As the role of nurses expands, so do the educational requirements for those wishing to advance their careers. Universities and colleges, in meeting the simultaneous challenges of balancing work and education, are developing more accredited, online programs. Depending on the Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) degree being sought, students may be able to complete their studies 100% online or be required to complete didactic coursework online and spend some time on-campus (this is known as a hybrid program).
BSN to MSN
The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree is now considered as the entry-level education needed to practice nursing. However, more and more BSNs are pursuing MSN degrees; and, ultimately, become Nurse Practitioners (NP) and specialize in one of the NP areas, such as Adult-Gerontology. There are two academic tracks for Adult-Gerontology: Primary Care and Acute Care.
Standard admissions policies request the prospective student hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from a nationally accredited nursing program. Accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accrediting Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) is considered the gold standard. Additionally, students are required to have an unencumbered, valid nursing license for the state in which they practice. Criminal background checks and drug testing is not unusual, especially when clinical experiences are required. Some programs will require Graduate Record Exam (GRE) or Miller Analogy Test (MAT) scores.
Occasionally, colleges and universities will offer RN to MSN bridge programs; but, for purposes of this article, we focus on the BSN-MSN degree. Best Medical Degrees published a ranking of 30 Most Affordable Online RN to MSN Degree Programs.
The number of credit hours required for a MSN-Nurse Practitioner specialty degree will range from 40-60 hours, depending on the school, and most programs may be completed in 2-3 years. Typically, graduate nursing students will be expected to complete core coursework. It's usual for all graduate students to take courses in nursing research, evidence-based practice, theories of nursing, advanced practice nursing concepts, healthcare informatics, advanced studies in health assessment, pathophysiology, clinical pharmacology. Some programs require coursework in biostatistics, quality and safety and health research.
Specialty courses will vary depending on whether you're pursuing a primary care or an acute care focus. Sample courses for Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (AG-PCNP) may include: primary care of adolescents, adults and geriatric patients, diagnosis and healthcare management, continuum of care, advanced ethical considerations and professional issues for nurse practitioners. Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AG-ACNP) students will follow the same core coursework; but, specialty courses will be much different from primary care; and, are most often hybrid programs. The specialty courses for AG-ACNP will often include advanced skills assessments, requiring on-campus attendance for intensives in direct patient care and simulations. Advanced acute care studies in pathophysiology, pharmacology, diagnostic methods, acute and critical illnesses, etc.
Practicum and Clinical Experiences
Both of these Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner tracks will typically involve clinical experiences. Most schools, when possible, will help students arrange clinical experiences in the student's home community under the guidance of a qualified, approved preceptor. Clinical hours required may range from 400-600 hours.
Best Medical Degrees has published information on Best Online Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AG-ACNP) Degrees and Best Online MSN Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (A.G.N.P.) Programs that will help you with your school search.