When working as a nurse, there are constant opportunities to advance your career and develop your skills. If you want to work in a specific area of nursing, you may need further qualifications than your BSN. This is where online nurse practitioner programs can offer you a flexible and cost-effective way to advance your career, gain new qualifications and work in a specialized area of nursing. If you are a practising RN looking to move to the next level or are just planning your educational pathway to your dream nursing role, an online masters in nursing could be the right choice for you.
What is the course?
The online nurse practitioner programs are BSN-MSN/NP programs that are aimed at practising RNs who want to specialize in a nursing field such as family practice, mental health, or paediatrics. You will be trained to a high standard and receive the clinical expertise necessary to prevent, assess, treat, and manage acute and chronic diseases.
The online nurse practitioner programs can be completed in 24-30 months, depending on which pathway you choose to take. The pathways are:
- Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Degree, 28 months to complete
- Family Nurse Practitioner Degree, 30 months to complete
- Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Degree, 28 months to complete
- Adult-Gerontology, Primary Care, Nurse Practitioner Degree, 24 months to complete
There are many courses within each pathway, such as Theoretical Perspectives for Advanced Practice and a Moral and Ethical Decision-Making residency. Each course takes seven weeks to complete, and you have the option to take them one at a time, with a 1-week break in between. This is the 7-1-7 model, and it makes the online nurse practitioner programs even more accessible and flexible, as they are designed to work around your life and work shifts. This means you can continue to practice alongside your studies.
There are several prerequisites and criteria that you have to fulfill to be eligible for online nurse practitioner programs, such as having an unencumbered RN license, 3.0 GPA, and a BSN from a regionally accredited institution nursing program, either CCNE or NLN. It is important to make sure you are prepared to take the courses you want to, but it is also beneficial to plan ahead of time if you know the type of nursing you want to be doing.
What are the career outcomes?
The online nursing practitioner programs can prepare you to work as a nurse practitioner. NPs are advanced practice nurses who specialize in a specific field of nursing. The primary aim of an NP is to promote wellness through educating patients about their health. There are many differences between NPs and RN, including the levels of training and qualifications and the fact that NPs can practice independently in some states without the supervision of a physician. When working as an NP, you will be a mid-level practitioner and a nonphysician clinician. This means that you will take on many of a doctor’s clinical and diagnostic functions without being trained as one.
Family Nurse Practitioner
FNPs recognize the importance of family-centered healthcare and work with patients of all ages and genders across all body systems and diseases. They prioritize preventative health care but can also treat serious illnesses. A large part of all NP roles is educating patients and their loved ones on their health. FNPs perform a wide range of tasks, including assessing and diagnosing patients, managing treatment plans, and prescribing medications. They can work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, internal medicine clinics, and private practices, and often provide health care services in places where there are historically long waiting lists to see a physician, such as rural areas.
Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
PNPs work with patients from newborns to young adults (around 21 years old), providing both primary and acute care. Again, PNPs work to maintain the health of the patient through education and can also offer emotional support and advice to patients and their families. PNPs have varied tasks and responsibilities such as prescribing medications, treating illness and injury, performing physical assessments and developmental check-ups.
Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
PMHNPs are trained to provide a range of mental health services to many different people, and in some states, can practice without the presence of a psychiatrist. If you decided to train as a PMHNP, you have the option to generalize or specialize in areas such as geriatrics, forensics, or psychotherapy. PMHNPs can work in and provide mental health services in many different settings, including schools, prisons, substance abuse programs, and trauma centers. Their responsibilities and tasks include patient assessments and diagnoses, prescribing medication, conducting therapy, educating patients, families, and staff, and also acting as consultants.
Adult-Gerontology, Primary Care, Nurse Practitioner
Gerontology is the study of aging, but this does not limit AGNPs to only treating the senior population. AGNPs provide health services to young adults and any above that age and can specialize in acute care or primary care. The online nurse practitioner programs prepare you to specialize in the latter, which means you will be working with patients who are not usually ill. The focus on primary care AGNPs is the maintenance of patient health through education and promotion of healthy life choices. You may also be performing tasks such as managing transitions between care settings, assessing the competence of caregivers, and educating patients and caregivers.
What does it take?
You will know that nursing requires a combination of technical and personal skills in order to provide the high levels of emotional and physical care that patients need. There are many characteristics and traits that make a great nurse. You will most likely already have many of these skills, but online nurse practitioner programs can help you understand how to apply them in the new situations you may find yourself in. Some of the useful skills for a nurse, of any role or positive, to have include:
- Critical thinking – nurses need to make many decisions, often quickly. Therefore, you will need excellent critical thinking, decision-making, and problem-solving skills to allow you to come to the best conclusions for your patients.
- Adaptability – as the technology and techniques in the medical industry are constantly changing and developing, nurses need to be willing to learn and stay up to date with the latest treatments and methods. Even if you have been practicing for a long time or have a high-up position, you still need to be adaptable in order to continue providing the highest level of care to your patients.
- Compassion – this is sympathy combined with the desire to fix whatever is causing a person pain or distress and is at the core of nursing along with empathy. Compassion helps drive nurses to want to help those in need.
- Empathy – this is the ability to put yourself in your patient’s shoes to understand their thoughts and feelings. It is unlikely that you will have firsthand experience of every situation that patients present to you; therefore, empathy can help you connect with them and provide a higher level of personal support. As well as supporting their health, nurses are often providing patients and families with emotional support too.
- Stamina – nursing is both physically and emotionally demand, and a high level of physical fitness and emotional intelligence are required to help nurses do their jobs. You will be on your feet for many hours each shift and will also be lifting and moving patients and equipment, so you need to be strong and fit. Emotional stamina is also required in order to help prevent things such as compassion fatigue and to help you maintain healthy boundaries, among many other things. Furthermore, you can be working in pressurized environments and with patients and family members who have experienced traumatic events.
- Communication – a large part of an NPs role is education, so you will need to be able to convey information in a way that those without the same level of training as you can understand. Furthermore, excellent communication skills can help a patient feel more comfortable in what could be an upsetting situation. It is important to know how to be a good listener too, and how to pick up on any non-verbal cues such as body language, as these are all part of communication.
- Teamwork – even though NPs can work independently in some states, you will still often be part of a larger, multidisciplinary medical team. It is incredibly important to work with all your colleagues and team members to provide your patients with the best medical treatment. Communication and teamwork go hand in hand, as you will also need to know how to adapt your communication techniques and approaches when working with different people.
These are just a fraction of the skills that nurses need to succeed at their jobs, and online nurse practitioner programs can help you develop these through the course content and the process of learning online.
What are the benefits of learning online?
One main element of the online nurse practitioner programs is the fact that it uses blended learning. This is the combination of digital and physical learning techniques and methods. Online learning makes the course more accessible and achievable and helps reduce some of the many costs that come with studying, especially at masters level. Online learning can help you develop your soft skills even further, helping you become a well-rounded individual with skills that are beneficial in any workplace.
When your local university does not offer the kind of nursing course you need or the type of flexible study option that would work best for you, you might have to decide to study something else or make large sacrifices to study full time in-person. With online nurse practitioner programs, your actual location is less of a barrier, as a large part of the learning can be done from any location.
The online nurse practitioner programs are made to be studied around your life and job, making them an incredibly flexible option. This allows education to be more accessible, as it works for more people. Having greater control over your learning environment and the pace you learn can help you enjoy the courses and prevent you from feeling overwhelmed or unable to study. Blended learning could be the perfect option for you if you do not want to or cannot commit to full-time in-person education in a classroom or lecture theatre environment.
A common reason why people do not choose to further their education, especially if they already have qualifications or a job, are the costs involved. Studying is expensive, with costs such as tuition, accommodation, living costs, and travel, which can make it financially unviable for some people. However, online courses can remove or reduce some of these costs. The tuition fees can be cheaper for online courses, and you may still be eligible for financial support from your university. When you are learning from home, you don’t need to worry as much about campus accommodation costs or commuting to classes every day. The ability to study online nurse practitioner programs alongside your job means that you can continue to work and earn money while you work towards your qualifications.
Studying online nurse practitioner programs is a brilliant way to expand your knowledge and develop your career and yourself. If you are working as an RN, this can be the logical next step in your nursing career and can open up many doors for you and even prepare you to undertake a DNP at a later date. If you are just starting out, working as an RN in general nursing can help you understand where your passions and talents lie, leading you to take a MSN when you know the area of nursing you would like to specialize in. There are many benefits to furthering your education, and online nurse practitioner programs can offer you a high-quality education that is flexible and achievable.