Registered nurses (RNs) in Wyoming seeking increased responsibility and a greater degree of professional autonomy may choose to pursue a career as a nurse practitioner (NP). NPs not only command higher salaries than RNs, but they also can expect an explosion of job growth in coming years. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2017) estimated a 36 percent increase in NP positions nationwide between 2016 and 2026—from 155,500 to 211,600 jobs—five times the average growth anticipated across all US occupations during that same decade (7 percent). And the expected growth among Wyoming NP opportunities is even more robust; by illustration, Projections Central (2018) found that openings for Wyoming nurse practitioners would swell 38.9 percent in that time period.
Furthermore, NPs enjoy a relatively lucrative career. The BLS (May 2017) found that the 230 working NPs in the Equality State earned an average annual salary of $113,310, more than double the average wages of all occupations in the state ($47,650 BLS). In short, becoming an NP in Wyoming can pay off both in terms of salary prospects and job opportunities.
Also, the Wyoming State Board of Nursing (WSBN) is an invaluable resource for NPs throughout the state, further increasing the draw of this occupation. The WSBN offers access to information about job openings, ongoing educational opportunities, legislative advocacy, and legal assistance for members.
Of course, as with many other positions in the healthcare industry, becoming an NP requires significant education and training. Specifically, aspiring NPs must obtain a graduate degree in nursing. This can be either a master of science in nursing (MSN) or a doctor of nursing practice (DNP), the terminal degree in the discipline.
Some aspiring NPs choose to enroll in a traditional campus-based NP program, which provides a brick-and-mortar structure and classroom experience; however, a growing number of RNs are enrolling in distance-based NP programs as they may allow students to keep their employment while receiving clinical training in their local community. This may be an especially attractive option for residents of rural areas. Currently, there is only one in-state institution which offers online NP programs: the University of Wyoming. That said, there is a wealth of schools in neighboring states that accept Wyoming-based students as well.
Ultimately, becoming an NP in Wyoming requires thorough planning and a strong understanding the necessary prerequisites. As such, this guide details how to become an NP, including the online NP schools in WY, the necessary credentialing, and a discussion of the benefits of living in a “full practice” state.
Although not all individuals take the same path to become an NP in Wyoming, there are some commonalities: all aspiring NPs must pass the NCLEX-RN examination to become licensed as an RN; graduate from an accredited program; obtain national certification; and apply for state licensure through the aforementioned WSBN.
Here’s an overview of one pathway to becoming an NP in Wyoming:
STEP 1: Complete an Undergraduate Degree (2-4 years)Wyoming law requires an aspiring registered nurse be a “graduate of a state board-approved nursing education program” to qualify for RN licensure. Here, aspiring RNs have two options: they may choose to obtain an associate degree in nursing (ADN), or a bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN). While the former takes only two years to complete, the latter is often a prerequisite for online graduate programs in nursing. Furthermore, BSN programs generally provide more thorough clinical and lab-based preparation, requiring students to take courses in biology, nursing theory, chemistry, and other relevant subjects.
Fortunately for aspiring RNs, the WSBN provides a list of approved nursing education programs in the state. Additionally, aspiring students should seek out programs accredited by either the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, Inc. (ACEN), the two main entities that offer approval for nursing programs.
STEP 2: Obtain RN Licensure and Work Experience (1-2 years)Once an aspiring NP has completed an undergraduate degree in nursing, he or she must then obtain licensure as an RN. This requires submitting an application to the WSBN to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam, as well as:
Upon obtaining licensure as an RN from the WSBN, the individual should then begin working in this capacity as soon as possible; many graduate programs in nursing prefer prospective students who have at least one year of experience in the field of nursing, ideally in their intended NP specialization (e.g., family health, pediatrics, women’s health, etc).
STEP 3: Complete a Graduate Degree in Nursing (2-4 years)As previously mentioned, an aspiring NP in Wyoming has two advanced degree options: a master of science in nursing (MSN) or a doctor of nursing practice (DNP). MSN programs generally take two years, while post-BSN DNP programs typically require four years of fulltime work. At this stage, students typically choose one of six specialization tracks: psychiatric-mental health, women’s health, pediatrics (primary or acute care), neonatal care, adult gerontology (primary or acute), or family care. Please note that the WSBN offers a list of state board-approved graduate nursing programs, and similar to undergraduate options, students are encouraged to seek out CCNE- or ACEN-accredited programs.
STEP 4: Achieve National NP Certification (up to 1 year)After an aspiring NP has completed a graduate degree in nursing, he or she must then obtain specialized national certification offered by one of these organizations:
Those interested in more information about the specialty tracks available may wish to visit the “specialization” section of the main online NP schools page.
STEP 5: Obtain Wyoming NP Licensure (up to 1 year)In order to obtain professional NP licensure in Wyoming, candidates must submit an application to the WSBN, which requires a criminal background check; proof of a qualifying graduate degree in nursing; proof of RN licensure; and an application fee. These licenses are valid for two years.
As mentioned above, the University of Wyoming is the sole institution in the state which offers an online graduate degree in nursing. That being said, a number of other schools nationwide will accept Wyoming-based students who hope to obtain a degree in this field. Of course, all aspiring NPs need to meet certain prerequisites before they can enroll in an online graduate nursing program. Here is a list of the common admissions requirements for online NP programs:
In some cases, online nursing graduate programs may require additional test scores (e.g., GMAT or GRE), letters of recommendation from professors or employers, or an interview. Furthermore, for a post-master’s certificate or for an MSN-to-DNP program, applicants may be required to possess national NP certification from one of the aforementioned organizations.
Before applying to any schools, aspiring NPs in Wyoming should verify two features: accreditation and state authorization statuses.
As mentioned above, two organizations provide accreditation for US-based nursing programs: the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). These organizations consider a number of factors in their program-approval process, including quality of the education provided, the program facilities, outcomes for students, curricula standards, and the management of the program’s finances. Fortunately for aspiring NPs in Wyoming, the online DNP program at the University of Wyoming has achieved accreditation through the CCNE.
Additionally, state authorization status is important for those students who live in a different state than where their online degree program is located. Varying laws regarding the provision of distance-based education may lead to inconsistencies for students who study in an out-of-state online program. State authorization information is typically available on program websites, or can be ascertained from program coordinators.
Mary Burman is professor at the University of Wyoming, where she also serves as the dean of the school of nursing. She obtained her PhD in nursing science as well as her post-master’s certificate in family nursing. She has also served as an adjunct professor at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center since 2004. She was the 2014 recipient of the Advocate of the Year Award from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Wyoming Nurses Association. Additionally, she served as the project director for “ReNEW: Seamless Nursing Education for Students in Wyoming,” which received $225,000 in funding. She also also published in various high-impact scholarly journals, including the Journal of Professional Nursing and the Journal for Nurse Practitioners.
Susan Steiner is both a clinical associate professor and associate dean of the nursing school at the University of Wyoming. She was the 2014 recipient of the Outstanding Teacher Award from the College of Health Sciences at the University of Wyoming, as well as the 2013 Communication of Wisdom Award from the same institution. She has been published in a number of widely-read publications, including the Journal of Adult Education and the Journal of Nursing Education.
Rebecca Caron is an assistant professor within the college of nursing at the University of Wyoming, where she has served since 2014. She has previously worked as a family nurse practitioner and as a staff nurse in a number of different locations throughout the United States. She received the 2015 Nominee CHS Young Investigator Award and the 2014 American Society for Reproductive Medicine Nurse Research Award. She’s also a member of the American Nurses Association, the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, and a number of other professional organizations.
At the University of Wyoming's Fay W. Whitney School of Nursing, students may obtain a hybrid DNP in one of two specialty tracks: family nurse practitioner or psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. Both of these tracks comprise 84 credits and run full-time for 3 years. During the course of the program students are required to come to campus for intensives 18-23 times. Each of these intensives last several days to a week. In addition clinicals must be completed in Wyoming, northern Colorado, or southern Montana, therefore this program is best suited for students living in or near the Laramie, WY area. Cost of attendance for these programs is $375 per credit hour for Wyoming residents, and $794 per credit hour for non-residents. Finally, as mentioned above, this program has received accreditation through the CCNE.
Although this program is not located in Wyoming, obtaining an online graduate degree at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs is still an option for Wyoming residents. Here, students may pursue an online MSN degree or post-master's certificate in one of the following specialties:
Students are not required to visit the campus at all during the course of their studies. Please note that the school also provides a 100 percent online post-MSN DNP program and has received accreditation from both the CCNE as well as the Colorado Commission of Higher Education (CCHE). Other schools in Colorado that might be options include the University of Colorado, Denver and the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.
In addition several other online programs offer online nurse practitioner degrees to students who reside in Wyoming. To discover the wealth of distance-based programs available to students residing in WY, please visit the main online NP programs page.
As a final mention, aspiring NPs in the Wyoming should understand that the state offers a “full practice” environment for nurse practitioners (AANP 2017). This means that NPs within the state are provided full authority by the WSBN to partake in all aspects related to their practice, and may perform the following duties:
Above all, Wyoming law recognizes nurse practitioners as primary care providers, resulting in one of the most generous practice environments in the country for this profession.