As defined by the American Nurses Association (ANA), the role of the nurse practitioner (NP) is to “provide primary, acute, and specialty healthcare across the lifespan through assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of illnesses and injuries.” However, NPs are not able to practice to the full extent of their training in all 50 states.
Rhode Island—known as the “Ocean State” with more than 400 miles of coastline—is an ideal setting for local nurse practitioners in large part due to their level of practice authority. Rhode Island certified nurse practitioners (CNPs) have full, independent practice and prescriptive authority within their specialization (e.g., family, adult-gerontology, neonatal health, pediatrics, women’s health, psychiatric-mental health). NPs in Rhode Island are also recognized as primary care providers in state policy.
A second factor is salary. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2017) reports that the annual mean salary for NPs in Rhode Island is $108,630. NPs in Rhode Island also enjoy the support of two state professional associations: the Nurse Practitioner Alliance of Rhode Island (NPARI) and the Rhode Island State Nurses Association.
This article outlines the steps to becoming a nurse practitioner in Rhode Island, including NP programs and pathways, a typical career timeline, and the processes involved in professional credentialing. It also profiles hybrid (blended campus-online) and campus-based Rhode Island nurse practitioner programs, since as of August, 2018, there are no fully online programs based in the state.
STEP 1: Complete an Undergraduate Degree (Two to Four Years)
The first step to becoming a nurse practitioner is to earn an undergraduate degree in nursing. The most direct route is to complete a bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN) from an accredited nursing school. However, some programs offer BSN pathways for diploma- and associate’s degree-prepared RNs, such as the one at the University of Rhode Island, which provides this bridge program in a hybrid (i.e., online and on-campus) format.
STEP 2: Earn RN Licensure and Nursing Experience (One to Two Years)
To be licensed as an RN in the state of Rhode Island, candidates must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) through the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). To apply, they must provide proof of Rhode Island residency, official transcripts (hard-copies only), and a national background check with fingerprints. Foreign-trained nurses who are not licensed must also complete the requirements of the Commission of Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools.
Once licensed, it is crucial for RNs to gain experience in a clinical setting because the one program in Rhode Island that offers a hybrid NP doctoral program requires the submission of a portfolio of clinical experience along with the application for admission and other supporting documents.
STEP 3: Complete Graduate NP Education (Two to Four Years)
Accredited, post-BSN graduate NP programs entail about 50 credits of coursework for a master’s (MSN) or 80 for a doctoral degree (DNP). Clinical hour requirements are a minimum of 500 for an MSN and 1,000 for a DNP. Typical culminating degree activities include scholarly projects, papers, and cumulative exams.
STEP 4: Obtain National NP Certification (One Year)
Graduates who have earned their advanced practice degree in the nurse practitioner specialization are eligible to take national certification exams in their specialization. In the family health specialization, for example, the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Credentialing Board (AANPCB) both offer Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) certification exams to obtain national certification.
STEP 5: Obtain Rhode Island NP Licensure (One Year)
Once candidates have obtained national certification, they are eligible to apply for a Rhode Island NP license. The Rhode Island Department of Health, the Office of Health Professionals Regulation, and the Rhode Island Board of Nurse Registration and Nursing Education (Board) oversee the licensure process in the State of Rhode Island.
The following must be submitted to the Rhode Island Board of Nurse Registration and Nurse Education:
Applicants should allow eight weeks for the entire licensure process; however, once approved, licenses are issued within seven to ten days.
NP programs typically ask applicants for the following:
In some cases, schools may require:
An approved accrediting agency must accredit an undergraduate and graduate nursing degree program. To seek licensure as a certified family nurse practitioner, the Rhode Island Board of Nurse Registration and Nursing Education require candidates to have completed an accredited graduate program in a specialty area.
Salve Regina’s DNP and post-master’s programs, the University of Rhode Island’s MSN and DNP, and Rhode Island College’s MSN are all accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).
Dr. Denise Coppa is the director of the family nurse practitioner program at URI. She has a member of the teaching faculty at the College of Nursing for the past 20 years, and she currently teaches all of the primary healthcare courses in the family practitioner concentration. She also holds a teaching appointment at Brown University’s Medical School as a clinical instructor.
Dr. Coppa has a particular interest in the care of medically underserved clients. Her research focuses on the healthcare of vulnerable populations and alternative health modalities. She is certified as a “therapeutic touch practitioner and teacher” by the Nurse Healers Professional Associates Organization. Dr. Coppa has a bachelor’s degree in nursing and a doctorate from URI. She obtained her master’s from the University of Colorado.
Dr. Kara Misto is an associate professor and co-director of the MSN program at Rhode Island College. She teaches courses on the foundations of therapeutic interventions, the transition to professional practice, advanced nursing research, and clinical research/analytic methods.
Dr. Misto’s professional interests include acute medical and surgical nursing, family nursing, interprofessional education and research, and clinical nursing research. She earned her doctorate in nursing from the University of Rhode Island with a dissertation on the relationship between families’ perceptions and nurses’ perceptions of family nursing practice. She has a bachelor’s in nursing from Northeastern University and a master’s in nursing from URI.
Dr. Sharon Stager is an assistant professor at Salve Regina University’s School of Nursing. She is also the current director of the BSN-to-DNP FNP program. She teaches courses in advanced health assessment, informatics, advanced pharmacology, and the management of common and complex health conditions.
Dr. Stager also serves as the liaison for the Salve Regina Relay for Life, the American Cancer Society’s annual fundraising event. She has worked as a primary care nurse practitioner for Wellcare, Inc. since 2006 and provides holistic health and wellness options for individuals seeking weight management and disease prevention support through her entrepreneurial project, In Search for Health. Dr. Stager has a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Fitchburg State College, a master’s in nursing from Duke University, and a doctorate in nursing from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.
Please note that there is only one school which offers hybrid NP programs in Rhode Island. The other two profiled schools offer on-campus NP programs only.
The NP graduate offerings at Salve Regina University are rooted in a strong tradition of evidence-based practice, quality improvement, leadership development, critical thinking and career advancement. Salve offers a BSN-DNP for aspiring family nurse practitioners as well as an FNP post-master’s program for APRNs. These programs are designed in a hybrid (also known as blended) format that combines online and in-class instruction.
Classroom meetings are held in the evenings at the university’s center for adult education, and content is delivered through both didactic and experiential teaching methods. Students may take the family nurse practitioner national certification exam after completion of 48 credits of coursework and 600 clinical hours required for the MSN. Successful candidates continue to the doctorate program and complete an additional 30 credits and 500 hours of clinical work. The DNP culminates with a scholarly project based on a need identified in the clinical setting as well as a publication-quality manuscript.
Rhode Island College (On-Campus)
RIC offers an on-campus MSN in the adult-gerontology acute care NP specialization. The program has part-time and full-time study plans and entails 45 credits of coursework and a minimum of 600 hours of clinical practice. Courses include advanced pharmacology, pathophysiology and health assessment, genetics and genomics in healthcare, adult/older adult healthcare, concepts and practice of palliative care, and differential diagnosis for nurse practitioners. An RN to MSN option is available to registered nurses seeking a pathway to this specialization.
The University of Rhode Island (On-Campus)
As a final note, the College of Nursing at URI offers several campus-based NP programs, including an MSN degree in three concentrations (family health, psychiatric-mental health, and adult-gerontology), as well as post-master’s certificates and DNP degrees (with both post-MSN and post-BSN pathways).
The MSN-FNP program, for example, prepares nursing professionals to serve the primary healthcare needs of individuals and families through 43 credits of instruction including substantial clinical hours served in either urban or rural settings based on student interest. The program culminates in a written comprehensive exam and scholarly paper.
MAT or GRE scores are required of all master’s degree applicants; however, those pursuing the the post-master’s certificate do not need to submit test scores. While the MSN, DNP, and certificate programs are offered on campus, the RN-to-BSN pathway is available either entirely on-campus or entirely online. None of these programs are currently offered in a hybrid format.