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BSN to NP Programs

Would you like to become a nurse practitioner? Many nurses who are interested in career advancement want to expand their roles by providing clinical care, rather than pursuing administrative roles. If you are a BSN graduate, this is one path you may want to consider.

Nurse practitioners are advanced practice nurses who have at least a master's degree in nursing and are certified to practice in a particular field like family practice, pediatrics, geriatrics, or women's health, for example. Nurse practitioners work in a variety of settings including clinics, private practices, hospitals, nursing homes, health departments, schools and occupational health sites - basically anyplace where they can provide primary health care and preventive health services.

Educational Requirements to Become a Nurse Practitioner

The first nurse practitioner program dates back to 1965, when Loretta Ford, a registered nurse (RN), in conjunction with Henry Silver, MD, established a pediatric nurse practitioner program at the University of Colorado in Denver. A shortage of pediatricians providing well-child care, combined with Ford's conviction that nurses already had many of the skills needed to provide this care, led to early nurse practitioner certificate programs. These programs focused on training nurses to do a physical exam and diagnose and treat common illnesses. This knowledge would build on what the nurses already knew about child development, nutrition, and preventative care.

As studies repeatedly documented the effectiveness of NP care, the scope of the practice of nurse practitioners evolved in many directions. In addition, programs moved into graduate schools and the master's degree in nursing became the standard for entry into the field. It is expected that by 2015, new NPs will be prepared at the Doctor of Nursing Practice level, which in most cases, is a three-year graduate program. NPs who are already certified are likely to be grandfathered in -- much in the same way that the early certificate-prepared NPs were grandfathered in years ago. Many BSN to NP graduate programs are already making the transition to granting the DNP degree.

In general, work experience is not a requirement for admission to graduate programs in nursing, although it certainly may boost the strength of a candidate's application, and may help to focus the student's interest in a particular area of future practice.

Costs and Benefits of BSN to NP Programs

The time commitment of two to three years of full-time study along with tuition costs for this program is considerable. Many nurses continue to practice at least part time while advancing their educations, and in some cases, employers may provide tuition reimbursement benefits. Grants, scholarships, and loan information should be available from financial aid offices at each university. The benefits of becoming an NP include increased job satisfaction and autonomy as well as increased employment options and higher income.

NP salaries range from an average annual salary of $77,192 in South Dakota to $106,481 in California, according to a national survey released in January 2010. This compares to a mean annual wage of $66,530 for RNs nationally, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Job Outlook for Nurse Practitioners

The job outlook for NPs is bright. Over the years, the quality and cost-effectiveness of NP care has been well documented and has been followed by increased awareness and acceptance by the public, insurers, and professional colleagues. A shortage of primary care providers, especially in urban and rural settings continues, creating increased demand for advance practice nurses in those areas.

In addition, NPs are now practicing in many sub-specialties, including allergy, dermatology, endocrine, gastroenterology, neurology, cardiology, orthopedics, pulmonary, and oncology, among others. Additionally, some of the greatest opportunities in the future will likely be in the care of an aging population and managing chronic illness.

Schools offering BSN to NP Programs
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