Registered nurses who want to advance in their career – or take on more responsibilities – may be interested in a career as a nurse practitioner (NP). This career path typically involves completing a master’s of science in nursing degree (MSN) or a post-master’s education in the form of a certificate or a doctoral degree. Some, or many, of the core and specialization classes available in these programs can be found through online learning, in some cases leaving only preceptorships or clinical experiences to be done at an actual healthcare site. Online NP programs in North Carolina are available through Duke University Medical Center and East Carolina University. Other North Carolina universities, such as Gardner-Webb University, offer hybrid NP programs that combine online instruction with classroom-based learning.
An online education can allow students to complete their learning on their own time or, as a nurse, even during breaks in a shift. Other schools, like Frontier University and Samford University, that are based outside of the state also provide online np programs for North Carolina (NC) registered nurses, but NC-based schools have the advantage of being right in the backyard of a North Carolina resident, which makes required campus visits (more on this below) much more convenient.
According to 2016 data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 4,400 nurse practitioners employed in the state, and the annual mean wage for the occupation was $103,090. That’s significantly above the $45,280 earned for all occupations combined.
There are usually typical steps to follow to become a nurse practitioner in North Carolina, and from start to finish, this process can take 6-7 years or more to complete. However, this begins with an initial nursing education, as detailed below:
An undergraduate education is needed to be able to work toward a nursing license credential. Students can complete a certificate program, associate degree or bachelor’s degree in nursing, any of which could qualify them to test for licensing through their state board of licensing. Depending on the program, they could be prepared to sit for licensure either as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or registered nurse (RN).
Becoming an RN is necessary for admission into many nurse practitioner programs. In North Carolina, applicants applying for RN licensure through the North Carolina Board of Nursing (NCBON) need to:
North Carolina also is part of the nurse licensure compact (NLC) model, which allows for greater mobility for nurses between states. Nurses who already have an RN license in another state may be eligible to work in North Carolina by applying for RN licensure through the ‘endorsement’ process.
To become an NP in North Carolina, individuals usually need to have a master’s of science in nursing degree, although they may be able to bridge from a bachelor’s to a doctoral (DNP) degree or complete a post-master’s certificate. Online NP programs in North Carolina typically require students to have a RN license, although some nationwide-based online programs may accept students without a nursing background or who only have an associate of science in nursing degree.
Students may be able to find both part-time and full-time post-graduate options. Typically, they begin by taking foundational core classes and then continue on to specialize in their specific NP field. For online NP schools in North Carolina, these NP fields may include:
Clinical hours are typically needed in the student’s chosen NP field, providing them with the opportunity to gain new hands-on experiences in a health care setting while working under the guidance of a supervisor or mentor.
Nurse practitioner licensing in North Carolina is regulated by the Joint Subcommittee of the Medical Board and the Board of Nursing. To become a nurse practitioner in North Carolina, applicants must complete several steps that include:
Applicants also need to submit a $25 application fee. Since NPs work under physician approval, they also can register physicians on a volunteer or non-volunteer basis, for which there are additional fees. The primary supervisory physician also needs to sign the NP identification application document.
The requirements needed for admission into online NPs schools in North Carolina will vary. However, many of these requirements are similar in focus, giving admissions officials the opportunity to learn more about a student and form a picture about their aptitude for success. Schools also can have cut-off deadlines for admission into graduate studies as well as into graduate-level nursing programs, so it will be best to research these ahead of times. Some of the common admission steps for MSN programs in North Carolina are listed below.
In many cases, an application for advanced nursing studies can be submitted online, although a printed and mailed application also may be acceptable. An application fee is typically required to help process an application, but this fee can vary from school to school. An RN license is needed for applicants applying for the online nursing programs at East Carolina University and Duke University Medical Center. Other online programs that are nationally based may have different standards regarding prior RN licensure.
A specific GPA, often a 3.0 or higher, is needed for some programs, but this is not always true. Also, some nursing schools do require students to submit GRE scores, such as at East Carolina University, where those scores must be from the past five years. However, at Duke University, applicants can have the requirement for GRE scores waived if their undergraduate GPA was 3.4 or higher.
There are many other steps that comprise the application process. This can vary from school to school, but often includes supplying copies of transcripts, letters of recommendation, and an essay outlining goals. Also, some schools prefer that applicants have at least a year of nursing experience, but this often is just a preference because it may help students to succeed when they have contextual work in the field. A personal interview with a nursing faculty member may also be required, as is the case at East Carolina University.
The North Carolina state board of nursing maintains a list of programs that have been approved at the bachelor’s level of nursing, but not at the graduate level. However, NP licensing applicants to the state are required to have graduated from an MSN or above program that has accreditation. Most accreditation at the graduate level is done through the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). Full listings of accredited schools can be found on their websites. The North Carolina Board of Nursing also has a list of in-state schools offering MSN and Doctorate degrees on its website.
Accreditation is important in providing external veracity to a program. An outside agency does an in-depth review of a program, which can include a look at teaching methods, education level of faculty members, and the curriculum used. The three nursing schools in North Carolina that are state based and have online or hybrid graduate level offerings are accredited by:
Gayle Casterline PhD, RN, AHN-BC is an associate professor at the Hunt School of Nursing at Gardner-Webb University. She received her PhD from Loyola University Chicago, and both her MSN and BSN from the University of Pittsburgh. She has worked with Dr. Jean Watson as a faculty associate for the Watson Caring Science Institute since 2008, and is an expert in caring science and caring pedagogy. She is a member of the American Holistic Nurses Association and the International Association for Human Caring. Other areas of interest include non-pharmacologic strategies for pain relief, spirituality and health, holistic care for nurses and patients, and caring in nursing education and leadership. She is a manuscript reviewer for several nursing journals and enjoys mentoring students and staff nurses developing research and evidence-based practice projects.
Amy Jnah, APRN, DNP, NNP-BC is the director of the NP neonatal concentration areas at East Carolina University. She also is a clinical assistant professor, who has been published multiple times, including in “Advances in Neonatal Care. ” She has given several conference presentations, including in 2014 at the Association of Neonatal Nurses National Convention in New Orleans. Her research interests include mentoring and building self-confidence in NP students, and transcutaneous bilirubin monitoring in premature infants.
Katherine C. Pereira, DNP, RN, FNP-BC, ADM-BC, FAAN, FAANP helps to coordinate the FNP instructional areas at Duke University, and is a fellow of both the American Academy of Nursing and the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. She obtained her MSN and DNP through the school as well. In both 2015 and 2013, she received the Outstanding MSN Faculty Award in Duke’s school of nursing.
While an education that is entirely online can be exciting, some programs may still require a campus visit or several campus visits during the length of the program. Also, keep in mind, that just because coursework can be completed online, clinical hours cannot. Often, online programs will help students to find preceptorship experiences at nearby facilities, but in other cases, students may need to line these up, and have these approved, on their own.
Aspiring online graduate students have a variety of options to choose from at Duke University School of Nursing in Durham. Indeed, an MSN degree is available with a wide array of specializations, including adult-gerontological care, pediatric care, neonatal care, women’s health, and family care. Furthermore, for those specializing in adult-gerontological care, additional subspecializations are available, including endocrinology, cardiology, HIV/AIDS, oncology, and orthopedics.
While the university overall is highly regarded, the nursing school is often considered the best in the country. To be sure, U.S. News & World Report ranked the nursing school at Duke first in the nation in its 2018 ratings, the first time in the school’s 86-year history to earn this top distinction. Additionally, programs within the school of nursing were ranked highly, with the DNP and various specializations of the nurse practitioner degrees earning spots within the top four.
Jane E. Blood-Siegfried, PhD, RN, CPNP has been involved in the education of NPs for more than 30 years. Not only does she help to arrange global clinical experiences for students at Duke, she also is affiliated with the MSN and DPN programs.
Margaret (Midge) T. Bowers, DNP, RN, FNP-BC, CHFN, A.A.C.C., FAANP has affiliations with both the MSN and DPN programs at Duke University. In 2014, she received an AANP State Award for Nurse Practitioner Excellence.
East Carolina University, located in Greenville, offers a wide array of options for online nursing students. Specifically, students here may pursue either an online MSN with specializations including family care, adult-gerontological care, midwifery and neonatal care. Additionally, aspiring students should understand that the school offers a BSN-to-DNP program with various specializations, as well, which means that applicants do not need to already possess an MSN in order to be accepted. Finally, the school offers a post-master’s certificate, as well, with similar specializations as the other degrees.
East Carolina has earned high acclaim for both its nursing programs and its online degrees. In its 2018 ratings, U.S. News & World Report ranked East Carolina as holding the 35th best online graduate nursing programs in the country. Otherwise, the same publication ranked both the master’s and DNP programs as among the top 100 in the nation, as well.
Tracey Robertson, DNP, NNP-BC is a clinical instructor for the neonatal program at East Carolina who was published in "Advances in Neonatal Care" in 2014. She received her MSN in nursing from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Desi Newberry, DNP, NNP-BC also is a clinical instructor in East Carolina's neonatal program. She has also been published in the journal "Advances in Neonatal Care," is employed at WakeMed Physician Practices, Neonatology in Raleigh, and presented at the 2015 neonatal symposium presented by the Carolinas Association of Neonatal Nurse Practitioners.
The MSN program to become a family nurse practitioner (FNP) at Gardner-Webb University, a Christian school, takes three years to complete and can be done through a combination of online classes and face-to-face learning on campus. In other words it's a hybrid program. A hybrid post-master's FNP certificate also is available. The program requires the completion of 51 credit hours, and prepares students to seek national certification. Nurses also can work toward a dual MSN/MBA degree at the school that requires the completion of 69 credit hours.
Tracy Arnold DNP, RN knows what it's like to be a student at Gardner-Webb as she completed her AND, BSN, MSN and DNP at the school. Her research interests include new nurse graduates, job satisfaction and simulation.
The online NP programs in North Carolina listed on this page may be hybrid in some cases, meaning that they require on-campus visits. This is the case at Duke University Medical Center, where an on-campus visit is expected every semester. These visits are two to five days in length and allow students to participate in hands-on activities, have face-to-face interactions, and experience intensives with faculty members and experts.
Not a lot of detail about on-campus expectations is provided by East Carolina University, but the university's website does specify that the specialty classes for the Neonatal NP are offered entirely online. Some of the core curriculum also may be available online; overall, online learning at the school is described as using asynchronous and synchronous learning applications and streaming video. Gardner-Webb's program is hybrid in nature, making use of both online and campus-based classes.
The North Carolina State Board of Nursing does not outline the number of preceptor hours needed to seek NP licensure in the state, only that graduation from an accredited program is needed and that national certification must be obtained. However, clinical hours may be needed for continued licensing. In fact, 50 hours of continuing education are necessary every year, and up to 30 of these hours can come through preceptor experiences – with others allowable through clinical presentations, authoring for a journal article or volunteer experiences.
In North Carolina, NPs practice under what is known as a “reduced” environment. According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), this means there are limitations to their freedom of practice and that they typically need to practice under team-management, delegation or supervision of a physician to be able to provide patient care.