Nurse Practitioner School in Alaska - AK
A career as a nurse practitioner (NP) in Alaska is an ideal career for the type of individualist who might be drawn to live in such an unusual and challenging environment. Like doctors, NPs are often first contact care providers and are free to open their own office, accept Medicaid/Medicare and qualify for programs that help pay their tuition or loans if they find work in federally designated under served areas called Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs), of which there are 82 identified in Alaska.
Interestingly, perhaps reflecting a spirit of initiative and self reliance, Alaska has a much greater number of NPs per capita than the United States in general — 93 for every 100,000 people compared to 51 for every 100,000, according to the Pearson Report, a respected annual, state-by-state overview of NP legislation, statistics, trends and current issues. Alaska also has one of the highest NP-to-MD ratios in the country, with nearly one NP for every physician. There are now almost 158,000 NPs in the United States, representing a 107% increase from 10 years ago. Approximately 650 of these are based in Alaska.
While in essence NPs are generalists who take a holistic approach to wellness, NPs have a wide variety of choices in how they wish to practice, specializing by population (i.e. pediatrics, geriatrics) and/or by medical field (i.e. dermatology, cardiology). Earning a degree in nursing can lead to increased responsibility and income without the heavy investment of time and money that is involved with becoming a doctor, which can be appealing. Nurse practitioners with a master's degree can further their knowledge by earning post-master's education, up to a Doctor of Nursing Practice.
There are very limited opportunities for master's level nurse practitioner education in Alaska from accredited institutions. For that reason, it is common for the Alaska resident to turn to distance learning as a sensible option to fulfill their educational goals. It is important that the NP graduate from an accredited program to ensure the Alaska Board of Nursing accepts their educational experience. Accreditation also allows for transfer of credits should a change of schools be necessary.
Applications for Advanced Nurse Practitioners (ANPs) in Alaska require a fee, a transcript sent from the school where studies were completed, copy of certificate specifying NP role and population focus from a national certifying body, a description of expected clinical practice, a consultation and referral plan to manage cases that are beyond the scope of an NP and a plan for quality assurance. Three references who are familiar with the applicant's clinical work and one who can verify his or her own competency as an ANP within the two years of the application. There are additional requirements for mental health NPs. Licenses are good for two years and expire in even numbered years. Temporary licenses are available for an additional fee to those who are licensed in another state or are awaiting their certification exam. Alaska law also requires a business license for all professional license holders, including NPs, who are not considered employees.
The Alaska Board of Nursing recognizes the following population focuses for nurse practitioners: Acute Care/Emergency, Adult Health, Nurse Midwife, Women’s Health/OB-GYN, Family Health, Pediatric, Neonatal, Gerontological, Adult Psychiatric/Mental Health and Family Psychiatric/Mental Health. Alaska requires certification from any of 8 different agencies. Some certifications are specific to the subspecialty such as for midwives while others offer wider choices. The largest credentialing agencies for NPs is the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP). For the ANCC, this involves paying a $240 fee and taking a computer based exam. To maintain certification every 5 years NPs must retest or meet clinical practice and continuing education standards.