NP to MD: Is There a Direct Path?

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.

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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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23 thoughts on “NP to MD: Is There a Direct Path?”

  1. Sophie O'Shaughnessy

    Thanks for this thoughtful article. I’ve mused about making this transition, but when you lay it out like this I realize I’m pretty darn content being every bit as useful as a doctor, and I never had to schlog through the virtual hell of med school and residency.

    It was a good plan after all..

  2. Oceania does not offer any accelerated courses. It is a 4 year MD degree whether you are an NP or not. No shortcuts

  3. Also note that some countries will not accept a graduate from an accelerated or online MD course. The DNP would likely be the best option for most NP candidates and I that us the path I will take, together with a phD. If I were younger I would consider medical school, and I know of one DO school offering a short cut into medicine for NPs and PAs, if you agree to work in an area of need within the state.

    1. Hello Sally thanks for your post. I noticed you mentioned DO schools offering short cut into medicine for NP. Can you please share with me? Thanks,

  4. To enter residency as a FMG you have to pass Foreign Medical Graduate Examination 2 days basic science and 2 days clinical medicine. Pass rate 10 to 15 percent! Good luck!!

  5. I would be interested in a bridge program from FNP to DO or MD just because I love learning and can not justify the DNP program because there is zero rate on investment. At least there are some benefits to becoming DO.

  6. Sophie your comment is puzzling. In what ways are you “every bit” as useful as someone with a much higher level of training? Your comment is spurious.

  7. Pamela M. Jones

    I am an FNP with a BS in Nursing from the University of Rochester (NY) and an MSN from Emory University (GA). I am also a graduate entry NP to MD student at USAT (final year). I implore you to do just a little more research on USAT as your statement regarding “the more reputable Oceana” is misleading and disheartening. Take the time to actually go to a systems based monthly intensive or talk to a student who attends. The majority of students attending have graduate degrees (NP, PA, DO, DC, Pharm D, IMG). Google Scholar the names of any of the professors and you will find out most, if not all have double or triple doctorates and have published numerous medical texts and/or articles. One is actually the fourth cousin to Albert Einstein (and just about as smart). Another is a Harvard graduate. You will find out that the mandatory didactic intensives are live seminars, the didactic electives are live “real time” webinars and the clinical cores and electives are live rotations. You will also find that students do actually pass the USMLE at a decent rate and get residencies at a pretty decent rate (google “USAT” and “medical residency”).

    1. I recently graduated with my BSN and am looking into MD vs DNP school. Do you still recommend the USAT program? Even though it is considered a bridge program I was confused because it appears to take just as long as regular med school… just cheaper.

      I would appropriate any insight you can offer. Thank you

  8. Max, an MD doesn’t have a “much higher level of training”… in fact a seasoned NP is way more competent then a Newbie resident.
    There’s only 2 years of school that separates them (2 years post grad for NP, 4 post grad for MD)
    Clinical experience depends on the individual.

  9. Hello Sallyanne. What is the name of the one D.O medical school that offers NP to MD program? I would be very interested in looking into this school. Thank you so much.

  10. I am an FNP, with an AGPCNP-BC with over six years experience. I also hold an Doctoral (DNP) and well seasoned in emergency medicine as well as a clinician. I am always proud of my achievements and generally ignore negative comments from both patients and physicians who downplay the DNP so I don’t use the title as many facilities delete it from my electronic signature. I’ve considered the D.O. however, it is not something that is readily available from what I was told. Good to know the embers on that haven’t died.

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