Online RN to MSN Programs in Idaho
Northwest Nazarene University has stepped up to the plate and developed an online RN to MSN pathway. We give it full coverage in our school listings, but here’s a short summary of the key points.
- Northwest Nazarene University: NNU’s online program is cohort-based—students work in an interactive learning environment and get to know their group. The RN to MSN in Leadership & Education is 100% online, with 5-week classes and internship experiences that take place in a variety of settings. The RN to MSN FNP is more of a hybrid affair—online classes are 5-15 weeks long and there are 4 one-week residencies with labs that are held in Nampa. NNU is part of NC-SARA, but out-of-state residents should check NNU’s page on State Authorization before applying. FNP students will also need to make sure NNU’s program meets their state licensure requirements.
If you’d like more choice, have a look at our page on Online RN to MSN Programs. It contains a full listing of distance learning programs in every state.
Idaho’s Healthcare Landscape
Idaho faces a number of healthcare challenges that are tied to its rugged and rural character. For example:
- People need care. In America’s Health Rankings, Idaho is often cited as having a high percentage of uninsured residents and a lower than average rate of primary care physicians and mental healthcare providers. In the 2018 U.S. Rural Health Report Card, the state received an “F” for its uninsured rate.
- Access is an issue. The Commonwealth Fund’s Scorecard on State Health System Performance also pings for Idaho for low rankings in Access & Affordability and Prevention & Treatment. There simply aren’t that many hospitals and major medical centers in the state.
- Mental health is a major cause of concern. Data from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics show high rates of suicide (e.g. top 5 in the nation) and firearm deaths. Suicide is frequently one of the bottom ranked indicators for Idaho in the Commonwealth Fund’s Scorecard.
Fortunately, in 2018, Idaho voters passed Proposition Two to expand Medicaid and provide coverage to individuals with an annual household income up to 138% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). Expansion may be messy, but it should go some way to improving insurance coverage. Premiums have been rising rapidly, which has led to drop-outs, so the state is also working with federal authorities on the possibility of lower-cost health insurance plans for younger and healthier residents.
Healthcare experts are also aware of the mental health crisis. Idaho has been in the process of opening behavioral health crisis centers in regional areas, including the Western Idaho Community Crisis Center in Caldwell and the Southeast Idaho Behavioral Crisis Center in Pocatello (both were opened in 2019). Even so, these centers can still be a long way from rural homes and they’re usually full to capacity.
Idaho Nursing Challenges & Opportunities
If you talk to RNs and APRNs in Idaho, they won’t be surprised by these issues. They may also tell you that Idaho needs to address a staffing shortage before it can really start to see progress. In its Nursing Workforce Biennial Report for 2018, the Idaho Alliance of Leaders in Nursing noted that 76% of Idaho hospitals had at least one vacant nursing job for the entire year and 83% of hospitals were expecting the problem to worsen.
Rural areas are feeling the brunt of it (check out the maps of HPSAs and Medically Underserved Areas). Almost half of Idaho’s RNs and Nurse Practitioners are based in the Boise area. In contrast, places like Pocatello may only have 8% of the state’s NPs. There aren’t enough primary care physicians in the state and the problem only gets worse outside of cities. Initiatives such as telehealth and digital delivery systems could help, but they will require funding and advocacy to get off the ground.
In short, aspiring Idaho APRNs should find plenty of places where they can make a real difference, especially in the realms of mental health, primary care, and healthcare access. FNPs who are willing to work or travel to rural areas could be particularly welcome. Nurse leaders & executives in hospitals may also find that they’re involved in nursing recruitment drives and technology-driven initiatives that address an expansion of care.
Jobs for Idaho RN to MSN Graduates
Career Outlook for RN to MSN Graduates
Happily, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) tracks job & wage data for Nurse Practitioners and Nursing Instructors & Teachers, Postsecondary on an annual basis. One look at the regional maps for Idaho will tell you a lot about the career territory for APRNs.
To start with the obvious (sorry, Idaho RNs!), Boise is the major hotspot for jobs and wages. After all, Boise is home to many schools (e.g. Boise State University, NNU, UI Boise, etc.) and two of the Best Hospitals in Idaho (St. Luke’s Regional Medical Center and St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center). Both have regional centers, pediatric units, and NICUs. However, St. Luke’s has a Level IV NICU and is also a Magnet Facility.
But you don’t have to limit your search to the “Big 2”:
- The Southeast-Central Idaho area manages to sustain 17% of the state’s NPs and a goodly portion of its nursing instructors. Potential employers include Idaho State University, Brigham Young University-Idaho, and the College of Eastern Idaho.
- Kootenai Health-Coeur d’Alene is a Magnet Facility and Portneuf Medical Center in Pocatello is ranked as one of the Best Hospitals in Idaho.
- IHA Member Hospitals are located throughout the state.
Interested in maintaining your independence? NPs have full practice authority in Idaho and are recognized as primary care providers. They’re also able to practice in other states, thanks to Idaho’s adoption of the Nurse Licensure Compact. See the Board of Nursing’s section on Licensing Information for full details.
Want to help improve rural healthcare? Idaho’s Bureau of Rural Health & Primary Care posts information on grants, loan repayment programs & scholarship resources. You may also want to attend the Idaho Critical Access Hospital (CAH) – Rural Health Clinic (RHC) – Free Medical Clinic (FMC) Annual Conference.
Career Resources for Future APRNs
Idaho Nursing Job Boards
- ANA-Idaho Career Center: Job listings for Idaho nurses, including APRNs, nurse leaders, and nurse educators
- NPI Career Center: Job listings for Idaho NPs
- NLI Career Center: Job listings for Idaho nurse leaders and executives
Idaho APRN Salary & Wage Data
- Annual Mean Wages for Idaho Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations: Categories can include “Nurse Practitioners,” “Nurse Midwives,” and “Nurse Anesthetists”
- Annual Mean Wages for Idaho Nursing Instructors & Teachers, Postsecondary
- AANP National Compensation Survey: Available to AANP members
Idaho Nursing Organizations
State Board of Nursing
Idaho Nursing Associations & Coalitions
- American Nurses Association – Idaho (ANA-Idaho)
- Idaho Hospital Association (IHA)
- Nurse Practitioners of Idaho (NPI)
Idaho Nursing Specialty Organizations
- Association of Women’s Health, Obstetrics and Neonatal Nurses – Idaho (AWHONN Idaho)
- Idaho Association of Nurse Anesthetists (IDANA)
- Idaho Emergency Nurses Association (Idaho ENA)
- Northwest PeriAnesthesia Nurses’ Association (NPANA)
- Nurse Leaders of Idaho (NLI) & Idaho Alliance of Leaders in Nursing
- School Nurse Association of Idaho (SNAI)
Nursing School Overview
NNU is a private Christian liberal arts university in Nampa with a well-established College of Nursing. The MSN is a relatively new program, but you'll often find it in the top 110 of U.S. News & World Report's rankings for Best Online Graduate Nursing Programs. According to those data, the MSN has a competitive acceptance rate (e.g. 54%) and good results. 85% of admitted students graduate in 2 years and the total completion rate is 95%. Average debt rates are also low. You probably won't have a lot of professors (e.g. 3 faculty), but they're likely to be savvy (e.g. average of 12 years teaching online courses) and qualified (e.g. 100% with a Ph.D. or terminal degree). We also recommend you ask for the most recent batch of pass rates for the FNP and CNE certification exams. Overall, NNU has a good reputation in the area - independent reviewers say the nursing program maintains a quality standard, professors are caring, and the campus is lovely. Just keep in mind that NNU emphasizes Christian values and teaches in a Christian setting.
RN to MSN Admissions & Curriculum
NNU offers two cohort-based, online RN to MSN programs, but they have different admissions requirements. FNP candidates must first apply to the RN to BSN program. They will need to have an associate degree in nursing, current RN licensure, a minimum 3.0 GPA on all nursing courses, a minimum grade of C in statistics & pathophysiology courses, and 1 year of previous clinical practice (2 years is preferred). The application should also include 3 letters of reference and a personal goal statement. Leadership & Education candidates should have an associate degree in nursing, a current RN license in the U.S., a cumulative GPA of 3.0 in previous academic work (NNU will consider 2.75-2.99 GPAs on a provisional basis), a minimum grade of C in nursing research & statistics courses, and be currently employed as an RN or have RN experience. Once FNP candidates have been accepted into the RN to BSN portion, they can choose to earn the complete BSN or they can fulfill certain prerequisites (e.g. psychology) and take 3 undergraduate bridge courses, including a lab (12 credits). This accelerated option omits the BSN, but students must obtain a minimum grade of B in bridge courses to proceed to the master's degree. The MSN portion of the FNP program is 48 credits, including 600 hours of clinical practicums. Most of the program is online, but there are 4 one-week campus residencies with labs. RN to MSN students in the Leadership & Education concentration tackle the same prerequisites and bridge courses as FNP candidates (e.g. 12 credits of 400-level nursing courses). But the MSN portion is 100% online and is only 36 credits. The entire RN to MSN Leadership & Education program can be completed in 3 years of full-time study (1 year for undergraduate study and 2 years for the MSN). Graduates are eligible to sit for the CNE exam.