For registered nurses in Oregon seeking to take on increased job responsibilities and a broader scope of practice, becoming a nurse practitioner can be an enticing prospect. Luckily for RNs living in rural regions of the Beaver State or those with inflexible scheduling, there are various online NP programs available, as well as a thriving professional networking climate.
By illustration, the Oregon Nurses Association has been active for more than a century, and it established the Nurse Practitioners of Oregon (NPO) in 1977. The NPO strives to provide legislative advocacy and public education surrounding the invaluable role of these healthcare professionals. In fact, Oregon is nationally distinguished for its relatively generous practice environment; Oregon NPs earned prescriptive authority in 1979, and in 2013, it became the first state to mandate that insurers reimburse primary care and psychiatric practitioners at equal rates to physicians when billing under the same codes. Furthermore, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP Dec 2017) reports that NPs in OR enjoy a “full practice” environment, or one in which all NPs can “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.”
This guide covers the steps to becoming a nurse practitioner in Oregon, including a typical pathway to the career, online NP education, and how to seek professional credentialing.
To become a nurse practitioner in Oregon, there are various pathways. Some choose to pursue an associate degree in nursing (ADN) and later enroll in an RN-to-MSN program; others begin with a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree and move toward an MSN or even a DNP, the terminal degree in the discipline. While the route to joining this high-growth career varies, the essential steps remain the same: undergraduate preparation, graduate training, and professional credentialing.
Here is one possible pathway to becoming an NP in Oregon.
Initially, aspiring nurse practitioners in OR typically receive undergraduate training in nursing at the associate or bachelor’s degree level. The Oregon State Board of Nursing (OSBN) requires that nurses must graduate from a state-approved program in order to be eligible for licensure as a registered nurse (RN), or from an equivalent Board-approved program in another state. BSN programs involve coursework in pathophysiology, pharmacology, health maintenance & restoration, and community health nursing, among other subjects. It’s important to note that admission to the online NP programs at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU)—the only OSBN-approved school with online NP training statewide—requires applicants to have at least a bachelor’s degree. That said, OHSU offers a hybrid bachelor of science (BSN) completion program to qualifying RNs.
Upon successful completion of an undergraduate program, an aspiring nurse must then apply with the OSBN to take the NCLEX-RN, the main RN credentialing examination nationwide. The OSBN also mentions that there is another pathway to becoming an RN in Oregon; specifically, those who have held a nursing license in a different state or jurisdiction can apply for endorsement through the OSBN, as long as they can show proof of 960 hours of nursing practice over the past five years, or the successful completion of an OSBN-approved re-entry program within the past two years. Following licensure, registered nurses in OR typically get one- to two-years of experience, ideally with a patient population which will ultimately become the focus of their graduate NP education (e.g., neonates, pediatrics, adults, women). Please note that many master of science in nursing (MSN) and doctor of nursing practice (DNP) programs require at least one year of nursing experience prior to enrollment.
To earn admission into a nurse practitioner program—including online NP schools—candidates must have an active RN license; at least a BSN degree (typical, but not always mandatory); at least one year of nursing experience; a personal statement (500-600 words); letters of recommendation from qualified nursing faculty or supervisors; and an application fee. Some programs also require background checks, test scores (e.g., GRE or MAT), or candidate interviews. As mentioned above, there’s currently one OSBN-approved institution which offers online NP programs: the Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU). That said, there are various out-of-state online programs which accept NP students from Oregon. Upon completion of a graduate program, the graduate may then pursue certification as an NP through one of the many existing national certifying organizations.
Following the completion of a qualifying graduate program, an aspiring NP in Oregon will need to get certified nationally in his or her area of expertise. There are various credentialing organizations available depending on one’s area of expertise (e.g., adult-gerontology, family health, pediatrics, women’s health, etc). The certification entities include the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN), or the National Certification Corporation (NCC).
After an aspiring NP has completed his or her graduate education in Oregon and achieved certification, he or she then has the ability to apply for licensure as a nurse practitioner through the Oregon State Board of Nursing, which recognizes 13 NP specializations.
Applicants for state NP licensure are required submit proof of educational attainment and experience:
Please note that this Oregon NP license must be renewed every two years following the completion of 45 hours of qualifying continuing education (CE).
There’s currently one institution in Oregon approved by the Oregon State Board of Nursing which offers online NP programs: the Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU). In general, the admissions process to the online program at OHSU mirrors that at other institutions nationwide, although there may be some differences. For its online FNP program, OHSU calls for the following:
As mentioned above, aspiring NPs in Oregon are strongly encouraged to seek out accredited programs. The Oregon State Board of Nursing provides a list of state-approved nursing programs, including options at the diploma, undergraduate, and graduate levels.
Nationwide, there are two types of accreditation available: institutional and programmatic. For institutional accreditation which is applied to universities as a whole, there are six regional organizations approved by the US Department of Labor: the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (HLC-NCA), the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE), the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU), the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), or the Commission on Colleges for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).
Perhaps more importantly is the programmatic accreditation, which examines the individual nursing programs. To qualify for nursing licensure in most states, a person must have completed a program accredited by either the the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, Inc. (ACEN).
To learn more about the program-approval processes at the institutional or programmatic levels, check out the individual websites or the accreditation section of the main online NP schools page.
Angie Docherty is an assistant professor of nursing at OHSU where she teaches health promotion, chronic illness & end-of-life care, population-based care & epidemiology, and a leadership & integrative practicum. She has a personal interest in the health disparities among people, particularly in the area of prenatal care, and has researched this topic both in the United Kingdom and the United States. In 2015, she served as a co-investigator in the Betty Gray Rural Health Development Fund and in 2014, she was awarded the Dorothy Otto Research Grant.
Judith Gedney Baggs is the Elizabeth N. Gray Distinguished Professor at OHSU’s school of nursing. She has studied the collaboration between nurses and physicians, end-of-life issues, and decision-making in adult ICUs, in addition to palliative care and interprofessional teamwork. She worked for eight years as an ICU nurse and currently volunteers through OHSU’s Adult Palliative Care Service. She has authored and co-authored a number of publications throughout her academic career.
As of September 2016, there was only one university approved by the Oregon State Board of Nursing which provides online graduate education in nursing: the Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) based in Portland. It’s important to note that a majority of OHSU’s nursing programs are either hybrid (i.e., online with many on-campus requirements) or exclusively on-campus, but there are a few online NP programs to consider.
Learning at a distance can be ideal for working nurses in rural regions of Oregon or those with time commitments which make traveling to a university difficult. Online nurse practitioner programs feature distance-based didactic coursework and clinical trainings which are completed at approved healthcare facilities close to a student’s home.
The online NP programs at OHSU are available to those who live in Oregon or bordering areas of Washington, Idaho, or California, a group referred to as the “regional cohort” (as opposed to those who live in Portland, referred to as the “Portland cohort”).
While every effort is made to secure preceptor sites as close to an online NP student’s home as possible, clinical rotations may potentially be within two hour’s driving time from the student’s residence. Here is an overview of the accredited online NP programs based in Oregon.
OHSU provides a wealth of nurse practitioner programs, although the majority are either on-campus or hybrid. Its traditional, mainly “brick-and-mortar” NP programs include psychiatric-mental health nursing; nurse anesthesia; pediatric nursing; and nurse midwifery. All of these programs can be taken for a master of science in nursing (MSN) or post-master’s certificate. Also, apart from the nurse anesthesia program, students can go on to earn a DNP as well.
Notably, OHSU provides several online (or hybrid) programs. For RNs seeking to complete their undergraduate schooling, OHSU offers a hybrid bachelor of science (BSN) completion program, comprising asynchronous learning for theory courses and hybrid clinical trainings (i.e., online and face-to-face at an approved clinical site). Additionally, students are required to travel to the Portland campus for a two-day intensive during the population health course.
OHSU’s online family nurse practitioner program is offered to the aforementioned Portland and regional cohorts. This can be taken as a master of science in nursing (MSN), a post-master’s certificate (ideal for working NPs seeking a new certification), or even as a doctor of nursing practice (DNP). For students more than two hours away from campus, FNP courses may be taken synchronously via web video technology and clinical rotations are arranged close to students’ homes. In addition to 600 hours of clinical practicum trainings, the online FNP program features classes such as diagnostic reasoning; roles & ethics; health assessment & physical diagnosis; principles of pharmacology & prescribing; advanced physiology & pathophysiology; and urgent & emergent rural primary care management.
OHSU also offers a hybrid adult-gerontology acute care NP program. While many of the courses are face-to-face, non-clinical and core NP courses are available online. Classes in OHSU’s hybrid AGNP-AC program include advanced adult-gerontology pharmacology; evaluating evidence; and principles of health behavior.
Finally, OHSU also offers an online DNP program which is offered at a post-master’s level, and students have the option of completing a certificate in a new specialty. To qualify, candidates must have completed at least 640 clinical hours in their master’s programs or make up additional hours in the DNP. Requiring only a few multi-day intensive sessions in Portland, this online DNP program has 46 credits of coursework in areas such as concepts for comprehensive care in advanced practice nursing; policy & population-based care; and applied healthcare economics & finance.
In addition to offering the only online graduate nursing education in Oregon, OHSU has a strong reputation nationally. Overall, both the MSN and DNP degrees were ranked among the top 40 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.
Although there is only one approved nursing institution with online programs in Oregon, there are additional online programs available to aspiring nurse practitioners in the state. Some notable options (listed with available NP specializations) include:
Finally, students in Oregon must verify the “state authorization” status of their schools if their distance-based NP program is located out of state. Since there are differing regional restrictions regarding the delivery of online education, Oregonians are encouraged to ask program coordinators about their ability to enroll as students based on their state of residence.
To learn more about distance-based nurse practitioner programs available to Oregonians and others, check out the main online NP programs page.
As mentioned above, students enrolled in one of the online NP programs at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) who are part of the “regional cohort” may take classes online. Courses are offered both synchronously (i.e., classes taken live via video technology) and asynchronously (i.e., material taken at a student’s own pace).
A majority of online programs in Oregon and beyond require some campus visitation for intensive training sessions. These face-to-face sessions not only complement more independent study, but also give NP students a chance to interact with their faculty and program colleagues.
The Oregon State Board of Nursing — the main entity which provides state credentialing—recognizes 13 nurse practitioner specialties:
The Oregon Nurse Practice Act lays out the requirements for licensure as an advanced practice nurse (APN) in the state. To quality, aspiring Oregon NPs must have a graduate degree in nursing and fulfill a “practice requirement,” which can be accomplished by one of the following modalities:
Additionally, for Oregon NP licensure, candidates must have at least 384 hours of registered nursing practice. Please note that prescriptive authority is part of a separate application.
Oregon NP licenses are valid for two years and can be renewed following the completion of 45 hours of qualifying continuing education (CE), 15 of which must be in pharmacotherapeutics.
Finally, it’s important to note the stipulations outlined in Division 50 of the Oregon Nurse Practice Act regarding the provision of clinical practicum trainings in the state. It says that, “A nurse practitioner student enrolled in a Non-Oregon Based Graduate Program may not participate in a clinical practicum in Oregon without prior Board authorization.” Therefore, students enrolled in online NP programs based in other states must receive Board-approval for their preceptor sites. Generally this is not an issue for Oregonians enrolled in Oregon-based online NP programs, but it’s something to keep in mind.