Becoming a nurse practitioner (NP) in Montana is one way for registered nurses to advance their skills and take on more job responsibilities. According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP 2018), Montana is a ‘full practice’ environment for NPs. In other words, ‘state practice and licensure law provides for all nurse practitioners to evaluate patients, diagnose, order and interpret diagnostic tests, initiate and manage treatments—including prescribe medications—under the exclusive licensure authority of the state board of nursing.’ Notably, this model is recommended by the Institute of Medicine and National Council of State Boards of Nursing.
In Montana, NPs must have at least a master’s of science in nursing (MSN) or they can pursue the terminal degree in the discipline: a doctor of nursing practice (DNP). Additionally, to qualify for state NP licensure, these healthcare professionals must have a national NP certification in their intended specialization (e.g., adult-gerontology, family health, pediatrics, etc.) through an organization such as the National Certification Corporation (NCC) or the AANP.
Online NP programs in Montana can be a way for busy nurses to work on their education while continuing in their careers, with program options being offered either in the state or through distance-learning programs nationwide.
Read on to discover the steps to becoming an NP in Big Sky Country, as well as what to expect from a distance-based NP program in Montana and how to achieve the necessary credentialing.
There are varied routes to becoming an NP in Montana. It’s important to note that for distance-based students, NP programs typically require candidates to have at least a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree prior to enrollment, although there are online RN-to-MSN (i.e., ‘bridge’) programs available in other states such as that available through Frontier Nursing University.
Here is one possible pathway to becoming an NP in Montana:
At this stage, aspiring nurse practitioners in Montana can pursue an associate degree in nursing (ADN), although as mentioned above, a BSN degree is usually an admissions prerequisite, particularly for online NP programs. An ADN typically takes two years to complete while a BSN traditionally takes four. Both programs comprise hands-on clinical hours as well as foundational coursework in nursing. Prospective nursing students are encouraged to complete state-approved nursing programs, a list of which is provided by the Montana Board of Nursing. For example, Montana State University’s on-campus BSN program includes instruction in human anatomy & physiology; microbiology for health sciences (infectious diseases); nursing pharmacotherapeutics; urgent & palliative care; and population-based nursing care in communities. Notably, the Montana Board of Nursing also provides a list of RN NCLEX pass-rates among nursing schools to evaluate program effectiveness.
New nursing program graduates in Montana need to complete several steps to be able to become licensed as an RN. These steps are often similar state-to-state, and in Montana begin with the completion of a state-approved nursing program. Other steps required for RN licensure by the Montana Board of Nursing include:
Also, for those with RN licenses from another state, they may qualify for RN licensure in Montana via endorsement. Whichever method—exam or endorsement—licenses need to be renewed by December 31st on even-numbered years following the completion of 24 continuing education (CE) credits.
As mentioned above, to become a nurse practitioner in Montana, a person must have at least a master’s of science in nursing (MSN) degree, although doctor of nursing practice (DNP) programs are also available. NP programs specialize in a specific area or population of care such as adult-gerontology, family health, neonatal care, women’s health, and pediatrics. Similar to BSN programs, MSN and DNP programs comprise clinical hours and coursework, although graduate nursing education is strongly tailored to one’s NP specialization. Most BSN-to-MSN programs take two years of full-time study to complete, and DNP programs generally take three-to-four years. Read the section below on online NP programs in Montana for what to expect from a distance-based nursing program (e.g., admissions requirements, curricula, specializations, pathways).
Prior to qualifying for state NP licensure, a person must obtain national certification in his or her nursing specialization. There are several organizations which provide these credentials. For example, the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) provide credentialing for adult-gerontology primary care NPs, and the National Certification Corporation (NCC) offers certification for neonatal NPs. Typical prerequisites for achieving national credentialing in one’s area of expertise, include having active RN licensure; submitting proof of having completed an accredited graduate NP program; performing at least 500 supervised clinical hours; and passing a comprehensive examination. For a detailed look at how to become credentialed in each specialization, check out the main online nurse practitioner programs page.
Following the completion of an MSN degree, post-master’s certificate, or a DNP program, a person may qualify for Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) licensure through the Montana Board of Nursing. To become a Certified Nurse Practitioner (CNP) in MT, candidates must:
As with an RN license, the APRN license needs to be renewed by December 31st of even-numbered years, and similar to RN licensure, it requires 24 units of CE for renewal. Renewal materials postmarked after December 31st may be subject to additional fees, according to the MT Board of Nursing. Please note that a separate application is required for NPs in MT seeking prescriptive authority.
As with any graduate nursing program, the process for seeking admission to an online NP school is multi-step and requires planning. Admission requirements vary from school to school, but as mentioned above, candidates must typically have at least a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) to qualify for an online NP program (MSN, post-master’s certificate, or DNP).
The first step in the process begins with completing an application form. At Montana State University, this application can be found online through the Graduate School, and a username and password is required to start. As of January 2018, there also is a non-refundable application fee of $60. Official transcripts also need to be sent to the school, although this is not required of MSU alumni.
Typically, a 3.0 undergraduate GPA in nursing is required for admissions to an graduate-level nursing program, although students with lower GPAs may be considered for admission at some schools, sometimes with additional requirements such as test scores or portfolio reviews. At Montana State University, a 3.0 undergraduate GPA is required by the Graduate School. While GRE scores are not necessary, those who speak English as a second language have to achieve a TOEFL score of at least 580.
Other admissions requirements may vary, but may include the submission of a resume (i.e., curriculum vitae); a statement of goals or a personal essay (500-600 words); and letters of recommendation. Additionally, some programs require a candidate interview (in-person or video-based).
Furthermore, for a person to be considered for admission, the nursing school requires students to have taken specific courses (e.g., statistics, physical assessment, community health, etc.) as part of their undergraduate education. This includes having supervised clinical hours in a variety of settings, including community/public health and management. Those pursuing MSU’s DNP option in psychiatric-mental health also need to have an undergraduate course in that area.
Finally, it’s important to be aware of admissions timelines. Montana State University currently accepts students for the fall into its online DNP program, and the application deadline is in February each year.
Looking for an accredited nursing school is important for several reasons. Graduating from an accredited (and Montana Board of Nursing-approved) program is necessary to qualify for both national NP credentialing and nursing licensure. Two organizations providing nursing accreditation nationwide are the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)—formerly known as the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission—and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). The ACEN accredits programs from the undergraduate diploma to the clinical doctorate level, while the CCNE accredits nursing programs from the bachelor’s level and up. Notably, Montana State University is CCNE-accredited.
There is just one school based in Montana that offers online NP education: Montana State University (MSU). MSU provides several pathways to aspiring nurse practitioners in the state, many with distance-based coursework included. Although MSU offers an ADN-to-MN program with some distance-based courses in the graduate-level portion, this is only available to aspiring clinical nurse leaders (CNLs), not NPs. Additionally, the online BSN-to-MN track is for CNLs only.
MSU has online BSN-to-DNP programs for prospective nurse practitioners in two specializations: family/individual care (DNP-FNP) and psychiatric-mental health (DNP-PMHNP). Both DNP programs offer instruction in advanced health assessment; advanced physiology & pathophysiology; statistical applications for graduate nursing; advanced pharmacology; evidence-based practice; design of healthcare delivery systems; and healthcare informatics. These programs take three-to-four years to complete.
The doctor of nursing practice program is also available as an online MSN-to-DNP track to credentialed NPs seeking the terminal degree in their field. Please note that at the post-master’s level, much of the DNP coursework focusing in leadership, advanced research methods, and clinical management is shared among all NP specializations, while clinical hours are completed in one’s realm of expertise.
In addition to advanced coursework, DNP students must complete a scholarly research project under the guidance of faculty and clinical supervisors. Finally, MSU notes that, ;All graduate courses are offered primarily online with teleconference and video conference used to supplement content...Travel to Bozeman is required at the beginning of each Fall semester.’ Additionally, MSU requires one-to-two onsite visits per semester to one of its regional campuses across the state at Billings, Great Falls, Bozeman, Kalispell, or Missoula. The distance-based coursework is available through Desire2Learn, an online platform with asynchronous and synchronous learning capabilities.
Montana State University is also known as one of the best nursing programs throughout the region, as well as the entire country. Indeed, U.S. News & World Report has ranked MSU’s DNP program among the top 100 in the United States as of 2018, and Niche considers MSU to be the second best nursing program in Montana altogether.
Campus visitation requirements vary from school to school. At Montana State University, graduate courses are primarily completed online—synchronously and asynchronously—with teleconference and video conferences using the aforementioned Desire2Learn platform. Students should have up-to-date computers with Adobe Flash Player so that they can view course lecture videos. Travel to Bozeman is required at the beginning of each fall semester, and students must also visit one of the MSU regional campuses a maximum of two times per semester.
Students may be able to complete clinical hours required as part of a program where they live, but some schools may require these hours to be completed closer to the school site. Before enrolling in any program, be sure to understand the school’s clinical hour requirements and the location in which they can be done.
MSN programs typically require at least 500 preceptor hours, and DNP programs may include 1,000 or more. These hours at approved clinical sites are necessary to qualify for national NP certification and therefore are required to become a Certified Nurse Practitioner (CNP) in Montana as well.
Finally, as mentioned above, there’s good news for NPs in Montana: they’re able to exercise ‘full practice’ authority, a more generous scope of practice than what’s available to NPs in some other states. According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), this means that Montana NPs have the oversight to evaluate, diagnose, and interpret diagnostic tests, as well as the ability to prescribe medications, under authority granted to them through the state’s Board of Nursing. In sum, ‘full practice’ areas mean that NPs are able to operate their own practices, much as a doctor would.