I attended a traditional bricks and mortar university for my nurse practitioner program. Although my degree was not technically an online product, a few of my courses were offered virtually. To avoid traffic, feeding the parking meter, and the time associated with my morning commute to campus, I took full advantage of such classes. I watched pharmacology lectures online, taking notes between bites of breakfast cereal. The convenience of online education was not lost on me.
Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with a group of employers about their nurse practitioner staffing philosophies. A few employers expressed dissatisfaction with NP hires who were graduates of online degree programs. The main drawback from employers’ perspectives? Insufficient hands-on clinical experience.
These employers noted that, while online nurse practitioner programs require clinical preceptorships for NP students, the quality of these preceptorships seems to be lower than that of nurse practitioner grads from more traditional schools. Distance learning programs typically require NPs to identify their own clinical preceptors, not an easy task. A lack of available preceptors, guidance, and vetting of sites, leaves online degree NPs more likely to have sub-par clinical experience.
To nurse practitioners, it’s obvious that this employer perspective is somewhat flawed. Many bricks and mortar programs require NP students to identify their own clinical preceptors, a practice no different than most online programs. Lack of preceptors places limitations on not only online students, but traditional students as well.
Employer’s view of online degree programs has become increasingly more favorable as these programs increase in popularity. Still, in considering your nurse practitioner education path, the stigma some companies place on online grads is worth noting. If you are considering an online nurse practitioner degree, the following criteria will help you select a school whose reputation keeps you from being grouped into the ‘online degree’ job applicant pool:
- Choose a school with both traditional and online students. Selecting a school whose reputation isn’t affiliated with exclusively online education increases credibility of the institution in the eyes of employers.
- Check your school’s accreditation status. Attending an unaccredited nurse practitioner program can cause major problems for your future career (check out this accreditation nightmare). You may be ineligible for certification and/or employment by graduating from an unaccredited institution.
- Identify clinical sites in advance. It’s never too early to start lining up preceptors. The more time and energy you put into your clinical experience, the more likely you are to have the well-rounded, hands-on clinical experience necessary for workplace success.
- Do background research. Some companies are more traditional, while others have more innovative, modern attitudes. Companies known for being younger and/or more progressive are more likely to embrace online nurse practitioner grads.
Attending an online nurse practitioner program is the only way to go for many students. The flexibility a virtual education allows future NPs to maintain employment and balance other responsibilities throughout their education. If you are considering an online NP degree, plan your approach carefully to maximize your options for post-graduation employment.
Does your employer look down on online nurse practitioner education?