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Nurse Practitioner Programs in Montana

Montana's nurse practitioners can act as primary care providers. They carry out health examinations and screenings and interpret laboratory tests and images. They can order medical equipment, home health services, and occupational and physical therapies. They help patients understand and improve their health status, collaborating with other health professionals when indicated. And sometimes it’s a highly educated nurse – not a medical doctor – who writes the prescription that a person takes down to their pharmacist. In short, nurse practitioners are helping people manage their health wherever they in Montana.

Nurse practitioners don’t all have the same training. They don’t manage healthcare for identical populations. Nor do they all act as primary care providers. They have a population focus. Montana recognizes the following: adult-gerontology, families/individuals across the lifespan, pediatrics, psychiatric mental health, neonatal, and women’s health-gender related. The Board refers nurses to national professional organizations for information about scope of practice (http://boards.bsd.dli.mt.gov/Portals/133/Documents/nur/aprn_sop_documents.pdf). (Some documents apply to all nurse practitioners, some to nurse practitioners with a particular population focus.)

Nurse practitioners are found in large and small communities throughout the state. There is a greater concentration in the urban areas. The Montana Healthcare Workforce Strategic Plan notes, among its nursing workforce strategies, improving clinical education opportunities in rural areas.

In some ways, Montana is doing well meeting goals of national stakeholders. Montana is characterized as a full practice state by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, as are most Western states. Montana nurse practitioners carry out the range of duties within their scope and do so without physician oversight. The purpose -- part of it -- is to remove unnecessary regulation that could make it harder to ‘set up shop’ wherever a nurse practitioner might like to, including in the more remote areas.

Top Nurse Practitioner Program in Montana

Montana State University: The MSU program is taught in a primarily online format. Students come away with a DNP and rich clinical experiences. They may choose from more than 20 doctorally prepared faculty members to guide their scholarly projects. The MSU program is ranked #92 in the nation by US News and World Report.

Preparation for a Nurse Practitioner Career

Becoming a nurse practitioner involves a separate step beyond RN. Montana nurses who meet the Montana Nurse Practitioner requirements hold both RN and Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) licenses.

An RN who seeks nurse practitioner status will need to complete an accredited graduate program and pursue a corresponding national certification. The Board will seek evidence of preceptorship. (Students can expect to receive this as part of their accredited education.)

Most nurse practitioner programs admit only students who have already achieved a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, though there are exceptions. Programs often like to see a year or more of clinical experience. Some programs are quite competitive.

Montana has one nurse practitioner program. It is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and is well-regarded nationally. There are two population options: family/ individual nurse practitioner and psychiatric/mental health nurse practitioner.

Nurses who want to pursue another specialty or would prefer another program have options; it is possible to attend an online school in another state and do one's clinical rotations in Montana. Some schools accept students from a limited geographic area whereas others are authorized (and prepared) to operate in almost every state. The information is often available on the school's website. Distance students may need to put effort into locating their own clinical sites and preceptors. Policies will vary from school to school.

Online schools vary, too, in their delivery approach. Students may be required to go to campus on a very occasional basis; a weekend on campus is sometimes referred to as an intensive.

CCNE accreditation ensures, among other things, that curricular standards have been met. Students will attain core competencies in areas such as informatics and population health. They will have coursework in advanced assessment, pathophysiology, and pharmacology. They will learn to manage health conditions that are common in their selected population. Doctoral programs include more clinical hours than master’s programs. They allow students to delve deeply into topics that may inform their practice.

A student who completes a nurse practitioner degree can do additional post-master certificates later in order to add specialties; the credit hour and time commitment required will be less the second time around.

Graduates who are seeking prescriptive authority will provide evidence to the Board of having had a pharmacology course that included all required components: pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics, plus all major classes of pharmacotherapeutics.

Population focus determines eventual certification. The American Nurses Credentialing Center will be a nurse’s credentialing agency if he or she has a psychiatric/ mental health focus; it is among the certification options for several other population foci, including the most common one: family practice. The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses offers adult/ gerontology acute care certification. The National Certification Corporation offers neonatal and women’s health certifications. The Pediatric Nurses Certification Board offers both acute care and primary care pediatric certifications. The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board offers family and adult/ gerontology certifications.

Nurse Practitioner Salary in Montana

Montana nurse practitioners averaged $46.86 an hour in 2017 ($97,470 for a full-time year). There is a wide range of earnings. Those at the 90th percentile are above the average by nearly $30,000; those at the 10th percentile, below by nearly $30,000.

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