With the increasing demand to fill specialized nursing occupations, nurse practitioner programs have become crucial in preparing future specialized nursing students with the training and education necessary to advance their careers. In order to accommodate the bustling lifestyles of practicing nurses, many accredited schools and universities began offering online nurse practitioner programs that consider the varying levels of experience of students with RN, BSN, and MSN degrees. With the creation of online nurse practitioner programs from many highly ranked and accredited universities, previous healthcare providers have been able to enter advanced nursing programs that offer distinct fields of specialization tailored to the nursing student’s schedule and circumstances. As a result, an online nursing practitioner program has become the ideal way for many nursing students to continue their education in a desired field of specialization while continuing to work full-time and locally.
What is an NP and What Do They Do?
A Nurse Practitioner (NP) or Advanced Registered Nursing Practitioner (ARNP) typically receives a master’s degree in nursing alongside a field of specialty and consequently commits to a broader range of responsibilities than their RN counterparts. In healthcare settings, an NP or ARNP has become a respected field due to its higher commitment to patient care and education, and in even some fields and practices, has received higher patient satisfaction than physicians. Among one of the many benefits associated with an NP or ARPN include similar patient privileges as a doctor, the ability to practice in any healthcare facility where their specialties are needed, and even the ability to eventually open a private practice. With these career advances in mind, a licensed NP still normally performs the following daily duties:
- Prescribing medications
- Ordering and interpreting results of tests
- Performing minor surgeries
Nevertheless, the duties and final jurisdiction of the NP is still subject to each respective state’s current legislation about the scope of medical practice. Many states still require a physician to oversee or collaborate with an NP for any diagnosis or treatment of a patient.
Attaining an Online NP Degree
An NP program typically culminates into a certificate, a master’s degree, or the first few years necessary to obtaining a doctorate degree. According to a recent listing of all available nurse practitioner programs online, 143 accredited degree granting programs exist across 42 colleges with an average tuition cost of approximately $22,000. Regardless on the nature, specialization, or requirements of the program, all must be an accredited NP program and the student must have previously earned an RN license in order to further their career through an ARNP program. Most online degree granting programs consist of a combination of online courses, lectures, an online community, and a required number of clinical practical hours in order to graduate from the program. For many schools, these clinical portions of the program account for approximately 500-700 hours of practical work and offer knowledge in:
- Primary Health care of the Family I-IV
- Advanced Health Assessment for Advanced Practice Nurses
- Infant, Child & Adolescent Health
- Advanced Primary Care Nursing of Chronic Illness in Adults and Their Families
Students enrolled in online nursing practitioner programs benefit from the ability to complete their clinical work locally in known healthcare institutions.
Picking a Specialty
On top of clinical work, each program also boasts a field of specialty so that each nursing student can focus on the field, patient, or disease of their choice. Generally, the specialties offered across several accredited NP programs vary according to the type of diseases and maladies affecting different age groups, genders, and populations across the nation. The most common NP specializations offered are:
- Nurse Practitioner
- Pediatric NP (PNP)
- Acute Care NP
- Psychiatric/Mental Health NP
- Adult Gerontology NP
- Emergency NP
- Neonatal NP
- Women’s Health NP (WHNP)
- Family NP (FNP)
Among these specialties, family nurse practitioner programs have become one of the most popular programs due to its high demand and their ability to work independently in some states and focus on caring for underserved populations and communities. Online Family Nurse Practitioner programs are available and specialize their education on working with both children and adults predominantly in a family practice. FNPs focus on sustaining long-term health for their patients and, as such, pay particular attention to administering preventative care. As a result, FNPs must have a thorough knowledge of the community or culture that they serve in order to be effective in their field. The broad scope of care, along with the attention to various age groups signify the need to pay close attention to the way a community lives, but also any impending health inequalities they may face. Generally, FNPs serve their patients and their communities for prolonged periods of time, monitoring family health histories and fostering long-term relationships with their patients.
Once nursing students finish their accredited NP program, they must pass the certification exam of their specialized field through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) in order to start practicing with their new credential. Before embarking on their new specialized careers, aspiring applicants should first request information from each prospective school about general facts and requirements for each specialty and program. Overall, online NP programs provide the optimal way to attain a degree for a student who is looking for both flexibility and rigor in their new education.