Patients always seem to ask me something along the lines of “How much longer until you’re a doctor?”, obviously misunderstanding my role as an NP. My reply is a standard “Never, there’s not really a direct path to becoming an MD from being a nurse practitioner”. This is what I am going to be forever.
Yesterday I was doing some research for this month’s featured NP program when an add popped up on my browser. It caught my eye. “NP to MD program” it read. I decided to do some further investigation and discovered there is actually a way to become a full-fledged physician through an accelerated path specifically for NP’s.
While I am perfectly happy in my in-between state, not a doctor but able to do more than a nurse, I can understand how some NP’s might want to further their education. Yeah, there is the DNP but this extra schooling doesn’t change your job description or your pay. Until now, I have mistakenly thought that the NP to MD path did not exist. I assumed you had to start back at square one with a four year medical school program should you desire to become a physician.
According to my research, two universities offer NP to MD paths. The University of Science, Arts and Technology Monserrat offers a Graduate Entry Program for Medicine geared towards nurse practitioners and physician assistants looking to become MD’s. The more reputable appearing Oceania University of Medicine in Samoa also offers an NP to MD program.
Although the Oceania University of Medicine is out of the country, programs seek to make the NP to MD experience convenient for students. Most didactic courses are offered online and can be completed from the comfort of the student’s own home. Occasional on-campus sessions can be completed in Samoa (excuse for a vacay?!) or at a U.S. campus in Philadelphia (not so much of a vacay). Clinical courses are offered in Samoa or at select teaching hospitals throughout the U.S. Part-time students typically complete the MD program in five to six years and are able to continue working throughout the program. The Oceania University of Medicine website does warn that you should plan to devote at least 40 hours each week to your medical studies even if you are working.
While an online NP to MD program may sound like the perfect solution to advancing your career, these programs have some major pitfalls you must consider. First, they are internationally based. This means you must become certified through the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) before becoming eligible to practice as a physician in the United States. International graduates comprise one-fourth of the U.S. physician workforce so this shouldn’t be a major hurdle, but look into it before applying.
Secondly, just because you graduate with an MD from an NP to MD program doesn’t mean you can go out and get a job as a physician immediately. You must first complete a medical residency. Acceptance into residencies is extremely competitive for many specialties. If you hope to practice dermatology, radiology or anesthesiology to name a few, you will not be as competitive of a residency candidate graduating from a foreign NP to MD program.
Ultimately, getting an MD degree is going to be a lot of work and take a lot of time. While internationally based, primarily online programs offer increased flexibility and a slightly speedier path to becoming a physician, they do come with some major drawbacks. If you are a nurse practitioner and are considering becoming a physician you should also look into traditional U.S. based medical schools weighing which option is best for your personal needs.
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