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Nurse Practitioner Programs in South Carolina

Nurse practitioners are not physicians, but they can do many of the things physicians do. This means they can help South Carolina residents meet some very fundamental needs! Nurse practitioners are authorized to carry out duties that are considered medical acts. Many provide primary care services. They manage health conditions. They have long had prescriptive authority. In 2018, South Carolina's governor signed legislation increasing nurse practitioner scope of practice and making it easier for the state’s advanced nurses to do the work they trained forr. South Carolina code explicitly states that they can refer patients to physical therapy, certify students for homebound instruction, and order hospice care. These are all things that can be fundamental when one is acting as patients' general healthcare provider.

South Carolina nurse practitioners will still work under physician oversight, but there have been changes. The state no longer limits the number of miles separating the nurse practitioner and the physician he or she relies on. The number of nurse practitioners that a single physician is allowed to work with has increased. The document that authorizes the nurse practitioner to work under physician oversight is now referred to as a practice agreement. It specifies, among other things, what controlled substances the nurse practitioner may prescribe and what circumstances would necessitate a patient being referred to the physician.

Top Nurse Practitioner Schoos in South Carolina

#1: The Medical University of South Carolina offers nurses the opportunity to earn a master’s en route to a doctoral degree. The online master’s program is ranked #3 out of all online master’s in the nation by US News and World Report. The DNP program is ranked #21.

#2: The University of South Carolina allows students to earn their family nurse practitioner, psychiatric mental health, or adult-gerontology credentials with a degree at the master’s level. Here the DNP represents a separate optional step. The DNP program is also well-ranked.

#3: Clemson University has been recognized as a Center for Excellence by the National League for Nursing. The school recently received a grant to increase nurse practitioner diversity. Clemson master’s students take advantage of special programs such as international service.

#4: Anderson University offers a faith-based option with some supplementation to the core CCNE-accredited coursework.

A Time of Opportunity

Scope of practice changes may increase access. This was the view expressed by State Senator Tom Davis in an op-ed published by the Island Packet (https://www.islandpacket.com/opinion/op-ed/article210844499.htmlycertifictions). The Office of Healthcare Workforce Research recently released a map showing geographic distribution of South Carolina Advanced Practice Registered Nurse providers and linking distribution to rural, suburban, or urban classification (https://www.sc.edu/study/colleges_schools/nursing/centers_institutes/center_nursing_leadership/office_healthcare_workforce_research.php). Approximately two in three nurse practitioners (67%) were urban. The remaining providers were more evenly split (18% suburban, 15% rural). Rural access has long been an area of concern, in South Carolina and around the nation. There was an even greater urban predominance of physician primary care providers. This suggests APRNs may already be serving a very valuable role.

There has been a trend nationwide toward increasing nurse practitioner scope and authority. So, too, there has been growing consensus about what standards a nurse must meet in order to become a nurse practitioner. South Carolina’s recent legislative changes were applauded by the Campaign for Action (https://campaignforaction.org/south-carolina-maryland-pass-laws-increasing-peoples-access-to-nurse-provided-care).

Several years back, in the time preceding legislative change, the Center for Nursing Leadership at the University of South Carolina provided a fact sheet in about the state's primary care shortages and the role advanced practice nurses could play in alleviating it (https://www.sc.edu/colleges_schools/nursing/centers_institutes/center_nursing_leadership/aprn_bullet_points_2015.pdf). The Center for Nursing Leadership noted that Advanced Practice Registered Nurses typically have four to seven years of clinical training (depending on degree level).

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports an average hourly income of $46.70 for South Carolina nurse practitioners; this comes to $97,140 a year if the NP is working 40-hour work weeks.

APRN Educational Foundations

Prospective nurse practitioners complete formal education programs that build on prior professional nursing education and offer didactic and clinical education in particular specialty areas. Programs may award master's degrees, post-master certificates, or doctoral degrees. Program-level accreditation helps ensure that the student will be eligible to sit for certification examinations. Candidates take different examinations, depending on the specialty. The South Carolina Board has provided a list of certifications (http://www.llr.state.sc.us/POL/Nursing/PDF/BoardApprovedAdvancedPracticeCertificationOrganizations.pdf). Most are universally or nearly universally recognized as license qualifying. Nurses can train and test in general family practice, or in any of the following: psychiatric/ mental health, women’s health, neonatal care, pediatric or adult-gerontology primary or acute care.

Programs include a common core whether they award master’s or doctoral degrees. South Carolina code recognizes that nurse practitioners have advanced education that prepares them to impact health on a population level. Health system quality improvement projects and population health are referenced among the non-medical acts that advanced nurses may perform. A DNP programs include a substantive project; students may begin making an impact at the systems level before their degree is even conferred. It’s not necessarily theoretical. Students sometimes partner with local agencies and help them solve practical issues they are facing.

Nurse practitioners who wish to add a specialty down the road can enroll in post-master certificate programs. These are shorter as core master’s level nursing and advanced practice content will have already been mastered. There will be additional clinical hours as well as population-specific instruction.

South Carolina code sets both initial and continuing education requirements for prescriptive authority. A new graduate can generally expect to have received qualifying education in his or her program.

(See: South Carolina Nurse Practitioner requirements)

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