In Minnesota, one way to advance your nursing skills is to become a nurse practitioner (NP) by completing your master’s of science in nursing (MSN) degree or doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree and specializing in a particular practice area, such as adult/gerontology care, women’s health or mental health. Those already be invested in a full-time nursing career might consider a hybrid or online NP program for the requisite flexibility of schedule. One university based in Minnesota offers an online program (we detail it here), as do many out-of-state universities. If you already have an MSN degree in another non-NP field, like nursing education, and want to become an NP, you can look at a post-master’s certificate or doctoral degree.
Why think about an NP education in the first place? According to Projections Central, NP job opportunities in Minnesota are expected to grow by 25.8 percent from 2016 to 2026. Across the country, that job growth is expected to be even stronger, at 36 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nurses with advanced skills can look for jobs in regional and urban practices, long-term care facilities, hospitals and other settings to help meet the growing healthcare needs.
Becoming an NP in Minnesota requires you to have a background in nursing and practical skills in the field. Prior to Jan. 1, 2015, advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), of which NPs are included, did not have to have a license in the state (they only had to be on a registry), but a new law that went into effect on that date now requires it. Below are some of the steps to take to become an NP in Minnesota.
STEP 1: Complete Undergraduate Education (duration: 2 – 4 years)
An undergraduate nursing education is generally necessary to pursue an NP education. Most graduate NP programs require applicants to first be registered nurses (RNs) and to have completed a bachelor’s degree, ideally a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN). This usually takes four years and prepares students to continue on to graduate education. Some graduate NP programs will accept RNs who have a two-year associate degree in nursing (ADN) into a program that requires additional coursework to “bridge” the gap between a 2-year degree and an NP education.
STEP 2: Secure RN Licensure (duration: less than 1 year)In Minnesota, you can apply for RN licensure by exam or endorsement. The Minnesota Board of Nursing handles all licensing steps, and there are numerous steps to take to be on your route to licensure through examination. Endorsement generally means that you are already licensed as an RN in another state and want to use that qualification to be able to work as an RN in this state. The steps to take in Minnesota include:
If you pass the test, you generally receive your license in the mail, 10 days after testing. If not, you may receive an Examination Retake Request packet, detailing your performance on the NCLEX exam. The fee to apply for RN licensure by exam or endorsement is $105 in Minnesota.
STEP 3: Complete Post-Graduate Education (duration: 2 – 4 years)
An NP education in Minnesota will generally take two years or more to complete, depending primarily on whether you: enroll full or part-time; pursue an MSN, DNP, or post-master’s certificate; enter with an associate, bachelor’s or master’s degree. NP programs provide you with an advanced education, allowing you to explore nurse leadership, evidence-based practice, pathophysiology, pharmacology, health assessment, and research and (importantly) to pursue a specific area of specialization. NP specializations generally focus on a specific patient population, such as primary care of women, care of adults across the lifespan, or care of the elderly.
STEP 4: Obtain Nurse Practitioner License (duration: less than 1 year)To become a licensed NP in Minnesota, you will need to go through the Minnesota state board of nursing just as you would if you were obtaining your RN license. To work toward this APRN licensure you need to:
Applicants should know that as of Jan. 1, 2015, the state’s APRN registry is obsolete. As of that date, all advanced nurses are required to hold an APRN license in the state. The cost to apply for APRN licensure is $105. Currently, there is no procedure for completing the process online, but the board of nursing reports that it hopes to have online renewal capabilities with the year. Your application becomes null if it is not completed within one year of its receipt. Also there are no continuing education requirements to maintain APRN licensure, according to the board.
Admission requirements for nurse practitioner programs in Minnesota vary from school to school. Typically application requirements are similar whether the program is campus-based or online, and in fact many nursing programs at the NP level now use a hybrid format, meaning some portions of learning are through an Internet connection while others require visits to campus (more on this in the “Campus Visitation Requirements for Online Programs in Minnesota” section below).
Filling out an application and submitting the required fee is the beginning process of applying to a nurse practitioner program. Applications usually require sundry components, such as detailing your background and education, sending in transcripts and providing a copy of your current RN licensure. In addition, students may need to have on-the-job nursing experience to be able to apply. This is not a requirement for all schools, but the nursing programs available through Minnesota State University, in Mankato, for example, require master’s degree applicants to have two years of post-BSN experience.
Most schools set a minimum admissions cut-off for grade point averages. While this will vary from school to school, most NP programs require a 3.0 GPA in undergraduate nursing courses. There can be variations to this, however. Minnesota State University in Mankato requires students with less than a 3.0 GPA to submit their Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores along with their application. Other schools require all NP students to submit GRE scores.
Additional requirements will depend on the school, but could include the need to submit a resume or a curriculum vitae. Additionally, schools may want a copy of nursing certifications or memberships you have, one or several recommendations, and even a personal essay detailing your goals. The admissions process is detail-oriented so starting as soon as possible is an advantage, particularly since there are usually specific deadlines. Some schools have application deadlines two or three times a year, while others may have a once-a-year deadline.
Any student looking to enroll in an NP program and build an NP career should check to make sure the school is accredited. One reason for this is that to sit for national NP certification from an organization like the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB), or the National Certification Corporation, applicants usually need to graduate from an accredited program. Another reason for attending an accredited school is to ensure you are receiving a high-quality education that properly prepares you for effectiveness in the workplace. Two of the major accrediting institutions are the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN), formerly the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC). Both of these groups follow detailed steps in the process and look at schools in-depth as they proceed.
Pamela Bjorklund, PhD, APRN, PMHNP-BC, CNS-BC, is a tenured professor at The College of St. Scholastica, and teaches coursework in the psychiatric mental health NP track along with other classes in healthcare ethics, theorizing nursing practice, theories of human development, and clinical projects. She has been employed with the college since 2000, and has been published many times, including in Advances in Nursing Science, Perspectives in Psychiatric Care, Nursing Philosophy, Nursing Ethics, Issues in Mental Health Nursing, and more. She has authored book chapters in an ethics text for doctoral nursing students and in a award-winning text on psychotherapy for advanced practice psychiatric nurses. In 2009, she was awarded the Lavine Teaching Award by The College of St. Scholastica for excellence in teaching.
Rhonda Cornell, DNP, RN, CNP not only has her Doctor of Nursing Practice from Minnesota State University, Mankato, she is the family nurse practitioner program coordinator and an assistant professor at the school. She is board certified as an FNP, and teaches in the FNP area at the school as well as about family and societal nursing. She has received several honors and her particular health care interests include evidence-based clinical practice, leadership and project management, and family nursing theory and practice.
Diane McNally Forsyth, PhD, RN, is a professor in graduate nursing education at Winona State University. Her academic and teaching focus is on curricula and program design, psychiatric/mental health nursing, nursing theory and research and nursing clinical scholarship. She obtained her PhD and master’s from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, but completed her bachelor’s degree in nursing at Winona State.
Bethel University, located in St. Paul, offers an online MSN degree, which is available as a bridge program for students who have an undergraduate degree in a field other than nursing. Students in this program will focus on nurse-midwifery, and can complete the degree in either a two-year or three-year timeframe.
According to the school’s website, the “mission of the Nursing Department is to provide leadership in nursing education, scholarship, and practice that reflects a Christ-like presence as we prepare nurses at baccalaureate and graduate levels to serve, with excellence, a diverse and changing society.” The school proves its quality, in part, through its outcomes; for example, graduate pass rates on the 2017 AMCB certification exam were 85% first-time test takers and we have a 100% overall pass rate for our program.
Walden University, located in Minneapolis, offers an online MSN degree with four specializations: adult gerontology acute care nurse practitioner, adult gerontology primary care, family nurse practitioner, and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. There are two paths offered--an ADN to MSN route and a BSN to MSN route. These programs are 100% online and require no campus visits. All faculty hold doctoral degrees and students collaborate with other nurses from around the nation through the interactive online system.
Many of the online NP programs in Minnesota actually use hybrid learning, which combines Internet-based instruction along with on-campus visits, but that said, distance learning options do vary from school to school. For example, at Minnesota State University, Mankato, students meet at the Edina location for classes, but generally only meet once a month. This means that students are actually at school three to four times a semester and can even combine classes on the same day. In fact, most of the coursework at the university is web-enhanced, meaning that about 90 percent of it is offered online, according to the school's website.
At the University of Minnesota, where students can complete a Doctor of Nursing Practice from the post-BSN or the post-MSN level, online curriculum is available, but students also need to visit campus once a semester. For those in the post-BSN program, which offers sundry NP specializations including family NP, women's health NP, pediatric NP, and others, being on campus every semester for a four-day session is necessary, but the post-MSN program offers a DNP program that is almost entirely online.
In addition to coursework, NP students need to complete clinical hours at an actual health care site, and are commonly allowed to choose a site located close to home, in a location convenient to them. While some or much of your coursework may have been offered online, you do need to be in physical attendance to complete these hours. As an example, the University of Minnesota requires completion of 1,000 clinical hours for its DNP program; however, it may allow supervised clinical hours completed during a master’s degree to be applied to these hours. These clinical experiences are generally necessary to be able to seek professional certification, too.
Minnesota is one of the states where nurse practitioners have been approved to practice under the full scope of the law, meaning they have the authority to evaluate and diagnose as well as manage treatment plans for patients, according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP). In many other states, NPs can only practice under a reduced or restricted authority, but in Minnesota, those with full practice authority can even prescribe medication.