are required to complete five continuing education hours in pharmacology, whether or not they are seeking prescriptive authority.