How Can I Become a Nurse Practitioner in California?
As one of the largest states in the country, California has been hit particularly hard by the shortage of primary care providers in the United States. The shortage has caused long waits for patients, both for primary care and specialty care.
One solution proposed by specialists is the use of nurse practitioners for general, acute, and primary care needs. If you currently have a Bachelor's degree in nursing and you have built your skills in the workforce, in-person and online nurse practitioner programs may give you the opportunity to expand your scope of practice and broaden your career options.
In California, aspiring nurse practitioners must earn a doctorate or a Master's degree in nursing before applying for licensure.
If you are considering a Master's degree Nurse Practitioner program, explore average state requirements below:
• Credit hours required: 40 to 50 credit hours
• Average tuition rate: $12,000 per semester; costs vary significantly between private and public schools, due to the amount of graduate programs in California
• Clinical hours required: At least 500 hours
• Timeframe: Up to three years
A Doctorate in Nursing Practice (DNP) may open the door to careers in research and teaching.
In the list below, you can see the requirements for DNP degree programs:
• Credit hours required: Up to 50 credits beyond a Master's degree in nursing
• Clinical hours required: At least 1,000 hours
• Timeframe: Up to four years after a Master's degree
There are quite a few options to consider in California. Request information from schools to learn more about earning a nurse practitioner degree.
What Types of Nurse Practitioner Programs Are Available in California?
If you thrive in one particular practice setting or with a specific patient population, you may have no trouble choosing a specialized area of study. Options offered in California schools include FNP programs, which focus on family care; psychiatric-mental health, which involves providing acute and primary care to those with mental health diagnoses; pediatric care; and adult-geriatric care.
The courses you are required to take to become a Nurse Practitioner in California are determined by which specialty program you select.
For example, in a family nurse practitioner Master's program, you may take courses like:
• Advanced Pathophysiology
• Advanced Pharmacology
• Advanced Physical Assessment
• Healthcare Economics
• Human Diversity
• Theories and Roles of Advanced Practice Nursing
• Research Methods in Nursing
Doctorate programs may further explore complex, diverse areas of study.
Required courses for a DNP include:
• Nursing Leadership
• Nursing Technology
• Nursing Biostatistics
• Evidence-Based Practice
• Health Policy
If you plan on working as a nurse while earning a degree, traditional course schedules may be difficult for you. Accelerated programs often accommodate working nurses, as do FNP online programs. Keep in mind that online nursing programs have the same clinical requirements as conventional programs, so you may have to find an approved clinical site before you begin your online degree.
Although clinical requirement minimums are set at 500 hours and 1000 hours for Master's and doctoral students, respectively, you may find that many programs require additional hours beyond the minimum.
These requirements ensure that you get the experience you need to transition smoothly into a nurse practitioner role after graduation. You make an assigned to a variety of clinics and hospitals throughout your degree, which allows you to become comfortable in different work settings.
How Can I Pay for Nurse Practitioner School in California?
You may start applying for financial aid after accepting a position at a nurse practitioner program. Look into general nursing scholarships, California nursing scholarships, scholarships specifically for nurse practitioner students, and those unique to your specialty area.
Some options for NP scholarships and financial aid include:
• Together We Care Nurse Practitioner Scholarship Program: Scholarships awarded through this program are sponsored by CVS and are open to nurse practitioner students all over the country.
• NHSC Loan Repayment Program: If you have to take out loans to complete your education, you may find relief with a loan repayment program. Up to $50,000 in loans may be forgiven in exchange for a two-year commitment at an approved site.
• NURSE Corps Scholarship Program: This federal scholarship program aims to place healthcare providers in Health Professional Shortage Areas. If you accept a scholarship, you are required to fulfill a two-year agreement.
• BestNursingDegree.com scholarships: Our scholarship program helps nursing students with individual scholarships of $2500 each.
• California Association for Nurse Practitioners: Joining this association as a student member may allow you to apply for their student scholarships.
Licensing and Practice Requirements for NPs in California
California nurses are supervised by the California Board of Registered Nursing. They expect nurse practitioner applicants to have advanced skills in physical diagnosis, management of health needs, psychosocial assessment, and management of illness needs.
To apply for a license, you must supply proof of your graduate education and maintain an active registered nursing license.
Currently, California has strict restrictions in place for nurse practitioners (AANP, 2016). These restrictions allow nurse practitioners to perform physical exams but require them to follow a physician's guidelines for medication prescription, medical test ordering, and management of patient care.
This is an ongoing effort in the nurse advocacy community of California, so you may see restrictions change in coming years (California Healthline, 2016).
Nurse Practitioner Careers in California
To work as a nurse practitioner, you must have an ongoing collaborative agreement with a licensed physician. For most nurse practitioners, this means working at a clinic or hospital, as the costs associated with hiring a doctor at a nurse-owned clinic can be prohibitive.
Working in a clinic may allow you a more consistent schedule, while hospital work often involves nights, weekends, and holidays. You may find that your choice of specialty lends itself to one work setting more than the other.
Becoming a nurse practitioner may boost your income potential. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that California nurse practitioners earn an average of $120,930 annually (2016). In the decade spanning 2012 to 2022, job openings for nurse practitioners are expected to increase 28% in California (O*Net, 2016).
When it comes to nurse practitioner programs, CA schools provide diverse specialty options, clinical experiences, and learning opportunities.
If you are passionate about the field of nursing and you are ready to work more closely with your patients, get started now by contacting California nursing schools.