Disclaimer: I am not saying online programs are inferior to brick and mortar programs. The point of this article is to enlighten everyone about the reality of this situation.
Online diploma mills are an extreme disservice to our profession. Every nurse practitioner is aware of this issue. If you are not, you must have graduated from one or have been on Mars. These schools accept anyone and pump out massive amounts of new graduate nurse practitioners. This trend is destroying the job market and staining our credibility.
These online diploma mills really started gaining traction in the late 2000’s. I remember when I was applying for my MSN in 2010 and there were far fewer online programs compared to today. At that time, most of them were through legitimate state ran universities, not for-profit entities. I remember talking with physician colleagues as a registered nurse and many of them thought the idea was hilarious. During this same time, I also talked with human resource departments and many of them said they don’t find these graduates to be very well prepared and don’t even consider them for interviews. THIS WAS IN 2010!
Just by hearing a few negative remarks, I decided on going to a brick and mortar school. Did I find this education to be more superior to that of an online program? Probably not, but I know that I was able to interact with the professors and other students face to face. I also know that because of these real-life connections, I was able to obtain better clinical rotations and it helped me land a job when I graduated. Regardless, would I still be the same nurse practitioner I am today if I had gone to an online program? Probably… You get what you put into it with nurse practitioner schools. In reality, this is true with most things in life. In my opinion, the debate is mute because of this. There are plenty of successful nurse practitioners who have gone to online programs.
Nevertheless, perception is reality. Physician groups and other entities that do not like the nurse practitioner movement are using the fact that nurse practitioners can obtain a degree online against us. Will this actually affect legislative proceedings? Who knows, but it is still a negative perception. If the general public knew about online degree programs, would it change their perception on nurse practitioner care? Again, who knows. These are important questions moving forward.
The main issue is the lack of oversight in these programs. Students can cheat on tests and lie about their clinical hours. These two things are what make a good nurse practitioner good: putting the hours and the hard work into their education. Students now can pay for a license to prescribe medications and diagnose conditions for heaven’s sake! Are all students cheating? No, but a lot are. I guarantee it.
Another big issue is clinical preceptorship. There is no system in place for these online schools to screen the preceptor. Students could be receiving horrible clinical education from an unqualified nurse practitioner.
Not only that, but the admission standards for these programs are laughable. You essentially just need to be an RN and willing to pay. Many programs don’t even require the GRE!
Do you realize what this is doing? Get your head out of the sand! Our market is becoming saturated with ill prepared individuals in many areas of the country. If you live in a fruitful area, find yourself fortunate but you need to prepare yourself, because every market will become saturated eventually. These schools are pumping out 20,000+ graduates a year according to the AANP. I want you to think about that for a second… 20,000… That is an epic crap load of nurse practitioners entering the market every year.
Who is to blame? Academia. Especially for-profit entities. All they care about is tuition dollars to inflate their salaries and to justify their jobs. It should be criminal in my opinion. There are no standards among nurse practitioner programs. The AANP and ANCC should step in… HAH! Yea right, the more graduates mean more people taking their tests which means more profit for them. This is how the world works.
So, who is going to stop this? Who can change what is going on? I will tell you right now that national nursing organizations aren’t going to do it. They would have by now. Only state boards could at this point. If anything, a physician lobbying group will. This will be detrimental too many of the competent nurse practitioners out there who practice independently.
The more important question is, WHAT CAN YOU PERSONALLY DO ABOUT IT? You need to focus on your own well being in this situation. Your family, friends, and way of life are more important than wasting your time trying to change things. There is too much money to be lost… It is like a goldfish trying to stop a cruise ship. Good luck.
Instead, change your own personal circumstances. Think really hard and ask yourself:
“What would I do if my market became so saturated that I became disposable and my salary decreased?”
This is a fact for many nurse practitioners in many areas of the country. If you are in a saturated market and have a good job, you need to consider what you would do if you lost that job? If you apply for another job, you are competing against HUNDREDS of other nurse practitioners. The same goes with those in good markets, if you lose your job and the market becomes saturated, your life is going to be harder. I have known nurse practitioners whose contract was not renewed because administration caught wind of the market saturation and decided to go with other CHEAPER applicants.
You better have a plan.
The only course of action I have found is to become self-sufficient. You do this by starting your own business. It doesn’t even need to be in medicine, just start a business! You need to become financially redundant. You need to have multiple income streams that back each other up. Relying on just your job to sustain your life is asinine in today’s unpredictable economy. You are in control of your own success.
As a nurse practitioner, you should utilize your license and open a practice. It would be dumb not to! But also consider other things like real estate investing. Try to create 2-3 side gigs. If you do this and your local market becomes saturated, you won’t be sweating bullets. I promise.
Consider the principles of the Elite NP Model. It is designed to help the astute nurse practitioner build a secure life. You need to think of the short to mid-term future friends. These diploma mills will continue to pump graduate after graduate out. There are only so many jobs! Have a plan in place that will secure your future for the long term. Live below your means, try to start a side business, get out of debt, save your money, and prepare for what WILL happen. You and your family will be better for it.