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Nurse Practitioner Programs in Arkansas

Nurse practitioners do a lot for Arkansas health, and they could do even more: if there were more of them, if they had the scope of practice recommended. Arkansas nurse practitioners do many of the things a general practice doctor does though they do not have the same level of independence.

The University of Central Arkansas notes that primary care nurse practitioners are prepared to manage chronic and episodic illness as well as promote health. Harding University notes that a family nurse practitioner program (the most common population foci) can prepare nurses to deliver primary care at community health clinics, VA clinics, family practice clinics, school clinics, and health departments, among other settings.

Some specializations qualify a nurse for primary care for a slightly narrower and more specialized population. Still others prepare practitioners for advanced nursing roles in acute care settings. State code notes the following as acceptable population foci: families/individuals across the lifespan, women’s health/gender-related, adult-gerontology, pediatrics, neonatal, or psychiatric/mental health.

One will find Arkansas nurse practitioners doing some things associated with doctors, like writing prescriptions. Still, the AANP classifies Arkansas as reduced practice; it is not among the 23 states considered to allow NPs to practice to the full extent of their education and training. Arkansas places some limitations on drugs that can be prescribed; a number of drugs used to treat ADHD fall under a category for which Arkansas nurse practitioners cannot at this time prescribe (https://www.arsbn.org/aprns-and-adhd-drugs).

Arkansas, moreover, does not formally recognize nurse practitioners as primary care providers. The nurse practice act does state that nurse practitioners can enter into direct reimbursement agreements for services covered under Medicaid.

Nurse practitioner education is more standardized around the nation than scope of practice. The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) is the most common accrediting agency for programs at the highest levels. (The CCNE doesn’t accredit practical nursing programs or associate degree RN programs, but they credit plenty of programs at the graduate – even doctoral – level.)

One can get a high-caliber education in Arkansas and be qualified to seek licensure in any of many places – but organizations in the state are heavily vested in having NPs stay!

Top Nurse Practitioner Programs in Arkansas

#1: The University of Arkansas offers two online DNP tracks: family nurse practitioner and adult geriatric acute care nurse practitioner. The DNP program is ranked #52 in the nation by U.S. News and World Report.

#2: The University of Central Arkansas offers two primary care options: family and adult/gerontology. U.S. News and World Report ranks the program #51 out of online U.S. master’s programs in nursing.

#3: The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and Harding University provide Arkansas nurses with two more CCNE-accredited options.

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences provides in-state option for pediatrics – both primary and acute care specialties are available. There are other options, including adult/ gerontology acute or primary care and psychiatric mental health.

Harding University provides a faith-based option for nurses seeking an accredited family nurse practitioner program. The school boasts faculty who provide local outreach as well as overseas ministry.

Becoming a Nurse Practitioner in Arkansas

An Arkansas nurse practitioner may hold one of two licenses: Registered Nurse Practitioner (RNP) or Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN). The APRN grants greater privileges. An RNP cannot attain prescriptive authority. APRN is the level of licensure that corresponds to the nurse practitioner role around the nation – and is a common license title. Certified Nurse Practitioner is among the four recognized APRN roles. (See: Arkansas APRN Requirements)

A prospective APRN will need to complete an approved educational program at the graduate level and seek a national certification appropriate to his or her population focus. Schools often note the certifications their students can ultimately seek.

The following organizations offer Arkansas-approved certifications appropriate to NP roles:

  • American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP)
  • American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN)
  • American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)
  • National Certification Corporation (NCC)
  • Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB)

The nurse practitioner core curriculum includes advanced physiology, health assessment, and pharmacology as well as core coursework identified as master’s or doctoral level. Many programs are transitioning to the doctoral level. The University of Central Arkansas has, in recent years, offered master’s level nurse practitioner programs with an option of earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) later. They have announced that they’re awaiting approval for a BSN to DNP program slated to begin in 2019; the last class of MSN-prepared nurse practitioners is the one that enters in the Fall of 2018.

It is very common for programs to be offered in a primarily online format (eg. Online Family Nurse Practitioner programs).

A nurse can be qualified as an RNP by virtue of education. He or she will need to have completed an accredited nurse practitioner program.

An APRN who seeks prescriptive authority will need to demonstrate a course in pharmacology; it will include preceptorship in prescription of medications and devices.

The Need for Nurse Practitioners in Arkansas

The Arkansas Center for Research in Economics made a case for greater nurse practitioner utilization in a 2016 report, Primary Care and Nurse Practitioners in Arkansas. The authors noted that Arkansas faced a serious shortage of physicians. Physicians were even fewer and further between in rural areas. Greater access to primary care could ease some of the burdens of diabetes and other chronic disease, whether services were provided by physician or nurse practitioner. The authors noted that nurse practitioners actually had a better track record in managing diabetes care, with more minutes of care per patient being one of several possible reasons.

The Arkansas Center for Research in Economics notes that there is a difference between comparing Arkansas to neighboring states and comparing it to the United States as a whole. Arkansas salaries are on a par (more or less) with other states in the area ,and scope of practice is at least comparable. Lowering restrictions to those recommended by national organizations could entice nurse practitioners here. (This is not the only organization to suggest lessening its woes by luring nurse practitioners from other states – other states have done the same.)

The latest data from the BLS shows location quotients that are lower in the Southern and Western parts of the state.

Nurse Practitioner Salary in Arkansas

Arkansas nurse practitioners earned an average salary of $45.79 an hour or $95,230 a year in 2017.

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