Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) are advanced practice registered nurses who work specifically with adults and children within the context of the family unit. FNPs use a combination of health education, preventive health services, medical treatments, and regular health assessments to monitor and care for the health of patients across the age spectrum.
Online post-Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) FNP certificate programs are for registered nurses who have already earned their MSN from an accredited program, and who wish to add a specialization to become an FNP. These programs often require fewer credits to graduate compared to full-length MSN programs, and generally assume that students have a strong foundation in nursing care. Online post-MSN FNP programs typically require 21 to 48 credits, and can take 12 to 24 months to complete, depending on whether a student pursues their certificate full-time or part-time.
Admissions Criteria for Post-MSN FNP Certificate Programs
As their name suggests, accredited post-MSN FNP certificate programs require that candidates have completed a master’s or higher graduate degree from a nationally accredited nursing program. In addition, applicants must hold an active license as a registered nurse in their state of residence. Other admission requirements may include a minimum undergraduate and graduate GPA, the completion of certain biology or nursing courses, a minimum number of clinical hours that have been completed through an accredited nursing degree program, and a year or more of professional experience as a registered nurse.
Accredited Post-MSN FNP Certificate Programs: Curriculum Details
Online post-MSN FNP certificate programs generally assume that students have completed both basic and advanced nursing courses through their previous degree programs. As a result, these programs typically include classes that focus exclusively on the family nurse practitioner role, and do not often include courses on topics outside of this area. For example, while Advanced Health Assessment and Primary Nursing Care for the Family are typical courses in a post-MSN FNP certificate program, Health Policy and Nursing Informatics are generally not. Some online post-MSN FNP programs may allow students to transfer credits from their previous coursework towards their certificate if it meets certain subject matter criteria.
Online post-MSN FNP programs are available in both full-time and part-time formats. Full-time post-MSN FNP programs typically require students to take more courses each term, therefore allowing them to earn their degree in a shorter period of time (~12 months). Most full-time programs do not recommend that students work full-time while pursuing their degree. In contrast, part-time programs are generally designed for working professionals. Compared to full-time programs, part-time programs often take longer to complete (~24 months), but generally offer students more flexibility in their schedule, as they require fewer courses per term.
The overall time it takes to complete a post-MSN FNP certificate online varies by school, and is also affected by numerous factors, including the program’s individual curriculum and clinical hours requirements, and the number of transferable academic credits a student has completed prior to enrollment. Some online post-MSN FNP programs consider each student’s professional and educational background prior to their enrollment, and tailor the length and course content of the program to each individual student.
Gap Analyses for Post-MSN FNP Certificate Programs
Depending on their past MSN coursework and clinical experiences, students of post-MSN certificate FNP programs may need to take additional courses at the master’s level to fill gaps in clinical knowledge. For example, an RN who received his or her MSN in Nursing Education or Nursing Leadership and who wishes to become an FNP may need to take core MSN courses such as advanced health assessment, advanced human physiology, and pharmacology before progressing to family nurse practitioner specialization courses. Whereas, a student who already completed these courses as part of their MSN program, such as an MSN program in a different APRN specialty, are typically not required to take these courses again.
Post-MSN certificate FNP programs generally conduct a gap analysis of incoming students’ graduate school transcripts to determine if students need to take any courses from the core MSN curriculum before starting the classes that are specific to family primary care nursing. Students whose gap analyses indicate that they are missing coursework in certain areas of advanced clinical nursing should note that their post-MSN degree program may require more credits and take longer to complete than initially projected, due to the extra coursework they will need to complete.
Online Post-MSN FNP Programs: Clinical Hours / Internships
All FNP programs, including online post-MSN FNP certificate programs, require students to fulfill a certain number of clinical hours, which are defined as the time a student spends performing actual nursing tasks in a real medical setting, such as a hospital, volunteer clinic, or private clinic. Students complete clinical hours under the supervision of preceptors, who are medical professionals that oversee students’ work and offer them guidance.
Specific clinical hours requirements vary by program and can also depend on whether a candidate has completed relevant clinical hours that can be transferred into the certificate program. In general, clinical hours requirements for these programs range from 500 to 600 hours. Students must complete their clinical hours at preapproved medical sites, and also have an official preceptor prior to beginning their clinical internship.
The process for determining where students complete their clinical hours typically involves one of two methods. Some online post-MSN FNP programs match students to approved preceptors and clinical sites in their local area. Conversely, some programs require students to find their own preceptors and sites, but offer assistance for students during their search.
Campus Visits for Accredited Online Post-MSN FNP Certificate Programs
Campus visits, also known as on-campus intensives, are a mandatory part of all online FNP programs and require online students to visit the campus during predefined dates and times. These visits, which typically take the majority of a day to several days, involve in-person lectures and discussions with program faculty and fellow classmates. Some campus visits may also require students to engage in group projects or clinical simulation experiences (activities in which students work through a simulated clinical situation, either individually or in groups). On OnlineFNPPrograms.com, we classify an online FNP program as one that requires three or fewer campus visits per year.
Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Instruction in Post-MSN FNP Online Programs
Online post-MSN FNP programs generally use one or both of two types of online instruction: synchronous instruction and asynchronous instruction. Synchronous instruction requires students to meet with their instructors and fellow classmates online at prearranged times to participate in course lectures and discussions in real-time. Such instruction typically involves the use of a web camera and microphone, and can provide a more realistic “classroom” setting for online students.
In contrast, classes that use asynchronous instruction are generally composed of pre-recorded lectures and course materials that students can access on their own time. Classes with asynchronous instruction do not require students and faculty to attend lectures or discussions in real-time. Online programs that mainly use asynchronous instruction may be a good option for individuals who need more flexibility in their schedule, and who prefer to watch lectures and read through class materials independently. However, students should keep in mind that programs with asynchronous instruction still require students to complete assignments and exams by prearranged deadlines.
All online nursing degree and certificate programs demand discipline from students to stay on top of lectures, coursework, and exams. While the online format of these programs grants students a degree of flexibility compared to on-campus programs, accredited online FNP programs are just as challenging and require the same time commitment as on-campus programs.
Post-MSN Family Nurse Practitioner Certificate Programs: Sample Courses
Post-MSN FNP certificate programs typically focus exclusively on educating and training students in advanced practice nursing care for the family. While course titles and content may vary across programs, common classes for post-MSN FNP programs may include the following:
- Advanced Health Assessment: This course builds off of the knowledge of human anatomy, physiology, and pathophysiology that students have established in previous undergraduate and graduate work, and focuses specifically on training students to conduct thorough physical exams, take quality medical histories, and integrate a patient’s medical information into a sound overall treatment and health care plan. This course also discusses how to convey a patient’s medical history and current health issues to other individuals within the health care team, such as physicians, medical assistants, and other nurses.
- Advanced Pharmacology: This course helps students build an advanced and functional understanding of how different drugs and their dosages interact with the human body. Lectures, discussions, and assignments will work to develop students’ clinical decision making skills and strengthen their ability to develop effective and safe medical treatment plans for patients.
- Advanced Pathophysiology: This course builds upon the knowledge students gained in previous undergraduate and graduate courses, and further examines the relationship between human physiology and pathophysiology. How various diseases and health conditions manifest and develop in the human body, and how these conditions affect different organ systems as they progress.
- Family Nursing Care: Young and Middle Aged Adults: The essential principles and practices of advanced practice nursing and health care for young and middle aged adults. How the physical, psychological, social, and cultural characteristics of young and middle aged adults affect their health. The FNP’s role in evaluating, caring for, and monitoring the health of individuals in this demographic group.
- Family Nursing Care for Children and the Childbearing Family: The essential principles and practices of advanced practice nursing and medical care for children and childbearing women, within the context of the family unit. Common health conditions that children and mothers face, and how to effectively prevent, treat, and monitor these conditions. The physical, psychological, social, and cultural characteristics of these demographic groups, and how these characteristics affect clinical decision making.