Becoming a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) is both a rewarding and lucrative career move for Registered Nurses (RNs) looking to further their medical career without fully committing to the doctoral path. The FNP role goes beyond the typical RN experience with added responsibilities and authority to diagnose, treat, counsel, and (in some states) even prescribe medication.
Pursuing an FNP certification is surprisingly feasible for full-time, working nurses. Individuals that already have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree and an RN license can pursue a FNP career through part-time higher education offerings that combine an online family nurse practitioner program and 500-750 supervised clinical hours. The emergence of online FNP programs has made obtaining a degree while holding down a career a much more feasible possibility.
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This hybrid approach is tailor-made for RNs looking to take the next step in their medical careers without having to leave their jobs to do so. It takes almost a year longer to complete this type of part-time path compared to a dedicated full-time FNP program, but the ability to work while studying is a major plus for those unwilling to take unpaid time away from their current jobs.
The Online FNP Program Experience
FNP programs online allow you to trade traditional classroom learning time for virtual lessons and activities - often without compromising the integrity of the coursework. These courses can be completed remotely with some combination of a computer, internet access, a microphone, and a webcam. Instead of attending lectures and sharing physical classroom space with peers, these tech tools become the conduit to both information and collaboration.
When opting for an online FNP program, you can expect:
A virtual classroom experience: Just because you and your classmates aren’t in the same place, doesn’t mean you miss out on the collaboration and value of the face-to-face experience. Most online courses involve some degree of purposeful digital interaction between students, instructors, and peers to help make the digital classroom feel more like its analog cousin.
A centralized digital learning environment: Your coursework, recorded lectures, and supplemental materials will be provided through the school’s learning management system of choice. This is also where you can expect to find important course announcements and discussion forums.
Dynamic course content: One of the major benefits of digital curriculum is the ease with which multimedia and interactivity can be integrated into the learning experience. There will be plenty of reading, but online courses usually involve additional content like video, supplemental links, and progress checks to enhance the coursework.
Portability: Online courseware allows students the freedom to complete their work wherever they can get online. This makes it easier for students to dive into their materials whenever they have the time to do so, regardless of their location. Be advised however, some digital materials may not run on all platforms.
Tech Support: Any time you are relying on technology, you need to be prepared for potential problems. Schools know this and strive to provide on-demand technical support to make sure students can always access and engage with their digital courses.
It is important to remember that becoming an Family Nurse Practitioner still requires hours of on-site clinical work. That said, the ability to complete the academic portions of the certification remotely is a noteworthy convenience.
Furthermore, this type of distance learning potentially enables you to pursue your degree and FNP certification from a university or college that would otherwise be beyond your reach. Most of the nation’s top online FNP programs allow students to both complete coursework off-site and meet their clinical obligations locally rather than on or near the physical campus.
Online FNP Program Admissions Requirements
Getting accepted to many of the FNP programs online may require candidates to meet a base set of requirements including:
a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree from an accredited university or college
an active registered nurse’s license in good standing
a minimum amount of work experience as an RN (amount varies by institution)
the ability to meet the particular FNP program’s required clinical and/or on-site practicum
Requirements may vary by program and school, but the bulk of these expectations parallel those set by the nursing licensing boards. Don’t expect requirements to differ too significantly between institutions.
While there are certainly pathways available to those who wish to become a FNP but have not met the aforementioned prerequisites, these avenues tend to involve full-time, on-site coursework rather than online fnp program coursework.
Online FNP Program Curriculum
The academic curriculum of an online Family Nurse Practitioner program typically starts with a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree from an accredited institution. These degrees involve coursework focused on topics such as:
medical study design, statistics, and analysis
best practices in the nursing field
holistic care of patients throughout their lifespan
global health issues
advanced nursing techniques and practice
It is worth noting that medical certification boards require applicants to have actual, hands-on clinical experience beyond what they can earn from books and lectures. Therefore, while many of the credits that must be earned as a part of a MSN degree can be completed during an online FNP program, becoming an FNP does come with a substantial commitment to faculty-supervised clinical hours. The actual number of these hours varies by program, but certification from the American Nurses Association (ANA) or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) requires a minimum of 500 hours.
During these clinical experiences, prospective FNPs are given opportunities to hone their skills by assessing and diagnosing of a wide variety of patients – similar the actual day-to-day demands of being an FNP. Not only does this bring text- and lecture-driven learning to life, but these clinical hours also foster the real-world clinical decision-making skills required of effective FNPs in the field.
Family Nurse Practitioner Career Outlook
An increasing number of Americans are turning to clinics and urgent care facilities that rely upon FNPs to deliver top-quality, cost-effective medical care. This has created a notable increase in demand for certified FNPs nationwide. At the same time, nurses are beginning to retire in record numbers as the baby boomer generation is starting to leave the workforce.
The combination of these two factors creates a strong outlook for those entering the FNP profession. Through 2027, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a strong 31% growth-rate for FNPs and similar careers requiring an MSN degree.
Some of the places where FNPs are and will continue to be in demand include:
outpatient care centers
FNP salaries fluctuate based on where you choose to practice, but the median annual wages for a nurse practitioner in 2017 was $103,880, according to the BLS
These figures make the combination of pursuing a Master of Science in Nursing degree and a Family Nurse Practitioner certificate a viable and worthwhile pursuit for Registered Nurses looking to improve both their career and fiscal standing.
Finding the Best Online Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) Program For You
In searching for the best online FNP programs across the United States, it’s important to take into account the specific type of degree being offered, the clinical hours the program requires of it's students, and the credit requirements necessary to complete the program.
We’ve compiled a list of the online FNP programs across the United States along with degree and program requirement information. An important component to any online degree program is their ability to provide top tier clinical placements as well as great online coursework. Any FNP online program worth it's salt will have a team of dedicated professionals working to match you with a medical center that meets your needs for clinical placement. Explore each program thoroughly to find out which will be the best suited FNP program online for you!
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