Nurse practitioners and physician assistants are advanced healthcare practitioners with similar responsibilities, such as diagnosing illnesses and prescribing medications. However, their training and paths toward certification differ in significant ways. This blog post unpacks the key differences between NPs and PAs to help you determine which career path best aligns with your goals. What Is a Nurse Practitioner? A nurse practitioner (NP) is a licensed clinician who provides comprehensive healthcare to patients of all ages. An NP can work in virtually any healthcare setting, diagnosing patient conditions and prescribing medications. As of October 2022, nurse practitioners have full practice authority in 27 states, meaning that they can practice Read more
With her kids all grown up, Tina Belanger wanted to do something for herself and focus on her personal and professional development.
As an experienced nurse with a history of working in various health settings, she started searching for Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree programs. When she got a call from the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (USAHS) after requesting more information, it was a “no brainer” for her to choose its program.
“I was excited to get started because it was a new program, and the interdisciplinary collaboration was new to me,” she said.
Belanger said that the MSN program’s small class sizes allowed her to get individualized attention from professors and helped her develop close bonds with her classmates, whom she continues to keep in touch with today. “The MSN program gave me the push I needed in various aspects of my life,” she said. “It improved my confidence and helped me truly believe in myself.”
USAHS’s MSN program offers four role specialties: Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), Nurse Informaticist, Nurse Educator, and Nurse Executive. Students can complete their degree entirely online—or take advantage of optional immersions and engage face-to-face with faculty mentors and peers from around the country. They can follow an accelerated pathway based on assessments of competencies; other self-pacing options are also available.
“[The MSN program] really instilled in me a commitment to lifelong learning that I think I always had, but I didn’t pursue because I made excuses,” Belanger said. “I can focus more on myself now and what that means to me professionally.”
As a testament to her personal promise to continue learning, Belanger remains involved in several ways with the USAHS community. She is a member and serves on the nominating committee of the Meraki Nursing Honor Society. Hosted by USAHS, this society is a group of nurses who are organizing to form a chapter of the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing, also known as “Sigma.”
“To network and be around other nurses who are looking to improve the nursing profession is inspiring, and I’m truly honored to be a part of it,” Belanger said.
The Meraki Nursing Honor Society offers continuing education classes for members and nonmembers, and Belanger takes full advantage.
“If I can work it out to attend one of the classes, I do it. Because it makes me a better nurse and helps me to take better care of my patients,” she said.
Belanger is currently a nursing supervisor at BioScrip Infusion Services, a company that provides home infusion therapy to clients. She plans to become certified in immunomodulatory therapy and hopes to start a research project after that.
“Tina went above and beyond as a student, and she continues to do so as an alumna,” says Dr. Amy Herrington, assistant professor in the MSN program. “She is kind, passionate, motivated—everything a nurse should be.”
The University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (USAHS) offers Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), and Post-Graduate Nursing Certificates designed for working nurses. Our degrees are offered online, with optional on-campus immersions* and an annual interprofessional trip abroad. Role specialties include Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), Nurse Educator, Nurse Informaticist, and Nurse Executive. The MSN has several options to accelerate your time to degree completion. Complete coursework when and where you want—and earn your advanced nursing degree while keeping your work and life in balance.
*The FNP track includes two required hands-on clinical intensives as part of the curriculum.