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Nurse Practitioner Programs in Washington

Washington State allows nurse practitioners a broad scope in managing healthcare for its residents. Nurse practitioners may be designated as primary care providers by healthcare consumers. They may provide services without physician oversight; like other healthcare providers, they refer patient when necessary. Washington is classified as a full practice state by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners and indeed is often seen as a model state with regard to nurse practitioner utilization.

Washington nurse practitioners are licensed as Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner, or ARNPs. This is a broad category that includes other roles such as clinical nurse specialist. However, the license does distinguish role. An ARNP who qualified for credentialing in two roles (for example, as nurse practitioner and nurse midwife) would hold two advanced licenses.

A Washington nurse practitioner will hold one or more designations. These are often referred to as population foci by national organizations; occasionally, they are referred to as specialties. Family nurse practitioners is a very common one; FNPs are qualified to provide general or primary care services to individuals across the lifespan. Psychiatric/ mental health nurse practitioners provide mental health services to adults and children. Some nurse practitioners work only with pediatric populations, with women, or with adolescent through elderly populations.

Scope of practice depends in part on national certification – third party certifications assess specialty-specific competencies. The following are among the things a Washington nurse practitioner may do: order and interpret diagnostic tests, establish diagnoses, admit patients to healthcare facilities, manage care and facilitate discharge, prescribe therapies and devices, and perform procedures that fall within his or her scope. A nurse practitioner who has prescriptive authority may prescribe medications, including Schedule II controlled substances.

Nationwide, nurse practitioners most often work in ambulatory settings such as clinics and medical practices. However, a wide variety of settings are possible. Nurse practitioners can sub-specialize. This does not necessarily require a second credential. The Board gives as an example a family nurse practitioner who works in pediatric neurology. Nurse practitioners in urban settings are more likely than their rural counterparts to be involved in specialty care.

Top Washington State Nurse Practitioner Programs

#1: The University of Washington has built quite a reputation. Its DNP program, which encompasses multiple nurse practitioner tracks, is ranked #3 in the nation by US News and World Report. The program includes online coursework, but students can also expect a significant residency requirement. The first year is considered hybrid.

#2:Washington State University offers family and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner tracks. The program is hybrid with some courses offered in multiple Washington cities. WSU has distinguished itself with research in several areas including community and public health and patient care quality and safety. The National League for Nursing has recognized WSU as a Center for Excellence in the 'Enhance Student Learning and Professional Development' category. It is ranked #31 in the nation.

#3: Seattle University offers multiple tracks and multiple entry points. The APNI program draws non-nursing professionals.

#4: Gonzaga University, Pacific Lutheran University, and Seattle Pacific University also offer Washington-approved and nationally accredited advanced practice options.

Third Party Certifications

Washington nurse practitioners hold third party certification through one or more of the following:

  • American Academy of Nurse Practitioners
  • American Nurses Credentialing Center
  • Pediatric Nursing Certification Board
  • National Certification Commission
  • American Association of Critical Care Nurses
  • Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation

Most of these organizations offer certifications that are widely accepted around the nation. Oncology certification, though, is often considered adjunct. (Nationwide, some programs offer preparation in a broad population focus and a choice of one or more sub-specialties.)

A number of Washington employers, notably, do seek nurse practitioners to carry out oncology-related duties, from managing the care of women at risk for breast cancer to handling adverse events in infusion treatment to establishing best practice protocols. Swedish Medical Center and the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance are among them.

DNP Program Transition and Post-Master's Certificates

Nurse practitioner credentials require a graduate degree. Many Washington schools have transitioned their degree programs entirely to the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) level. This is the level some national organizations have come out in favor of. There are some in-state master's programs. Nationwide, the MSN is still quite common. Master’s programs give students the skills they need to practice safely -- e.g. diagnose and treat common conditions and make referrals. Students gain a foundation in population health as well as advanced physiology, diagnostic reasoning, pharmacology, and clinical management of health conditions. The DNP, though, may offers better preparation for the complexity -- and promise -- of the modern healthcare world. DNP projects take different forms. Students may work in partnership with local health agencies.

NP programs are generally designed for students with BSNs. However, there are exceptions. In fact, very well-qualified individuals with degrees in fields other than nursing may be admitted to some programs. They will have a multi-step process as they will need to meet educational requirements at the RN level before progressing to advanced practice coursework.

There are also a number of post-master certificate options, designed for individuals who already have a master’s in nursing.

The Washington Department of Health has provided a list of approved programs. Washington has some very highly ranked nurse practitioner programs.

Some nurse practitioners complete an optional post-graduate residency to hone their skills. A search will turn up diverse options. Seattle Children’s Hospital and International Community Health Services were among the organizations advertising residencies in 2018.

ARNP Job Distribution and Salary

Nurse practitioners are found in urban and non-urban areas throughout the state. The highest job concentrations are in the Spokane area and in the small metropolitan area bordering Lewiston, Idaho.

Washington is among the higher paying states. NPs earned an hourly average of $55.41 in 2017; this is roughly comparable to a $115,250 annual salary. The Spokane-Spokane Valley metropolitan area is among the highest paying markets in the nation. Here the average is $72.14 ($150,040). There is a particularly wide range of wages, though, reported in this area. Those at the 10th percentile make the equivalent of $50,120 for a full-time year while those at the 75th percentile make $160,040. In the Seattle-Bellevue area, the average is much lower ($111,540), but even those at the 10th percentile make $84,460. The top earners (90th percentile) make over $143,360.

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