Introduction to NP Programs in Washington

Over the past few decades, the primary care gap has worsened all over the United States. Washington state has only one primary care provider per 10,000 residents of the state. Nurse practitioners (NP) are uniquely positioned to bridge this gap with versatile training, focus on preventative care, and by being a more cost-effective option in general. 

Becoming an NP and how NPs practice can vary drastically vary by state. This guide will help walk you through the process. 

8 Steps to Becoming an NP in Washington

  1. Earn your RN/BSN degree. This involves supervised clinical hours and didactic trainings. This can be either an associate or a bachelor’s degree and are offered at a variety of nursing schools in Washington. Find the best ranked nursing schools in Washington.
  2. Pass the NCLEX-RN exam. This exam serves as a certification test needed to apply for an RN license. 
  3. Obtain RN licensure. This license proves that you are qualified to practice a nurse in the state. It often involves proof of NCLEX passing score, background checks, proof of schooling, and possibly fingerprinting, and can take several weeks to process.
  4. Earn your MSN or DNP degree. This involves supervised clinical hours and didactic trainings. This can either be a masters or a doctorate degree and are offered at a variety of schools in Arizona. These can also be done in part time or full-time programs so that you may chose to continue to work as a nurse while finishing your degree. They also can be done both online and in person.
  5. Become board certified through testing similar to the NCLEX exam. This is another certification test and varies by which specialty you pursued in school. We’ll discuss this test further later in this article.
  6. Obtain NP licensure. This is similar to the RN license application process but can take even longer to complete. This is usually done through the state board of nursing or department of health in certain states. It also involves proof of certification, RN licensure, background checks, and proof of NP schooling.
  7. Obtain your NPI and DEA numbers. The NPI number is an identifying number that helps distinguish you from other providers. This number never changes and you do not need to renew it. The DEA number is needed if you are going to be prescribing any scheduled drugs. Both take a few weeks to process through the state department and have hefty fees with them, that your employer may help with.
  8. Maintain your licenses. This involves continuing education, practice hours, and applications with fees. We’ll discuss this further in this article.

Popular Online NP Programs in Washington

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Types of NP Programs in Washington 

The first process of becoming a nurse practitioner is to become a registered nurse. The first step of this is to apply to either an RN program or BSN program for schooling. The difference between these is that the RN is an associate’s degree while BSN is a bachelor’s degree. 

There are a variety of schools to attend that offer one, some, or all of these types of degrees. Washington state offers one NP program at the MSN level, six DNP level and two Post MSN NP Certificate level programs. This number is likely to change given the popularity of NP programs.

Nurse Practitioner Program Costs in Washington

Program costs will vary depending on what type of NP program you do and where you go to school. Whether you attend a private or public university will also play a role. Most in Washington are fairly similar in price per credit.

Some examples include:

  • University of Washington: $907 per credit or $85,000 for the entire DNP program.
  • Seattle Pacific University: $899 per credit or $80,000 for the entire DNP program.

To help offset the cost of becoming an NP you can apply for scholarships and/or loan forgiveness programs. Here are a few examples.

  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness
  • Individual Hospital Repayment Programs
  • Perkins Loan Cancellation
  • Military Programs
  • Nurse Corps Loan Forgiveness

Scholarships outside of the school you are applying to are not as common for NP programs as they are for BSN programs, but our Nursing School and Scholarship guide can help you figure out additional ways to offset costs.

Nurse Practitioner Schools in Washington

Washington

Washington State University

  • French Administration Building, Pullman, WA - 99164-5910

Family Nurse Practitioner

Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

University of Washington

  • 1400 NE Campus Parkway, Seattle, WA - 98195-4550

Family Nurse Practitioner

Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner

Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner

Neonatal Nurse Practitioner

Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner

Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

Seattle Pacific University

  • 3307 3rd Ave W, Seattle, WA - 98119-1997

Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner

Family Nurse Practitioner

Seattle University

  • 900 Broadway, Seattle, WA - 98122-4340

Family Nurse Practitioner

Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner

Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

Pacific Lutheran University

  • 1010 122nd St So, Tacoma, WA - 98447-0003

Family Nurse Practitioner

Gonzaga University

  • E 502 Boone Ave, Spokane, WA - 99258-0001

Family Nurse Practitioner

Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner

Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

Online vs. In Person NP Programs in Washington  

Most RN and BSN programs require in person learning; however, most NP schools often offer either a hybrid or full online didactic curriculum. Washington state schools are primarily focused on in person learning, but there are some online and hybrid options. 

Online only programs Gonzaga University 
Hybrid or both online and in person offered Pacific Lutheran University  Washington State 
In person only programs Seattle Pacific University  Seattle University  University of Washington 

Specialty Nurse Practitioner Options in Washington

Each college that has an NP certificate program or a DNP program has specialty programs. These are programs that specialize in different areas of medicine such as pediatrics, family medicine, etc. While all schools have different categories, not all have the same ones and that may determine where you decide to attend. 

  • Gonzaga University: 
    • Family Medicine 
    • Psychiatric/Mental Health 
  • Pacific Lutheran University:
    • Family Medicine 
    • Psychiatric/Mental Health 
  • Washington State: 
    • Family Medicine
    • Psychiatric/Mental Health 
    • Population Health
  • Seattle Pacific University: 
    • Geriatric/Adult Acute care
    • Family Medicine
    • Geriatric/Adult Clinical Nurse Specialist 
  • Seattle University: 
    • Family Medicine 
    • Psychiatric/Mental health
    • Geriatric/Adult Acute Care 
    • Certified Nurse Midwife 
  • University of Washington: 
    • Geriatric/Adult acute care
    • Geriatric/Adult Primary Care
    • Population Health
    • Certified Nurse Midwife
    • Pediatric Clinical Nurse Specialist 
    • Pediatric Primary Care
    • Pediatric Acute Care
    • Women’s Health Clinic Nurse Specialist 
    • Psychiatric/Mental health 
    • Nursing Leadership
    • Nursing Education

Choosing a specialty can really narrow down your choices of programs. For example, only Seattle University and U of W have certified nurse midwife programs. Learning a little more about each specialty and choosing the one you want to pursue is an important step when finding a school to attend.

Where Do Nurse Practitioner Typically Work in Washington

As an NP the world is at your fingertips. You can work in a variety of settings and will have the flexibility throughout your career to change it up. Here are some examples of where you may work.

  • Adult Gerontology Acute Care NP: Cardiology,  neurology, emergency departments, intensive care units, medical surgical units, military settings, and more.
  • Adult Gerontology Primary Care NP: primary care clinics, nursing homes, correctional facilities, college health, occupational health, military settings, and more.
  • Family NP: Primary care clinics, community health, urgent care, college health, occupational health,  military settings, dermatology, shelters, and more.
  • Neonatal NP: neonatal intensive care units (NICUs), emergency departments, labor and delivery units, and more.
  • Pediatric Acute Care NP: Emergency departments, specialty units in children’s hospitals, urgent care.
  • Pediatric Primary Care NP: community health centers, schools, children’s hospitals, private practices.
  • Psychiatric Mental Health NP: outpatient therapy, inpatient psychiatric units, partial hospitalization units, nursing homes, and more.
  • Women’s Health NP: Community health centers, women’s prisons, private practices, urogynecology practices, adolescent health, and more.

NP Certification Test Options for Specialties Offered in Washington Programs

Once you graduate from your nurse practitioner program, there are still quite a few steps left before you can practice. The first step being, get certified. This is similar to the NCLEX exam you took to be an RN but now to be an NP. These tests vary by specialty and there are usually a few different options for the test themselves offered by different organizations. 

  • Family nurse practitioner: 
    • American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) 
    • American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) 
  • Geriatric/Adult Acute care nurse practitioner: 
    • AANP 
    • ANCC
  • Psych/Mental Health nurse practitioner: 
    • ANCC
  • Pediatric nurse practitioner: 
    • Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB) 
    • ANCC
  • Certified nurse midwife: 
    • American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB) 
  • Women’s Health nurse practitioner: 
    • National Certification Corporation (NCC) 
    • Nurse Practitioners of Women’s Health (NPWH) 

NP Licensures and How to Apply in Washington  

Once you get your certification you can start applying for your licenses. This includes your NP license which comes from the state board of nursing like your RN license, your National Provider Identifier (NPI), and your Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) number. The NPI number is a national number to keep track of your medical records while your DEA number is necessary for prescribed controlled substances. 

For Washington, you apply for your NP license through the department of health at https://www.doh.wa.gov/LicensesPermitsandCertificates/NursingCommission/NurseLicensing/ApplyforaLicense. You will need to submit transcripts, your RN license, and proof of your certification in this application as well as complete background checks and fingerprinting. This can take a few months to be approved so do well in advance. WA state medical licensing is done through the Department of Health, requires an account be made, and a Nursys account. Nursys is a way for the Department of Health to confirm your RN license. 

The NPI license application is located on a national website at https://nppes.cms.hhs.gov/#/. This is the same for all states. The DEA license application is also national and located on https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drugreg/index.html#regapps. Both of these licenses may take a few months as well and come with some hefty fees (DEA is up to $731) so incorporate that into your plans. 

NP License Renewals and Maintenance Requirements in Washington

Once you get your licenses you then have to maintain them. This means you renew them every few years and prove to the nursing board and government that you are still practicing regularly and completing continuing education hours. 

NP licenses in Washington need to be renewed every other year during your birthday month. This involves the following requirements: 

  • 250 hours of practice within the last 2 years 
  • Active RN license (Washington state)- may need to renew this before applying for NP renewal. RN licenses also need to be renewed every other year (usually with a fee) 
  • 30 hours of CMEs and 15 hours of pharmacology CMEs 
  • Active national certification- this also needs to be renewed with proof of practice and continuing education at the same time 
  • NPI and DEA. 
    • NPI does not need renewal however, DEA needs renewal every three years. This process is the same as initial application with additional continuing education (3 hours of controlled substance prescribing) 

Other requirements may depend on your place of work including BLS, ACLS, PALS, etc. These are CPR certifications and the same you have as an RN but may vary by your practice location. These all need to be renewed every two years and usually consist of didactic training and testing. 

Nurse Practitioner Salaries in Washington

While the average salary of an RN in WA is $32/hour (About $60,000/year) the average salary for an NP in WA is $120,000/year. By becoming an NP you can increase your salary by $60,000/year almost instantly. The starting or new grad salary ranges from $70,000/year to $140,000/year, while a specialist NP or experienced NP can make as much as $150,000/year. 

Potential NP Employers in Washington

Nurse practitioners can work almost anywhere. In WA, there are a lot of different places including hospitals, large organizations, community health, and private practices. 

Some examples of hospitals in Washington you can work at as an NP include the University of Washington Medical Center, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Children’s Hospital, Overlake Medical Center, and Valley Medical Center. 

A growing area of medical need, especially in rural Washington outside of Seattle, is community and rural health. This can include working for the department of health or independent agencies like home care. This includes the public health departments in individual cities and home care agencies. 

And finally, a common place for NPs to work, especially family nurse practitioners, is private practice or family clinics. This can be primary care clinics, specialty clinics, community health clinics, etc. NPs in Washington work in dermatology offices, cardiology offices, and more as well as serving as primary care providers. 

A lot of major health care providers in Washington not only have hospitals, but also larger healthcare organizations like Valley Medical, MultiCare, and Swedish. 

NPs have a variety of options for work and Washington is no exception. 

You can find some of these organizations at the links below.

Popular Online Nursing Programs in Washington

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

NP Resources and Organizations in Washington

Once you are an NP, have your licenses, and a job, you can join some organizations and groups. There are a lot that are national that have regional or state chapters including AANP and ANCC as well the Academy of Family Physicians and American Academy of Pediatrics.     

Some others include the honor society Sigma Theta Tau that has a few chapters throughout the state and Washington Nurses Association. Visit some of the links below and see which are most interesting to you. These organizations often offer networking, conferences, and other continuing education opportunities. 

Table of Nurse Practitioner Programs in Washington

It’s important to find your tribe as a new practitioner. This journey is hard and long but well worth it in the end.

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Sources: 50 State Boards of Nursing, University Websites, U.S. Department of Education, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Ranking Methodology.