While some people have their sights set on becoming nurse practitioners at a young age, others of us didn’t make the career choice early on. Perhaps we thought we wanted to become physicians but later expanded our view of healthcare, or entered the world of business and became disillusioned with climbing the corporate ladder. Or, maybe we were simply indecisive. Fortunately, there are plenty of paths allowing non-nurses to enter the NP profession.
If you don’t have a nursing degree and think the nurse practitioner career sounds like it might be a good fit for you, you aren’t alone. I receive e-mails everyday from non-nurses seeking insight on entering the NP profession. For most individuals holding a bachelor’s degree in a field other than nursing there are three potential paths to become a nurse practitioner.
Path #1- MEPN Program
A few schools offer super-accelerated ways for students with a bachelor’s degree in a field other than nursing to become nurse practitioners. These programs go by a variety of titles including accelerated programs, bridge programs, or Master’s Entry Programs in Nursing (MEPN). These schools typically take just two to three years to complete on a full-time basis. The first year or so, students learn basic nursing skills earning an RN degree. The second year students complete the courses required to earn an MSN degree, allowing them to become nurse practitioners.
MEPN programs are an excellent option for non-nurses seeking to enter the nurse practitioner profession. They offer a quick, seamless way to enter the field. You will pay for this added convenience, however. These programs are among the most expensive options when it comes to the NP education. There are also very few of these programs across the country so they are very competitive and may require that students relocate.
Path #2- Stepwise Degree Approach
If taking out a mountain of students loans and possibly relocating to attend an MEPN program doesn’t appeal to you, there is still a semi-accelerated path to becoming a nurse practitioner for non-nurses.
First, obtain an RN degree. Many schools across the country offer RN programs at an affordable cost. These programs are often delivered in a format allowing students to keep their day jobs further offsetting the cost of education.
Then, attend an RN-MSN program. There are a few schools across the country that provide a path for students with an RN degree rather than a bachelor’s degree in nursing to become nurse practitioners. Some schools even offer these programs online. If you plan to complete this part of your education immediately following your RN program, make sure to check application requirements closely as some schools require nursing experience for admittance.
Overall, this path is not as expedient as attending an MEPN program, but it does confer significantly more flexibility and can be completed at a much more affordable cost.
Path #3- Traditional Approach
The most common route to the nurse practitioner profession is to obtain a bachelor’s degree in nursing followed by a master’s degree in nursing (or even a doctorate of nursing practice). Some schools offer accelerated bachelor’s degree in nursing programs for students already holding a bachelor’s degree in another field.
This route may take longer to complete than the first two paths but it gives you more options when it comes to selecting your nurse practitioner program. While not all schools offer accelerated options for aspiring NPs, MSN and DNP programs are prevalent.
Which path will you take to the nurse practitioner career?