Becoming a Nurse Practitioner

There are multiple entry points to this career and they depend on current level of education. Most nurse practitioners hold a master’s degree in nursing with a specialization in a specific area of practice, the most common specialization being family nurse practitioner. Read about these entry points and learn about the steps needed to be taken to become a nurse practitioner.

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Just Starting Out With No Nursing Experience

For the high school student hoping to become a nurse practitioner, the first step is to find and be accepted to a 4-year baccalaureate in nursing program or BSN program that is accredited by the CCNE or NLNAC and approved by the state board of nursing where one will practice. Licensure in a state is granted by a state’s board of nursing and to be eligible for licensure they, with some exceptions, require graduation from a program approved by them.

Someone with a bachelor’s degree in a field other than nursing will need to find a second degree or accelerated BSN program, which can often be completed in about two years. It is important to also make sure the program is accredited and approved by the state board of nursing where the nurse will practice.

Already Holding an Associate’s, Diploma or Baccalaureate in Nursing

For those registered nurses with an associate’s or diploma, there are many RN to MSN programs accredited by either the CCNE or NLNAC, that prepare students to practice as nurse practitioners. Various tracks are offered and finding one that matches one’s interest should not be a problem.

After completion of the BSN program, find a CCNE or NLNAC accredited master’s program offering the concentration, track or specialization in the field of practice desired. There should be multiple options in each state to choose from and if not, there are many accredited online nurse practitioner program options offered through very well know nursing schools throughout the country. The only caveat of an online program is that the student will have to arrange to complete clinical practicum requirements in their community and some require a commitment to attend symposia on campus during the course of the program. In most cases the nursing school will assist in arranging the practicum and it is usually a non-issue.

USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work Department of Nursing

*If you’re an RN interested in entering advanced practice and becoming a nurse practitioner, earning a Master of Science in Nursing is your best option.

Nursing@USC — the Master of Science in Nursing program from the University of Southern California Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work — is preparing a new kind of family nurse practitioner (FNP) who will address both the biomedical and social factors affecting patient health. Through a first-of-its-kind integration of nursing and social work education, the program trains FNPs to deliver care across the life span in a variety of primary care settings.

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Eligible applicants are registered nurses who have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and at least one year of clinical experience.

Importance of Selecting an Accredited Nurse Practitioner Program and Credentialing

The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), the National Certification Corporation and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners are nurse practitioner certifying bodies and, with the exception of the National Certification Corporation, require graduation from an accredited master’s, post-master’s or DNP program for eligibility to take their national certification exams. Most states require their nurse practitioners to hold national certification in order to obtain licensure and practice as a nurse practitioner in their state.

The 2015 DNP Phase In

This is a topic anyone considering becoming a nurse practitioner should be aware of. It has drawn much attention from the NP community and nursing community in general.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing or AACN has gone through motions that will set new standards in nurse practitioner education. They recommend that all nurses wishing to be credentialed and practice as nurse practitioners hold a Doctor of Nursing Practice or DNP degree after the year 2015. The AACN is strongly encouraging all states to adjust the language of the state laws governing the practice and licensure of nurse practitioners to include the DNP education requirement. Those who are already practicing as nurse practitioners prior to 2015 may continue to practice based on the wording AACN has provided in their statements.

The DNP is about a 3-tear educational commitment. There are arguments that this will be a benefit to nurse practitioners and the public and there are many arguments batting against the DNP. Potential students looking into this nursing career path should pay close attention to DNP phase in developments and what a student entering a nurse practitioner educational path now should be aware of. Nursing school advisors would be an excellent resource as would be the AACN.

Use the search feature at the top of the page to find a nursing program in your state and take the first step toward becoming a nurse practitioner.

You may want to explore schools offering online nurse practitioner programs or online DNP programs.