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What are the Prerequisites for Nurse Practitioner School?


Written By: Jennifer Schlette MSN, RN

The time has come, and you have decided that you are going to advance your nursing career and pursue the advanced practice nursing degree of Nurse Practitioner. I know you want to dive right into your coursework, but hold on a second, have you completed your prerequisites? I am sure you are sitting there thinking, what are the prerequisites for nurse practitioner school? I thought I just applied and that was it! Rest assured, I am going to give you the info you need to get those prerequisites for nurse practitioner school completed so you can go out and earn that advanced practice nursing degree.


Why are Prerequisites for Nurse Practitioner School Important?


Nurse practitioner prerequisite courses are courses that you most likely have taken in either your pre-nursing or undergraduate nursing level career. The courses that are considered your prerequisite courses are classes that are viewed as the foundation for your graduate coursework. Think of them as building blocks to the more advanced courses. Graduate nursing programs want to see that you have successfully passed these undergraduate courses with usually a B or better in order for them to be accepted. The reason for this is because graduate programs feel that if you can successfully complete your prerequisite course with this high standard, you will excel in nurse practitioner school.


List of Prerequisites Required for Entry into a Nurse Practitioner Program

The Following is a List of Prerequisites Normally Required for Entry into a Nurse Practitioner Program.

1. Statistics: Some universities will require that you have successfully completed a statistics course before beginning your graduate coursework. A statistic course will enable you to view and understand data. This is important because statistics are a large component of evidence-based practice, which drives a nurse practitioner's critical thinking and treatment plans for his or her patients.

2. Anatomy and Physiology I: Anatomy and Physiology I is an entry-level course that examines the human body through a systems approach. In this nurse practitioner prerequisite course, you will be studying the body's physical structure and each system's physiological component. A lab section generally accompanies this course.

3. Anatomy and Physiology II: Anatomy and Physiology II is a course that builds upon its predecessor, Anatomy and Physiology I. In this course, you will be diving deeper into examining the body systems and incorporating knowledge that you have learned from other science courses. This nurse practitioner prerequisite course will examine homeostasis in the body and the consequences if it is not achieved. This course will also have a lab component.

(A deep understanding of the human body is imperative for nurse practitioners; therefore, Anatomy and Physiology I &II are so important. This knowledge base is the foundation of everything the NP does in his or her career.)

4. Microbiology: Microbiology is another core component that makes up the nurse practitioner’s knowledge base. This prerequisite course will show the relationship between microorganisms and the human body and how these microorganisms can affect the body. This is an important prerequisite course because microorganisms can cause many diseases, and this is what you will be learning to treat once you have entered nurse practitioner school.

5. Chemistry: Nurse practitioners need to have a foundation in chemistry because chemistry will help students understand the relationship between molecules and the human body. This is important because Chemistry plays a role in nutrition, pharmacology and anatomy & physiology. Chemistry will also give you an understanding of key principles that are needed regarding medication administration. This course will be a building block to the advanced pharmacology course which you will be taking in nurse practitioner school. The important concepts learned in chemistry will enable you as the nurse practitioner to make decisions about patient care safely.

6. Nutrition: A nutrition course may be required as a prerequisite in nurse practitioner school because, hey, you know that saying, “you are what you eat.” Many types of disease processes can be affected by your nutrition, such as heart disease, renal disease, and liver disease, to name a few. A nutrition course will help nurse practitioners understand the relationship between diet and disease process, and diet and pharmacology.

7. Psychology: A psychology course is an important tool for nurse practitioners to have. A psychology prerequisite course will help nurse practitioners communicate with people based on many factors, such as gender and age, to name a few. It will also help the nurse practitioner communicate with people who are ill or in distress. You will learn techniques in a prerequisite psychology course to help develop a trusting relationship between you and your patients.

8. English Composition: An English composition course is designed to ensure that students are writing at an appropriate academic level. In this course, students will learn about writing, editing, citations, and plagiarism. So, you must be thinking, why do I need this as a nurse practitioner? I am not going to school to be a writer. Well, it is actually a beneficial prerequisite course. Let me tell you why, as a Nurse practitioner, you will be doing a lot of writing. This writing not only takes place in actual nurse practitioner school through your coursework, but it will also take place in writing progress notes and discharge summaries for your patients. These need to be professionally written because they will become legal documents. That is extremely important.


Conclusion


Although at first glance, seeing that you must have all these prerequisites can be frustrating. Now that I have shown you that these prerequisites for nurse practitioner school have a purpose that supports your foundation and success in a graduate program, I am sure some of that frustration is melting away. If you have taken these prerequisites in your undergraduate coursework and you did well in them, you are good to go! If you need to repeat any course or take them for the first time, remember to inquire with the institution you plan to complete your NP program with to ensure which universities they will accept credits from before signing up for the course. These prerequisites are not to make your life difficult; they are to ensure your success in nurse practitioner school and success in your career.


Frequently Asked Questions Answered by Our Expert


What is the Difference in Prerequisites Between an MSN-NP and a DNP-NP Program?


The difference between the prerequisites required for the MSN-NP program and the DNP-NP program lies within the course's academic level. The masters level course will require that you have bachelor level prerequisites, and the Doctoral program will require that your prerequisite courses are at the master’s level. If your MSN-NP degree did not require entry statistics, you would have to take a course because normally all DNP-NP degrees require it. This requirement is critical because, in order to complete your dissertation, you will need to run statistics for your research.

Do the Prerequisites Differ for Each Nurse Practitioner School?


Yes, your prerequisites can vary a bit from school to school. Most NP schools will mandate the sciences such as anatomy and physiology I &II, microbiology, and chemistry. A course such as statistics, English composition, and nutrition are the courses you may not see at every institution.


Jennifer Schlette MSN, RN
Jennifer Schlette is a registered nurse in pediatric critical care in New York City. She is the former Director of Undergraduate Nursing at a college located in New York. After obtaining her BSN from the College of Mount Saint Vincent, she went on to complete her MSN.