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Nurse Practitioner Prerequisites: This is what Nurse Practitioner schooling requirements may include

One can become a primary care provider without going to medical school. In fact, both professional nurses and non-nursing career professionals can begin the path to nurse practitioner certification, though the requirements will be different. Generally, one can expect to become a registered nurse (RN) before becoming an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN). One can also expect to show the admissions committee slightly different experiences and documents, depending on background and track.

Many nurse practitioner programs are now taught at the doctoral level. There are still some master’s options. An RN may achieve the higher credential after just a couple of years. (A person who enters the field with education below the doctoral level can, if he or she chooses, complete an additional degree program at some point in the future.)

A person who enters with anything other than a Bachelor of Science can of course expect a lengthier study. Among those who matriculate are nurses with Associate Degrees in Nursing (ADNs). However, the number of schools that admit them are more limited. A distinction may be made between a person who holds an ADN and a person who holds an ADN and a bachelor’s degree in another discipline – the latter may have a quicker path.

Some Program Options:

Designed for currently licensed Registered Nurses, Nursing@Simmons enables aspiring FNPs to earn an MSN online. Several scholarships are available for qualified applicants. **RN required. Click Here to learn more.

Utica College is offering Online MS - Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), MS - Nursing Leadership and MS - Nursing Education programs. Click Here to learn about program requirements and outcomes.

Seton Hall University offers CCNE accredited Online MSN programs in Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner and Health Systems Administration with Case Management. Click Here to learn about these programs. *Seton Hall University online programs are not available in Alabama, California, Kansas, Louisiana, Oregon, Tennessee, Wyoming.

Getting into Nurse Practitioner School: Expectations for Prior Experience

Nurse practitioner schools typically like to see nursing experience. In fact, the average new nurse practitioner has spent about a decade out in the field. This isn’t a mandate, however. The stated minimum may be just a year or two. In some cases, it will be none.

There are different types of nursing practitioner, and some are more open to newcomers than others. A nurse would-be practitioner who will be working with vulnerable populations (e.g. neonatal intensive care) can expect to demonstrate nursing experience that is relevant to the specific population and setting. In other words, a neonatal nurse would be well poised to become a neonatal nurse practitioner. Primary care and acute care represent separate specialties. Primary care tends to be the most friendly to those whose careers have been built on the basis of something other than direct patient care. While nurse practitioners often practice more or less independently, they have the responsibility to consult with others as the need arises. Those in primary care have the luxury of time when it comes to healthcare decisions. Fortunately, from the standpoint of a person building his or her career, family nurse practitioner represents an area of high need.

Nurse Practitioner Prerequisite Courses

A licensed RN will not generally need to demonstrate a lot in the way of specific coursework. It is generally assumed that these requirements were met at the pre-nursing or nursing level. The admissions department, though, may want to see coursework in statistics, completed in the relatively recent past. There are statistics courses designed specifically to address the needs of healthcare professionals. However, the student may be allowed to matriculate on the strength of other statistics coursework.

A career changer, on the other hand, may need to provide transcripts for a number of specific prerequisite courses (or course categories). Typical requirements include the following:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Microbiology
  • Chemistry
  • Nutrition
  • Psychology

Having a strong anatomy and physiology background is crucial. The student will likely need a two semester sequence of anatomy and physiology or two discrete courses before matriculation; advanced physiology and pathophysiology will be included in the NP course of study.

Grades are a factor, but this isn’t medical school. The minimum (or recommended) GPA may be a 3.0. Weakness in one area is sometimes negated by strength in another. Whatever his or her background, the future nurse practitioner should be aware that the process is competitive. When assessing readiness for application, one may want to take into account the description of the typical admitted student, not just the minimums.

The process can be lengthy. The school will look for a resume and several references. The prospective student will typically write a personal statement, identifying goals. The hiring committee may look for connections between the person’s life experiences and the personal qualities and competencies required for nurse practitioner practice. There may be one or more interviews, conducted in-person or through electronic means.

Nurse Practitioner Schooling Options

Accreditation is fundamental. There are a lot of accredited programs (eg. Online Family Nurse Practitioner Programs). The choices are many. Nurse practitioner programs may be cohort-based with lockstep progression -- or may be very flexible, with opportunities to adjust pacing.

While education can be very flexible, it can also place high demands for academic and professional maturity. In some cases, students will locate their own clinical sites and preceptors. A practicing nurse may be granted the opportunity to use his or her own workplace as a clinical site, provided that the clinical experience is separate from normal work experience and duties are appropriate for the course of study.

From Matriculated Student to Nurse Practitioner

A non-nursing professional can expect to demonstrate competency at multiple points along the way. There may be an intensive and accelerated pre-licensing year (including summer study). Successful candidates will then go on to graduate study in their specialty area. The specialty coursework may technically represent a second program. However, articulation can be quick and seamless; the hiring committee may have decided at the onset that the person is a very good bet for program completion and, for practical purposes, they are a nurse practitioner student from the start. In some cases, there will be a separate application process but quick articulation.

The NP coursework will include advanced pharmacotherapeutics, pathophysiology, and health assessment. It will prepare the nurse to diagnose and treat individuals in the particular population focus. The nurse practitioner program will also include core master’s level nursing concepts such as population health and health technology.

An advanced practice nurse who wishes to extend his or her population focus beyond the initial training can complete an additional certificate program at a later date.

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