Ask Erin: "Can you tell me more about NP bridge programs?"

I receive a lot of questions in my inbox regarding nurse practitioner bridge, or MEPN, programs from MidlevelU readers. These NP programs allow students with a bachelor's degree in a field other than nursing to enter the nurse practitioner profession at an accelerated pace conferring both RN and MSN degrees. So, to kick off the new 'Ask Erin' column, I will start by responding to a reader question regarding nurse practitioner bridge programs. 

Here's the email from Leigh that arrived in my inbox earlier this week:

Hello,

I just read an article that you posted online about a bridge program to become a Nurse Practitioner. I am a Speech Language Pathologist. I have been doing this for 16 years and it is just not the same anymore. The affordable health care has actually affected us private practice SLP's. I was wondering if you can you tell me about NP bridge programs? Do any of my credits from previous education transfer over? I have a BA and a MS in Speech-Language and Hearing Science.
 
I have recently relocated and have not even a clue how to find such a program or what to look for. I just know that running between two states to work in my SLP practice is getting old and I am ready to try something new if at all possible. Do you know of any colleges with nurse practitioner bridge programs in Ohio? Are these programs difficult? Can you work and complete these programs or do you have to focus only on school?
 
Leigh
 
First of all, Leigh, thanks for reaching out! With so many options for beginning the nurse practitioner educational path it can be difficult to find this information. Personally, I became a nurse practitioner by completing a nurse practitioner bridge program and am happy to share my insights into these questions. Here it goes!
 
Can you tell me about bridge programs?
 
MEPN programs, also known as accelerated NP programs, bridge programs and direct entry MSN programs, allow students with a bachelor's degree in a field other than nursing to become nurse practitioners in just two to three years. The first year of the program confers an RN degree while the second year covers master's level nursing material. Many schools offer multiple MEPN specialty options allowing students to become family nurse practitioners, acute care nurse practitioners, women's health nurse practitioners and more.  Upon completion of an MEPN program, students are prepared to take the national nurse practitioner certification exam and practice as nurse practitioners.
 
These programs are a great option for students looking to transition from another career field into nursing as they are relatively quick to complete. However, bridge programs can be quite expensive. 
 
Will any of credits from my previous education transfer over?
 
Transfer of prior credits towards a nursing or nurse practitioner degree is an institution-specific decision. Typically, credits that were obtained more than five years or so prior to admission cannot be transferred. So, courses you completed in a Speech Pathology program many years ago, for example, will likely not transfer. But, it's always worth asking! If your credits won't transfer, completing prerequisite courses at a local community college is often a cost effective option. 
 
Do you know of any colleges with nurse practitioner bridge programs in Ohio?
 
Unfortunately, there are very few nurse practitioner bridge programs in the country. And, these programs are not typically offered online (some may be partially online). The Ohio State University does offer an accelerated NP program. Here is a link to a blog post listing other schools offering nurse practitioner bridge programs as well as their estimated cost. 
 
Are nurse practitioner bridge programs difficult?
 
The difficulty of the bridge program depends on your background and abilities as a student. Based on my experience, I would say the difficulty of the NP bridge program I attended was based more on the time involved in completion of the program and the workload rather than the course content itself. Because bridge programs lead to a nurse practitioner degree in an accelerated manner, it can be difficult to make time to attend class, complete assignments, study for exams, and complete required clinical hours. Some semesters were particularly heavy on clinical time leaving me essentially working a near full-time job in a clinic in addition to attending class and writing papers etc. 
 
Can you work and complete an NP bridge program or do you have to focus only on school?
 
I would not recommend working while you complete a nurse practitioner bridge program unless you are enrolled in the program on a part-time basis (many schools do not offer bridge programs on a part-time basis). Some schools may even expressly prohibit students from working during these programs. Clinical requirements will leave you with little time for employment during the week. If you do work, it would need to be on a very part-time or PRN basis. Admissions staff and program directors at your schools of interest can give you a better idea as to the workflow of the specific program so you can plan accordingly. 
 
Have a question for the 'Ask Erin' column? Drop me a line at erin.tolbert@midlevelu.com or log in to MyMidlevelU and post a comment on the MidlevelU message boards!
 
 

Comments

I also live in Ohio, and there are a couple of other schools that offer direct entry programs - Case Western Reserve University (MSN), and University of Cincinnati, which offers a dual BSN/MSN direct entry program.

Brianna Cassidy

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