Psychiatric NP Direct Entry vs. Graduating late

  1. Hello all! I will be a sophomore in college this year. I entered college 2.25 years ahead from a dual-enrollment program in HS. I am interested in becoming a PMHNP. If I decide to become a PMHNP, I have two main routes to choose from. I am wondering about the pros and cons of both options:

    (1) Take the prereqs for my univ's nursing school next semester and apply for the nursing major. The nursing school only grants fall entry, so since I am done with all my other liberal education requirements, I would then take spring and summer semester off from school. Afterward, I would enter the nursing program and take 3 years to graduate. So basically, it would take me 4 more years to graduate from undergrad. I am in-state and tuition is about 7k a semester so financially it isn't that bad. Now, at that point, since my goal is to become a PMHNP and I don't really care to be an RN (I mean, I wouldn't mind it, but rather would skip to being a PMHNP), I would want to go directly into NP grad school. This can be done, right? It seems like some of the top schools require RN experience, but I don't really understand whether or not there is benefit in going to a top NP school. Also, I am confused as to how long NP school takes and whether or not people typically work as RNs during it. Can anyone comment on this? For example, I have seen some MSN programs that take 3 years, some that take 2, and one that takes 12 months. How and why is there so much variation? Is it actually feasible for me to go to a 12-month PMHNP grad program upon graduating with a BSN and with no RN experience? If so, this plan would take a little over 5 years. If that's not feasible, I might have to tack on an additional year or 2 or 3.

    (2) The second option is to finish my psychology BA while taking the prereqs for direct-entry nursing programs. This would take me 1.5 more semesters, so I would be done in Dec 2013. Then, I would either enter a direct-entry NP program in Spring 2014 or Fall 2014. This route would ensure that I could be done with school basically 5 years from now, and it's a nice feeling to know for certain that I'll be done within a reasonable timeframe. It would also be nice to be able to move in a couple of years. The downsides: First, DE NP programs are quite expensive. The semesterly tuition is at least double that of my current institution, meaning I would probably spend more money on school by taking this route. Second, I'm a little bit nervous about entering a DE NP program at the age of 20 or 21. Aren't these programs usually filled with people 25+? Would I seem extremely juvenile and out of place? Third, many of the best programs require you to already have finished your undergrad degree by the time of application. I'd be done by the time of entry, but not by the time of application. This would limit my options -- but does the name of the NP program really matter? I.e., is UCSF really better than Seattle U, for example? All in all, this plan could not take more than 5 years.

    Sorry that was so long, but if anyone has any comments, I would LOOOVE to hear them. It's well past fall registration and I'm still figuring out my plans. Thanks so much!
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    Joined: Jul '12; Posts: 248; Likes: 121


  3. by   delawaremalenurse
    You have to be an RN to become a Nurse Practitioner. If you don't won't to go the nursing route then you should consider becoming a Physician's Assistant.

    Two different practice philosophies so be sure to research the options.
  4. by   myelin
    It's true, DE programs are expensive. You can either do things quickly or cheaply, but not both, hehe. While you might want to go slower to save on the money, do remember to factor in opportunity costs (ie: the couple of years of lost salary for not graduating as a NP sooner). Honestly, you've just got to decide which matters more to you. Do you currently have any debt?

    Your age might be a factor. In my program most are in their late 20s/early 30s (at 24-25 I'm one of the young ones). However, it isn't your age so much as a lack of experience that might trip you up. Do you have significant experience working in mental health? Either in research or clinical work? If so, I wouldn't worry about it and just apply anyway.

    It's funny how you compare Seattle U and UCSF. I chose to attend UCSF over Seattle U (and several other schools). In the end, I do believe it will be worth it to have graduated from the top program for my specialty, especially as this field becomes more and more competitive. Good luck!
    Last edit by myelin on Jul 22, '12
  5. by   priorities2
    Thanks for the advice, myelin! There is one 2+2 undergrad school in my state for which I could complete the prereqs next yr and then apply and graduate on time. If that doesn't work out, I'll probably go for the DE programs. Hope your program is going great!!