United States Nurse Practitioner Masters Programs & Schools
Nurse practitioner masters programs help dedicated nurses take their practice to the next level. A variety of unique nurse practitioner (N) options may be available. Each one might focus on different care settings, patient types, and medical issues.
Some programs could center on helping families in small primary care practices. Others might look closer at critical care or hospital settings. On top of that, different courses might talk about a variety of patient populations. This could range from neonatal through gerontology.
Whatever the focus, masters in nurse practitioner programs each share an essential goal. They aim to combine independence and medical expertise with a care-oriented nursing philosophy.
What Is A Nurse Practitioner?
Nurse practitioners are a type of Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN). Basically, that means that they’re registered nurses with the education and training to provide more advanced care. Nurse practitioners might handle some things a registered nurse wouldn't, in both primary care and acute care settings. This could include diagnosing and treating patients, prescribing medication, and more. Some states require physician oversight, while others allow them to act independently.
Did You Know?
As of 2016, there were more than 222,000 nurse practitioners (NPs) licensed in the U.S.[i]
Nurse practitioner masters programs are designed to help you prepare to take on this role. These programs build on the education and experience you might have as an RN-BSN nurse. They do this by focusing on new medical skills and knowledge beyond bedside care. Programs may discuss identifying and diagnosing different types of conditions. Students might also study how to create relevant treatment plans for those diagnoses. Finally, programs might go more in-depth on some subjects nurses might have touched on in a BSN program. One example of
this is pharmacology. All of this feeds toward a basic goals of nurse practitioner degree programs: to prepare nurses to handle responsibilities that might otherwise be dealt with by a physician.
Types of Nurse Practitioner Masters Programs
Some masters in nurse practitioner programs may be generalized. Those programs may aim to prepare nurses for nurse practitioner roles in any context. But what if you have more specific goals in mind? Many NP programs may instead offer a variety of concentration options. That way, students could focus their study on the types of patients they want to treat, or on working in a certain type of medical facility. NP program concentrations tend to reflect certain roles a nurse practitioner might hold in the field. As such, the topics covered in a given program might vary. Here are examples of some types of programs you might find over the course of your search.
- Acute Care Masters in Nurse Practitioner Programs: Often when you see the term "acute care" in a program name, it's modifying another topic. For example, one might study "pediatric acute care." These types of programs focus on specific, short-term patient care, such as in a hospital or emergency clinic.
- Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Masters Programs: This is often combined with another category. Primary care programs center on long-term, day-to-day healthcare services for regular patients.
- Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Masters Programs: This kind of program examines how to provide healthcare for infants. That might range from premature or newborn babies to young toddlers around age two. Many programs focus on providing acute care in hospital settings, such as within a neonatal intensive care unit or NCIU.
- Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Masters Programs: Pediatric nurse practitioner programs focus on the health and development of children through age eighteen, or sometimes twenty one.
- Family Nurse Practitioner Masters Programs: These programs tend to focus on primary care. As such, they might cover the general medical and health needs of children and adults at all ages.
- Adult-Gerontology NP Masters Programs: Adult medicine programs might come in two different flavors. Some focus on general medical needs of adults in a broad sense. Others center on adult health as related to the aging process. Courses might look at a variety of health conditions unique to aging adults, end-of-life care, and more, across a variety of care settings.
- Gender-Specific Care: Some masters nurse practitioner programs focus on healthcare related to a certain gender. Options could focus specifically on men’s or women’s health, or potentially cover the full spectrum of how gender can impact healthcare needs.
- Psychiatric NP Masters Programs: Programs like this focus on how to help patients in psychiatric care settings. This could be either residential or outpatient. It might also cover a range of unique psychological and behavioral conditions.
These and other nurse practitioner degree programs may vary. Some schools may offer additional options, or differ from these descriptions. If you’re interested in one of these, or something else, get in touch with the schools you’re considering to talk more about the options available.
Nurse Practitioner Education: Additional Requirements
In addition to concentrated coursework, many nurse practitioner masters programs incorporate practical experiences in to their curriculum. This could include field observations to help contextualize classroom learning. Most programs also require clinical rotations. These generally happen in the field, under the guidance of a clinical instructor. In nurse practitioner programs, that means treating patients in a variety of care settings. This could also require conferring with the patient’s typical primary care physicians and other care providers.
In addition to a graduate degree from an accredited program, nurse practitioners and other APRNs typically need to earn recognized certifications to practice. Certifications are generally awarded by a recognized accredited organization.i Some NP masters programs may be designed with these certification exams in mind. Schools and requirements vary, so if this is of interest to you, follow up with your selected program.
Nurse Practitioner Masters Programs Potential Formats
Nurse practitioner masters programs may utilize a variety of formats. This may help to accommodate students’ learning preferences and lifestyles. These program formats typically fall into three main categories, each with its own unique advantages.
- Nurse Practitioner Masters Schools: These programs are anchored on a graduate school campus. That could bring some advantages to your study. Examples range from gaining valuable lab experience to connecting with your professors one-on-one. Plus, your school of choice might be associated with local teaching hospitals. That might help to make your clinical experience a little more convenient.
- Online Nurse Practitioner Masters Programs: Need a more flexible option? Online programs might offer the portability and flexibility you need. That might help you balance your studies with your busy nursing career, whatever your shift, and earn a degree while doing what you love.
- Hybrid Masters Nurse Practitioner Programs: These may also be called partially-online or blended nurse practitioner programs. They offer a balanced option between online and school formats. In addition to being able to studying online, you could take advantage of the technology, services, and lab opportunities on campus. Like campus programs, your school may also be associated with local teaching hospitals. That could help you organize local observation and field experience opportunities.
Each program may be organized in a unique way. In some cases, the types of things they offer may vary from what is described above. Reach out to the schools you’re thinking about attending for more information on how their programs work.
Find Potential Masters of Nursing Nurse Practitioner Programs
If you’re ready to find nurse practitioner masters programs, you can get started right here. Narrow down your results by selecting your preferred program format using the menu. Then review the sponsored listings that match your search criteria. Click on the listings you think you might be interested in to read more or get in touch with them. Then start your application!
Source: [i] bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm#tab-4
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