Registered nurses are healers and there is no question that they provide a critical service in healthcare. Many men and women make rewarding careers for themselves as RNs. However, there are some ambitious individuals who are dedicated to the field of nursing and want more autonomy and responsibility in their practice. For these individuals, becoming a nurse practitioner may be their calling.
One major challenge of making this career leap is the fact that RNs are generally quite busy and it can be difficult to take the time necessary – up to and including moving residences – to pursue a graduate education.
Luckily, those RNs who are looking to advance their careers, as well as students who are looking to the future, will be happy to know there are a few flexible, online options for their education offered by universities in the state of Wisconsin. As of November 2018, there are 2 programs in Wisconsin that offer online nurse practitioner programs that culminate in Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degrees. From there, graduates can go on to apply for licensure in Wisconsin and earn the right to practice autonomously in the state.
Keep reading to learn how to become a nurse practitioner in Wisconsin as well as what you can expect from an online NP program.
To become an RN itself requires years of education in addition to professional training. To enjoy more autonomy, more flexibility, and better career opportunities (including higher median salaries), nurse practitioners must themselves endure even further education and extensive training. Nurse practitioner training requirements are not standardized across states, so the requirements in Wisconsin may be slightly different from the requirements in other states.
After high school, students will have to spend a minimum of 6 years in high education, spread between undergraduate and graduate programs. Additionally, most spend a significant amount of time in practical training prior to completing their NP education.
Keep reading to learn more about the steps to become a nurse practitioner in Wisconsin.
STEP 1: Earn an Undergraduate Degree (Duration: 2 – 4 Years)
After high school, students should enroll in an undergraduate nursing program. Aspiring nurse practitioners will ideally begin with a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing at a 4-year university that has been approved by the Wisconsin Board of Nursing. A full list of approved schools is available online.
A 4-year degree is a major investment that not every student will be able to undertake right away. In this case, it is possible to start down the path towards becoming an RN by enrolling in a 2-year program, culminating in an Associate of Science degree in nursing. These students will need to be prepared to enroll in an RN to MSN bridge program prior to becoming an NP.
STEP 2: Apply for RN Licensure (Duration: Less than 1 Year)
Upon completion of an undergraduate degree from an approved school, nurses are eligible to apply for RN licensure in Wisconsin, through the Board of Nursing. Applicants must schedule and sit for the NCLEX-RN exam. This computer test evaluates the nursing graduate’s knowledge of medical and nursing procedure. Before passing the examination, nurses are able to apply for a temporary permit and begin work immediately.
STEP 3: Earn a Graduate Degree (Duration: 2 – 4 Years)
Working as an RN is the best way to learn what being a nurse is like and to gain the insight into nursing specialties necessary to thrive as an NP. However, there is no specific requirement as to how long a nurse must work as an RN prior to applying to graduate NP programs.
Nurse practitioners in Wisconsin must earn, at minimum, a Master of Science in Nursing degree from an accredited program. This takes an average of 2 years, but can take longer for those nurses who are only able to attend school part time.
STEP 4: Obtain Specialty Certification Credential (Duration: Less Than 1 Year)
Nurse practitioners must be credentialed by an approved body prior to working as a nurse practitioner in Wisconsin. Accrediting bodies include the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), National Certification Corporation for Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing Specialties, and the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board, and others.
In addition, prospective Wisconsin NPs must complete at least 45 hours of clinical pharmacology coursework a maximum of 3 years prior to applying for a license. This will likely be a part of the nurse’s NP education.
STEP 5: Apply for Advanced Practice Nurse Prescriber Certification (Duration: Less than 1 Year)
Once a prospective nurse practitioner has become credentialed, he or she is eligible to apply for a Wisconsin Advanced Practice Nurse Prescriber (APNP) Certification. In addition to a national credential and pharmacology coursework, applicants must have an RN license in good standing and pass a jurisprudence examination for Advanced Practice Nurse Prescribers.
Applicants for admission to an online nurse practitioner program in Wisconsin should expect to submit an application similar to that of any offline program. Students can visit any individual program’s website for detailed information on that particular school’s process.
Applicants should be prepared with, at minimum:
Currently, all online NP programs in Wisconsin require that applicants have a minimum of 2.7 GPA in order to be accepted, with most programs having a 3.0 minimum. No online programs currently require GRE scores.
The flexibility of online programs means that many have multiple start dates throughout the year, so interested applicants can often start a program within just a few months of applying. Still, deadlines vary from school to school, and as such it is important to verify when applications are due for any specific program.
While the Wisconsin Board of Nursing maintains its own approved list of programs, national accreditation is still an important barometer to examine when applying to a nurse practitioner program. As of 2018, all online NP programs in Wisconsin are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). Accreditation indicates that the program has been thoroughly evaluated for the quality of its curriculum and faculty, meaning that applicants can expect a baseline level of competency in the NP program.
Dr. Jill Collier is an Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh College of Nursing. Dr. Collier teaches in both the undergraduate and nurse practitioner programs at the college and is certified in Public/Community Health and as a Family Nurse Practitioner.
Dr. Mary Kate Friess is Assistant Director of Advanced Practice Program and Assistant Professor of Nursing at the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh College of Nursing. Dr. Freiss teaches clinical and theory courses for the FNP program.
Herzing University, located in Menomonee Falls, offers an MSN and Post-Master's Certificate in family nursing, with 100% online coursework. Students are required to complete 675 clinical hours for both programs. Courses include Healthcare of Infants, Children and Adolescents; Roles for Nurse Practitioners; Geriatric Healthcare; Adult Healthcare; and Healthcare of Women Across the Lifespan; among others. The post-master's certificate can be completed in 16 months full-time, and the MSN in 20 months full-time. The programs are accredited by the CCNE and applicants can choose from 6 start dates throughout the year for maximum flexibility.
Concordia University, with a campus located in Mequon, offers both MSN and post-graduate certificate programs in the Family Nurse Practitioner and Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner specialties. The programs at Concordia require one campus visit during the course of the program, to the Concordia campus in Mequon, Wisconsin. The programs are offered part-time and full-time and each has one, two-week residency for the advanced health assessment course. The program is touted as faith-based and is built on a Christian foundation.
Diane Ames, DNP, APRN, FNP is the co-director of the MSN program at Concordia University in addition to being an associate professor. When she is not teaching, Dr. Ames is a family nurse practitioner herself, with a focal interests on complementary medicine and holistic care.
Purdue University Global, with a services campus in Milwaukee, offers an online MSN degree with three specializations: adult gerontology acute care NP, family NP, and adult gerontology primary care NP. Additionally, post-master's certificates are offered in adult gerontology primary care and family nurse practitioner primary care. Most of these programs are 100% online and require no campus visits. Only the adult-gerontological acute care MSN concentration requires a 2.5 day immersion on the campus in Indianapolis. Clinicals must be completed at an approved facility. Note that the Milwaukee, WI campus is not a learning campus for the nursing programs, but instead provides career services, onsite tutoring, academic success services, and more.
Because online education is still, in many ways, in its infancy, programs across the country have not standardized the reporting of campus visitation requirements. As noted above the Herzing University programs are 100% online while Concordia University requires a two-week, on-campus immersion for their programs. Programs are also available online through other states, that require no campus visits or very few.
Working with a licensed nurse practitioner is the best and only way to complete the training required to become an NP. This process, which generally occurs concurrent to an online NP curriculum, is known as a preceptorship, with the student nurse acting as a precept to the licensed NP’s preceptor. Online programs may have resources available to help match student NPs with preceptors, but the truth is that most students end up seeking out a preceptor on their own. This allows them to find a nurse working in the field where their interest lies as well as geographically convenient to them. Preceptorships must be completed before nurses are able to apply for licensure in Wisconsin.
The scope of practice for a licensed nurse practitioner varies from state to state. In Wisconsin, advanced practice nurse prescribers have a good deal of autonomy. They are able to work independently and can be indicated as a patient’s primary care provider. In addition, nurse practitioners in Wisconsin can order physical therapy and sign off on both handicap permits and worker’s compensation claims.