Do you have a degree in a field other than nursing but want to be a Nurse Practitioner? Learn how to find NP programs for non-nurses and not waste time in the process!
I spent months upon months researching the various nurse practitioner programs (NP) available for non-nurses. In a stressful period when essay-writing, reference-seeking, and GRE-taking consumes your valuable time, there is little time to waste on endless Google-searching. So let me help! Hopefully your head will spin a little less in the long-run than mine did!
Since beginning my program at Vanderbilt, I have had many friends reach out asking how on Earth I am becoming a NP without being a RN first? Well, it takes a very specialized program directed at individuals with a previous bachelor’s degree, seeking a career change in healthcare. NP programs for non-nurses are generally accelerated to expedite nurses and providers into the workforce. You will quickly catch on that no program is created equal. There are many moving parts that will affect your interest in or ability to apply to a specific program.
(Read about my career change from Hollywood to Healthcare!)
Here are a few short-cuts and recommendations of what to consider when choosing researching programs.
TIP #1: APPLY FOR THE RIGHT JOB TITLE & ROLE
Not all accelerated master’s in nursing (MSN) programs lead to a Nurse Practitioner (NP) license. Many MSN programs lead to a Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) role, so this is very important to pay close attention to.
What’s the difference between a CNL vs NP??
Put simply, a CNL’s scope of practice is similar to a registered nurse (RN), but with more leadership training and abilities. Unlike NP’s, CNL’s cannot prescribe medications and they do not have diagnostic authority. Thus, CNL’s are more likely to work within an acute care setting (ie. hospital) and an NP is more likely to work in outpatient or a private practice. NP’s are also specialty focused (ie. family practice, midwifery, pediatrics…), whereas CNL’s hold a more generalist role.
Key Takeaway: Triple and quadruple check that the schools you are interested in will award you the title and credentials you are seeking!
TIP #2: GET CREATIVE WITH YOUR SEARCH
Not all MSN programs for non-nurses are called “direct entry”. This took me MONTHS to realize (ugh). After searching high and low, I came across other titles such as “PreSpecialty” (ie. Vanderbilt), “Masters Entry Program in Nursing” (ie. UCSF), and “Accelerated BNS-MSN” (ie. UPENN). In fact, the “direct entry” MSN program at Vanderbilt is for already licensed RN’s seeking their MSN. Confusing, I know.
What I advise is to go through the list of MSN schools on the US News ranking list, see which programs are in ideal locations for you, then search for an “accelerated MSN” program within that specific university. The AACN has also compiled a list of MSN programs for non-nurses. However, I have found this list is not 100% up to date and the majority of the programs lead to a CNL certification, not NP.
Key Takeaway: Try searching “accelerated MSN” or “NP programs for non-nurses” rather than “direct entry”. And again, quadruple check that NP or CNL title, whichever is the best fit for you!
TIP #3: DO YOU WANT A BSN + MSN OR JUST THE MSN?
If a second bachelor’s degree is important to you and your career goals, make sure the program awards a BSN as well as the MSN. Vanderbilt, for example, will not award me a BSN. I will obtain my nursing license and become a registered nurses after the first year is complete, but I will not have a second bachelors degree. UPenn, on the other hand, does award one.
TIP #4: CHECK THE TIMELINE OF EACH PROGRAM
I found that programs vary anywhere from two years (Vanderbilt) to four years in total (UPenn – due to a six-month break between the BSN and MSN portion). This makes a big difference when planning your future!
TIP #5: PLAN FOR PREP WORK
Do your research on what prerequisites each program requires, as some are more extensive than others. Some require multiple years of chemistry, for example, while others do not require any. Incorporate this prep time into your future goals and be patient with it – it’s all worth it in the long-run! It took me a full year-and-a-half to complete my pre-req’s… on top of my four-year degree. This is also an opportunity to go back to school and add some A’s to your transcript and possibly bolster your GPA. These courses lay the foundation for your future profession and should be taken just as seriously as the graduate coursework!
TIP #6: GET ORGANIZED
Make sure you are compiling a list of what is needed for each school and keep track of any unique or uncommon requirements. I recommend putting an Excel sheet together with each school’s application date, prerequisites, interview date, letters of recommendation, start date (these vary as well!), minimum GRE score (yup, gotta take that tedious exam), and any other information that may help you stay organized.
Here is a short list of accelerated NP programs to get you started:
(Note: This may be outdated so quadruple check all information before relying on it)
Vanderbilt University (ranked #6 in the nation): 2-year program; Tuition: $19k/semester for 6 semesters ($115,000 total)
University of California San Francisco (#4): 3-year program; Tuition: First 12-months = $55,000.00, MSN portion = $37,012.00/year ($129,000 total)
Oregon Health & Sciences University (#7): 3-year program (BSN = 5 quarters, starting in summer); Tuition: $55k for the first year; MSN portion: $65k ($120,000 total)
University of Pennsylvania (#2): 4-year program; BSN = 18-months (June-Dec), MSN = 16-months (Sept-Dec); GRE goal: 150+ and 50th percentile
Emory University (#8): 3-year program
Seattle University (Unranked): 2-year program
Head spinning yet?:) Comment below if you have any questions! I’m happy to help!