Pros and Cons of Accelerated Nurse Practitioner Programs

Recently, a ThriveAP reader posted a question on the message board inquiring about my experience in a nurse practitioner bridge program. She noted that, while I have several articles on the topic of programs for students without a background in healthcare, I hadn’t shared much about my personal experience. Guilty as charged. So, today I’ve decided to pull together my thoughts on the advantages and disadvantages of accelerated programs for NPs, based on my own experiences.

In case you missed the more detailed background about how I ended up in an accelerated NP program, you can read more about it here. As an accelerated, or ‘bridge’ nurse practitioner, student, my experience in school was much different than that of my colleagues who attended traditional nurse practitioner programs. I did not have a background in healthcare, and was not a nurse when I entered the program. This unique experience has its own set of ups and downs, highs and lows. Here are the pros and cons of accelerated nurse practitioner programs based on my experience:


1. Expedited Education 

I attended Vanderbilt University’s accelerated NP program. And, as a result, I became a nurse practitioner quickly. Very quickly. In just two short (but sometimes seemingly endless…) years, I added RN and MSN degrees to my bachelor’s degree. Without the school’s expedited format for bridge students, my journey to becoming a nurse practitioner would have been significantly longer.

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2. Community

Accelerated NP programs are almost exclusively on campus. Some schools offer a partially online curriculum, but overall, as an accelerated student, you can plan to be face to face with your classmates. While online courses offer flexibility, campus based courses lead to camaraderie. I made lifelong friends during my nurse practitioner program. Nothing brings people together like taking the NCLEX, and the NP boards within a single calendar year of each other. From study sessions to letting loose on Saturday nights, I have a wealth of memories to look back on from my time as an accelerated nurse practitioner student.

3. Prestige 

It’s certainly not necessary to attend a highly regarded institution for your nurse practitioner education. But, it never hurts. Most schools offering fast-track programs for second degree students are more well known, and often prestigious, universities. Having a name like Yale, Columbia, Vanderbilt, or the University of San Diego on your resume can boost your future career cred.


1. RN Year Exasperation 

I entered my NP program with the intent, of, well, working as a nurse practitioner. On the fast track to an NP degree, I was set on diagnosing and treating patients. I wanted to be the one writing the orders, not the one carrying them out. Setting my sights on the end result of my education made the RN year of my program difficult. Yes, it was necessary to get a nursing foundation upon which to build my NP skill set. Enduring the RN year of the program, particularly clinicals, however, was frustrating. I knew I would not be working in the hospital, and found myself constantly itching to focus on curriculum that related more directly to my career goal.

2. Cost

Accelerated NP programs are pricey. Aspiring nurse practitioners have a number of other, more affordable paths to the NP career. As you look at financing your education, however, don’t forget to take into account that with an accelerated program you will be able to begin your career more quickly, your salary offsetting some of this increased cost.

3. Post-Grad Learning Curve 

Many nurse practitioners have an extensive nursing background and knowledge to fall back on. As an accelerated NP program grad, however, I began working as an NP without any nursing experience outside of my program. This made to post-graduate learning curve steep. While all nurse practitioner new grads have a lot of learning to do on the job, this challenge is particularly formidable for those NPs who graduate at an expedited pace. Be prepared to ask a lot of questions, and face a few hurdles in your first job if you graduate from an accelerated program. Finding a job in a supportive learning environment helps.

4. Job Search Setbacks

Finding a job as a nurse practitioner without nursing experience can be difficult. Employers in locations without such programs may not be familiar with them, and lack confidence in the ability of graduates. Finding a supportive work environment is essential for graduates of accelerated NP programs given the steep learning curve which can make landing that first job even more difficult. Obtaining your first NP position as an new grad nurse practitioner can be an initial challenge, but it is a surmountable obstacle.

Overall, I wouldn’t change a thing about the path I took to becoming a nurse practitioner. The speed of my education allowed me to enter practice quickly. The challenge of continued learning as a new graduate was overwhelming at times, but also motivating. The relationships I made in my NP program have stuck with me and become an irreplaceable asset to both my personal and professional lives. If you are interested in becoming a nurse practitioner, but don’t have a background in healthcare, accelerated programs are certainly worth considering.

What have you found to be the pros and cons of attending an accelerated nurse practitioner program?


You Might Also Like: 5 Pieces of Advice for Being a Competitive Accelerated NP Program Applicant 


6 thoughts on “Pros and Cons of Accelerated Nurse Practitioner Programs”

  1. I’m interested in real-life stories about problems second-degree nursing students experienced, e.g., bad fit with medical culture after business career, being treated like an 18-year-old student, too much theory/not enough skill building.

  2. @ Sharon- I did a second degree program for nursing (and once again as an NP), as I had a BA in Political Science, then did my BSN. After working for a few years, I went into public health program mgmt and just recently returned to clinical care. I would say that my non-traditional background has only been a benefit to me and my classmates who did the same! I had classmates in my second degree program who were finance executives, tax accountants, chiropractors, social workers, etc. I’ve been able to bring skills and experience from different fields (as well as great writing, management, and organizational skills).

    Sure, it can sometimes be frustrating when compared to my peers who are a decade younger and have no other professional experience other than nursing.

  3. Nikki Williams

    I think accelarated programs are a disservice to the profession for the exact reason you mentioned. The focus on the end game. Not taking nursing foundation seriously because you’re going to be a provider. This I believe has lead to saturation of the market and gives credence as to why NPs are receiving so much opposition from physicians regarding our skills and place in medicine.

    1. I completely agree. The foundation of being a successful nurse practitioner is a history in nursing. An NP is building upon his/her medical training and bedside experience as an RN. These accelerated programs unfortunately lose that sense of having bedside experience. It does the patients a disservice and the profession itself. Doctors still have issues with NPs due to their perceived lack of knowledge in comparison to that of a doctor. When you have an NP who hasn’t formed the clinical judgement/critical thinking of a nurse, it may hinder their practice. Granted, that’s my opinion. Kudos to your and reaching your end goal.

  4. The various service levels in healthcare – especially those roles that require direct interaction with, supervision of and/or liability and responsibility for the levels below – significantly benefit from experience at preceding levels. A registered nurse who once held the role of a nursing assistant will likely possess greater knowledge, appreciation and respect for the work of nursing assistants having him/herself been in that position. This greater understanding and appreciation from level to level is more likely to lead to greater cooperation between providers and, ultimately, better patient outcomes. However, it is not the only route to developing an understanding an appreciation for the work that is done – nor the only route in which one can learn, develop and grow the job related skills and abilities needed to perform at a more advanced clinical level. Quality educational programs with intensive and comprehensive education and training can offer an individual the tools needed to be an effective healthcare provider. Additionally, lateral skills and abilities as well as personal experiences and individual traits can also cause an individual to be more or less effective in a more advanced clinical role. Overall, I believe the greatest challenge is in having consensus in standards between competing educational programs.

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