A nurse practitioner is a nurse with advanced education and a license to practice medicine. They can diagnose and treat their patients while taking the patients’ needs and wants into consideration. In some states, nurse practitioners can practice independently. To reach this point, students are supposed to undergo intensive training and education. The time required depends on the nursing specialty. Let us look at an in-depth breakdown of the time required in becoming a nurse practitioner.
Bachelor’s Degree (4 years)
After completing high school, students are required to get a bachelor’s degree. This is required to become a registered nurse. Preferably the degree should be a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. However, if you are still exploring your options, you can choose to do it any other medical science field. During your bachelor’s degree, you will have courses such as Anatomy, Physiology, Pharmacology, Medical Ethics and much more. You might even have some supervised clinical rounds to give you some hands-on experience in the field. At this point, it is best to select a specialty that you want to develop later as a nurse practitioner.
NCLEX Exam (Maximum 1 year)
The most efficient path to becoming an NP is to become a registered nurse. To do this first you need to get certified as a nurse. For this, you need to give the NCLEX or the National Council Licensure Examination. This test is applicable for both RNs and LPNs (Licensed Practical Nurses). You can give the test as many times as you want if you fail. However, you are mandated to give at least a 91-day gap between each attempt. Thus, in a time frame of one year, you can attempt it about 4 times. Every time you fail, there is a detailed scoresheet which gives you details on areas where you can improve. Hence, we suggest a maximum of 4 tries here.
Experience (1 to 2 years)
The next step is to get into graduate’s program for nursing. However, most of the programs require you to have some experience in your chosen field of specialization before getting into the master’s program. Thus, you need to train in a hospital as registered nurse or an LPN for at least one year before you get admitted into any of the graduate programs. It is always better to get more experience. But, if you train for more than 2 years, though you might have an edge over the other candidates, you will lose out on a lot of time.
Graduates Program (1 to 3 years)
After you get enough experience in hospitals and other medical set ups, it is time to get into a master program. Depending on your chosen specialization, the course duration of your master’s program may vary. It may also vary if you are trying to take a bridge course. Some of the common bridge course are RN-MSN and LPN-MSN. You also have the option of an accelerated BSN, which trains you intensively for one year in nursing (provided you did not have a bachelor’s degree in nursing) and then moves on to the common master’s degree program. In this case, you might end up spending a maximum for 4 years achieving your graduate’s degree.
Clinical Hours (Maximum 1 year)
Logically, you will need to go get licensed as a nurse practitioner after this. However, the requirements of the licensure exam need you to have completed at least 750 to 1400 hours (depends on your specialty) in the clinic practicing your specialization. Liable to the number of shifts that you take, this might take anywhere from 6 months to 1 year to complete. Some graduate programs offer opportunities to complete these clinical hours while you are receiving your education.
Licensure Exam (Maximum 2 years)
There is no one exam like the NCLEX for nurse practitioners. Their exams vary depending on the specialty. Sometimes nurse practitioners are required to give another test to prescribe medicines independently depending on the state. But the general rules are that a person cannot retake the exam more than 2 times in a single year. You are supposed to schedule your own test giving you freedom over the dates. Another requirement to retake the exam is to undergo minimum 15 hours of education in an area of weakness shown by the test report. Similarly, we suggest that you try the test a maximum of 4 times.
After that last step, you should be a full-fledged Nurse Practitioner. To revise, we can say that the whole process of becoming a nurse practitioner may require a maximum of 14 years after graduating from high school. The minimum, however, is a mere 6 years. But that will require you to work extremely hard. It may seem like a lot of work, but considering the salary and the satisfaction of saving lives, it is all worth it. Now that you know how much time it takes to become an NP, it is time for you to get started. Chop chop!