Of the more than 140,000 family nurse practitioners working with patients in U.S. health care centers, 97 percent hold graduate degrees and 86 percent possess primary care certifications, according to research from the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. These credentials are critical in this increasingly important medical profession. The education FNPs gain in advanced certification and master’s degree programs empowers them technically and legally, allowing them to provide accurate diagnoses and prescribe medications, among other common FNP duties.
Many aspiring FNPs upgrade their skill sets in FNP certificate programs. What exactly do these instructional tracks involve?
Understanding FNP certification
FNP certificate programs allow nurses who already have master’s degrees to go on to become a Family Nurse Practitioners. These credentialing programs truly test aspiring FNPs and adhere to an overarching set of requirements developed by the AANP in conjunction with state and federal legislators. These include:
- Following standards in the advanced practice registered nurse curriculum, which are outlined in the Essentials of Master’s Education in Nursing
- Receiving accreditation from an organization the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation has formally recognized
- Maintaining accreditation prior to accepting students
- Ensuring graduates can earn the requisite state and federal FNP practicing licenses
- Certifying that all graduates possess official documentation that establishes their credentials
In addition to addressing the APRN core curriculum, organizations granting FNP certificates must provide specialized education to prepare graduates for the Certified Nurse Practitioner exam and population health-centered credentials managed by the AANP or the American Nurses Credentialing Center. With the aforementioned education in hand, aspiring FNPs can quickly enter the workforce and start making an impact.
The benefits of FNP certification
Some registered nurses question why they should enroll in an FNP certificate program instead of pursuing other educational avenues. The benefits are numerous.
For one, FNPs are in high demand due to the decreasing number of primary care physicians. Clinics, hospitals, schools and other organizations are bringing on these skilled medical professionals to fill in for doctors and provide critical services to some of the most vulnerable populations, including children and the poor. For this reason, the profession is projected to grow by 31 percent from 2016 to 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2016. Medical professionals with FNP certificates have great potential in this atmosphere and can make an immediate impact.
Secondly, in comparison to other post-graduate programs, FNP certifications progress at an accelerated rate, meaning students do not have to sit through countless seminars to boost their earning potential and clinical influence. In as few as two years of part-time study, registered nurses with master’s degrees can drastically improve their skill sets and open themselves up to FNP positions, which pay, on average, $107,000 per year, analysts for the BLS found in 2016.
FNP certification programs are far easier to navigate logistically — especially those administered online. Instead of attending inconvenient in-person courses, students can continue their nursing careers and personal lives while leveraging spare time to sharpen their skills. This can translate to lower costs by avoiding expenses related to transportation and the other variables that come with more traditional education programs.
Where to get an FNP certification
While many educational and professional organizations maintain FNP certification programs, these programs are by no means equal. Quality varies depending on the host institution.
Bradley University, which facilitates an online Family Nurse Practitioner program, ranks among the top six Midwest Regional Universities, according to U.S. News & World Report. The school’s programs have earned accreditation from both the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education and the Higher Learning Commission.
The online Family Nurse Practitioner program at Bradley University, one of several offerings tailored to mid-career professionals, consists of 15 courses, all administered over the web via online learning technology. The curriculum touches on many topics critical for modern FNPs, including advanced health assessment, advanced pharmacology and advanced pathophysiology. The program also includes five specialized courses designed to equip FNPs with the knowledge they need to work in primary care environments and properly care for adults, children, women patients, and the elderly.
The program concludes with five supervised clinical practicums which allow students to deploy the technical techniques and theories discussed in the classroom in real clinical settings with human patients. These practicums vary in population focus. For example, the initial clinical practicum centers on strategies to help patients with acute and chronic conditions, while the final practicum covers practices for assisting elderly patients.
The entire education experience, once enrolled through graduation, is facilitated by top-level faculty members with real-world experience and hard-earned insight. The instructional track accounts for 44 credit hours, which most students complete in two years. The FNPs who graduate from the program move on to roles at various organizations, including primary care, hospitals, municipal health departments and community clinics, using their finely tuned clinical skills to help patients from all walks of life.
The online Family Nurse Practitioner program at Bradley University is the ideal instructional track for mid-career medical professionals who wish to expand their clinical skill sets and re-enter the health care arena as FNPs.
Potential students can learn more about the program at the Bradley University website.