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Advanced Practice Nurse Education and Training Program Info

An advanced practice nurse is trained at the master's level; specializations include family practice, pediatrics and mental health. Learn about these programs, as well as career options and credentialing.

Essential Information

Advanced practice registered nurses have job titles such as nurse practitioner (NP), clinical nurse specialist, nurse midwife and nurse anesthetist. Registered nurses (RNs) need a master's degree to become advanced practice RNs.

In addition to coursework and research, master's programs in nursing include practical clinical components that take place in various healthcare settings. Each of these programs takes 1-2 years of full-time study to complete and prepares students for credentialing exams available through the American Nurses Credentialing Center and state licensure.

To begin master's program, applicants typically need either a bachelor's degree in a healthcare field from an accredited institution or an associate's degree in nursing, a registered nurse (RN) license, GRE scores, a letter of intent, academic or professional references, and a resume.


Master of Science in Nursing - Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)

An FNP treats people from infancy to adulthood, providing services like diagnosing illness and disease and prescribing medications. The FNP program combines graduate nursing courses, the FNP curriculum and clinical work at a medical facility where FNP students receive hands-on training in many areas of patient care, including emergency medical services and elderly care. The curriculum includes studies in advanced practice nursing theories, research, health promotion, physical assessment and disease prevention. Topics of discussion include healthcare ethics, clinical intervention and community, adolescent and women's health.

Coursework emphasizes the FNP's role in providing exceptional nursing care to infant, adolescent and adult patients. FNP students will learn the ethical, professional obligations of an FNP and how to assess the individual needs of patients. Course topics in this degree program include:

  • Pathophysiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Family healthcare
  • Primary care

Master of Science in Nursing - Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP)

Designed for both RNs and students with no nursing background who hold a bachelor's degree in a related healthcare area, the PNP program prepares students to provide nursing care to infants through adolescents. The curriculum includes PNP theories and practices, pediatric pharmacology and studies in the healthcare of children.

PNP students complete academic coursework and research, and they also perform a clinical practicum at a partnered medical site, which might be a hospital, neonatal care unit, school, pediatrician's office or other medical facility. Topics of discussion include children's health assessment, treatment plans and ethical issues in pediatric nursing. Admission requirements are consistent with the FNP program.

Coursework teaches students to assess the unique medical needs of infants, children and teenagers, with studies in behavioral pediatric health in addition to physiological health. Coursework in the graduate program includes the following:

  • Pediatric nursing management
  • Chronic illness in children
  • Pediatric pathophysiology
  • Pediatric health development

Master of Science in Nursing - Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse Practitioner

In lieu of a licensed psychiatrist, a psychiatric mental health (PMH) nurse can diagnose and treat adolescents, adults and geriatric patients for a variety of mental health disorders, including mood and personality disorders and substance abuse. In addition to assessment and diagnosis, PMHs have the authority to develop treatment plans, prescribe medications and intervene in crisis situations.

PMH students study theory and practice of mental health nursing, child development, psychosocial nursing and more. PMH students complete a clinical practicum in a mental healthcare setting such as a substance abuse facility, domestic violence shelter, psychiatric practice or correctional facility. The prerequisites for enrollment are the same as the other nurse practitioner programs.

Coursework prepares PMH students to treat patients for a variety of mental illnesses in a number of settings, including in-patient psychiatric treatment centers, state psychiatric treatment facilities, Veterans Affairs hospitals and more. Students will also be prepared to prevent crisis situations and provide preventative services to people of all ages who are struggling with mental health. Course topics in the program include those listed below:

  • Neuroscience
  • Psychopharmacology
  • Neurobiology
  • Pharmacotherapeutics

Popular Career Options

FNPs work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, acute care centers, nursing homes, physician's offices and more. In addition to working in a traditional FNP role, graduates can also obtain positions in:

  • Community health
  • Healthcare administration
  • Corrections

PNP graduates work with children in a variety of settings, including pediatric hospitals, community health organizations and more.

  • Neonatal nurse
  • Pediatric emergency nurse
  • Acute care pediatric nurse

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), RNs held over 2.7 million jobs in the U.S. in 2014 and advanced practice RNs held 170,400 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reported that jobs for advanced practice registered nurses were expected to grow by 31% between the years 2014 and 2024. The average annual salary for nurse practitioners in 2015 was $101,260, per BLS figures.

Continuing Education Information

Graduates can sit for the FNP examination offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center for state licensure as an FNP through state boards of nursing. Graduates who are interested in nursing research or teaching can enroll in a Doctor of Nursing Practice program.

Master of Science in Nursing - Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP) Graduates are eligible to sit for the American Nurses Credentialing Center's PNP examination. Graduates might also consider taking the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board examination for career enhancement.

Master of Science in Nursing - Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Graduates who do not already hold an RN license are eligible to sit for the National Council Licensing Examination (NCLEX) for RNs for state licensure through state boards of nursing. Graduates who hold an RN license can take the Adult Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse Practitioner examination, which is offered through the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

Training and education for advanced practice nurses is available in the form of master's programs. Graduates can also choose to sit their FNP examination that is offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center.


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