Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who focus on providing care to all members of the family across the lifespan (from infancy to late adulthood). In order to become an FNP, one must already be a registered nurse with an active license, and earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) with a specialization in family nurse practitioner from an accredited program.
This article provides an overview of online BSN to MSN-FNP programs, which comprise the majority of online FNP programs. This page discusses the accreditation process these types of programs must undergo, the different instruction methods they use, and the types of courses they may offer.
Overview of Accredited Online Family Nurse Practitioner Programs
Online MSN-FNP programs are designed for working professionals and provide students with several potential benefits compared to traditional campus-based programs:
- FNP online programs typically offer more flexibility in terms of class schedules relative to on-campus programs
- For students who do not live near a university or college that offers an FNP program, online programs may be the only option that does not require the student to move closer to a campus
- Online FNP programs have different types of instruction methods (synchronous vs. asynchronous) so that students can choose a style that best fits their learning methods
On OnlineFNPPrograms.com, we only list accredited online FNP programs, and define an online FNP program as one that only requires three or fewer visits to the campus per year. Campus visits, sometimes called on-campus intensives, are mandatory, prearranged visits comprised of in-person lectures, discussions, and/or activities with program faculty and fellow students. (Please note: All online FNP programs require students to complete clinical hours at a local health facility.)
Overview of Accredited Online FNP Degree Programs: CCNE and ACEN
Online FNP programs must meet the same stringent accreditation standards as on-campus FNP programs, including clinical hours requirements, curriculum quality, faculty credentials, and the quality of the resources they make available to students. An online FNP program must be accredited by one of two organizations: the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).
CCNE accredited online FNP programs must adhere to CCNE’s particular guidelines, and undergo a rigorous accreditation process that includes submitting documentation of their curriculum, providing proof of approval from their state’s board of nursing, and undergoing an on-site evaluation. Additionally, online FNP programs accredited by the CCNE must renew their accreditation every 5 years.
ACEN accredited online FNP programs must also meet stringent accreditation criteria. Among other requirements, online FNP programs accredited by the ACEN must submit proof of their faculty’s qualifications, details of their curriculum and resources for students, and evidence that they have received approval from their state’s board of nursing.
Accredited Online FNP Programs: Full-Time versus Part-Time Options
The decision of whether to enroll in a full-time or part-time online BSN to MSN-FNP program depends on each student’s individual situation. Full-time BSN to MSN programs generally take less time to complete compared to part-time programs (15 to 24 months vs. 18 to 36 months). However, the course load and clinical hours requirements per term or session are generally higher for full-time programs. As a result, students should carefully consider their professional and extracurricular commitments when deciding between a full-time and a part-time FNP program. Students who need or wish to continue working full-time while pursuing their MSN-FNP may want to consider part-time programs, as they are generally designed for working professionals.
Types of Accredited Online BSN to MSN-FNP Programs: Synchronous vs Asynchronous Instruction Methods
Online BSN to MSN-FNP programs typically use one or both of the following instruction methods:
- Synchronous instruction: With synchronous instruction, students and faculty meet at a prearranged time for lectures and discussions in real time, usually with the help of a webcam or a communal chat room. Programs that primarily use synchronous instruction generally have more of a “classroom feel,” and may be preferable to students who would like a more structured class experience. (Please note that online FNP programs with synchronous instruction also have asynchronous components, such as assignments that students must complete on their own time, and exams that students must study for independently.)
- Asynchronous instruction: With asynchronous instruction, students do not have to meet their instructors and classmates in real-time for class lectures and discussions. Instead, this type of instruction generally involves pre-recorded lectures and course materials that students can watch and read on their own time. Online FNP programs that use asynchronous instruction are designed for students who need greater flexibility in their schedule, as these types of programs do not require students to be online at specific times. (Please note that online programs that use primarily asynchronous instruction may still require students to earn class participation points by posting to forums and completing group projects.)
- Combination of Synchronous and Asynchronous Instruction: Some online FNP programs may combine both asynchronous and synchronous instruction depending on the course or instructor. Typically this follows one of two formats: Programs that use a combination of synchronous classes and asynchronous classes, or programs that mainly use asynchronous instruction, but require students to attend a limited number of real-time lectures and/or discussions.
Online programs require discipline from students to stay on track and are just as difficult as traditional campus-based programs. Regardless of the instruction method used, students pursuing their FNP online must stay organized and accountable for the coursework and for understanding class concepts. Independent of the instruction method, teachers and instructors are generally available by email for students, so students should not feel like they cannot interact with the faculty of their program.
Online FNP Programs: Sample Courses
While course titles and content may vary slightly among FNP online programs, common core courses generally include the following:
- Advanced Health Assessment: The practices and principles necessary to evaluate and monitor the health of patients. How to take advanced medical histories and physical examinations, and bring together physical, psychological, cultural, and social information for each patient to create an accurate picture of his or her health. This class may include a lab where students implement the principles and methods they learn.
- Primary Care of the Childbearing and Childrearing Family: How to evaluate, monitor, and care for the health of individuals and families, with a focus on women and childbearing and childrearing families. Concepts covered include reproductive health, diagnosis and treatment of health conditions common in childbearing and childrearing families, and health education for the family. Other topics covered include the physical, pathophysiological, psychological, social, and cultural aspects of the childbearing/childrearing family unit.
- Primary Care of the Aged and Maturing Family: How to assess, care for, and monitor the health of individuals and families, with an emphasis on middle aged and older adults. Topics covered include common diseases and ailments that afflict older individuals, health education and preventative care for aging family members, and how to treat/address both chronic and acute health conditions.
- Advanced Human Physiology and Pathophysiology: Advanced concepts in human physiology and pathophysiology, including how the human body works at the organ systems, organ, tissue, and molecular levels. Concepts discussed include diagnosing various health conditions and how the human body reacts to different types of diseases.
- Advanced Pharmacology: Common medical treatments and their uses in a clinical setting. How to determine the appropriate dosage for different patients, and how individuals react differently to different medicines based on their physiology, metabolism, age, etc.