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Nurse Practitioner Programs in Illinois

Nurse practitioners are not your average nurse. They are a type of Advanced Practice nurse, or APN. The Illinois Center for Nursing describes an APN as a registered nurse who uses advanced assessment skills and professional judgment to initiate and coordinate patient care. As an APN, a nurse can order diagnostic tests and utilize diagnostic tests that have been ordered by other medical professionals. He or she can even prescribe medicine.

The American Association of Nurse Practitioners describes Illinois as a reduced practice state. Illinois nurse practitioners work under written collaborative agreement with physicians unless their workplace falls under an exemption category.

Collaborative agreements take into account education and experience. The nurse practitioner will not necessarily spend a lot of time on-site with his or her collaborating physician, but will meet for collaboration and consultation on at least a monthly basis. The reality is that some nurse practitioners spend their days working closely with teams of professionals while others are going it more or less alone. Norms vary, depending on the acuity of patients seen in the setting, among other factors. Nurse practitioners with different specialties tend to work in different types of settings, though there is overlap. Rush University notes the following among the work settings for different specialties:

  • Family Nurse Practitioner: family practices, convenient care clinics, specialty practices, public health clinics, underserved community settings
  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care: primary care clinics, specialty clinics such as cardiology or oncology, post-acute care settings, long-term care settings, home care agencies
  • Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner: Inpatient units, transport teams, acute care home services

Prescriptive authority is addressed in collaborative agreements. Illinois distinguishes between legend drugs and controlled substances; an APN who prescribes controlled substances needs a mid-level practitioner controlled substances license (See: APN Requirements in Illinois).

Top Nurse Practitioner Programs in Illinois

#1: Rush University graduate nursing is ranked very high by US News and World Report in multiple areas. It's #4 in the nation among DNP programs, #6 among family nurse practitioner programs. Rush University is committed to arranging clinical experiences for students who are enrolled in the family nurse practitioner program and giving them a breadth of experiences. One caveat: Students who select this program do need to be in the Chicago area -- this is where clinicals take place. Some specialties, though, are available to those living at a distance. There are a number of specialties available, and a good deal of the coursework can be done online.

#2: The San Xavier hybrid family nurse practitioner program boasts a 100% success rate on the national certification program over a five-year period. Students can go beyond the basics; they have the option of doing a period of clinical service abroad. San Xavier graduate nursing has also earned a national reputation.

#3: The University of Illinois-Chicago offers programs in blended format. There are a number of options, including women’s health and neonatal.

#4: The University of St. Francis is CCNE-accredited and charged with a Franciscan mission. The online DNP – a separate course of study beyond the original master’s -- focuses on vulnerable populations.

#5: The Illinois State University hybrid family nurse practitioner program includes 660 clinical hours and boasts a 98% - 99% cumulative pass rate.

Becoming a Nurse Practitioner: Graduate Level Education

An RN license is the foundation for licensure at the APN level. The nurse will need to complete a formal program at the graduate level.

Illinois boasts many schools that offer nurse practitioner programs; some are very highly ranked. The schools here are public and private, large and small. Some well-rated Illinois programs are faith-based. Most Illinois nurse practitioner programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). One Illinois school, Governors State University, is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). This is as of 2018. Accredited schools often describe their programs as online or blended.

A nurse practitioner program will have a particular population focus. Often, the focus is very broad: family practice. Some programs are geared toward a particular age band or toward psychiatric/ mental health nursing or women’s health services. The program will qualify the graduate to take one or more national certification examinations. Certification through a recognized organization is a prerequisite for Illinois licensure. Illinois state code references four certification organizations that are commonly referenced in state codes around the nation: the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Program, the American Nurses Credentialing Center, the Pediatric Nurse Certification Board, and the National Certification Corporation for the Obstetric, Gynecologic and Neonatal Nursing Specialties. It also references a less common one: the Certification Board for Urologic Nurses and Associates.

While the focus/ target population is generally fairly broad, some programs also offer a sub-specialty or other specialized track. Loyola University, for example, has an oncology option.

A nurse practitioner degree program will include a core of coursework common to master's level nursing programs, a core common to advanced practice, and additional courses in the specialty area. The CCNE expects discrete courses in the core advanced practice subjects of health assessment, physiology, and pharmacology. Programs organize their curriculum and combine course content in different ways. The University of St. Francis curriculum is organized in a way that clearly reflects CCNE standards. The master's core includes biostatistics/ research, population health, roles and issues, and evidence-based care. Specialty coursework -- termed practica -- includes multiple courses in the clinical management of the population served; family practice clinical management courses are followed by clinical residency. Students who opt for a post-master certificate have a shorter path as they will have already had core content like research and evidenced-based care.

Programs that award a practice doctorate (termed DNP) have an additional doctoral level core. Master’s programs include at least 500 clinical hours while DNP programs include at least 1,000. It is not uncommon for several hundred of the 1,000 DNP clinical hours to be spent doing activities other than direct provision of patient care. Some schools, like Rush University, have transitioned their degree programs to the DNP level. There is still an option of completing a postgraduate certificate in a new specialty.

Illinois Nurse Practitioner Salary

Illinois nurse practitioners enjoyed an average salary of $101,960 ($49.02 an hour) in 2017.

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