Post-Master’s Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Certificate Programs
Nurses who hold a master’s degree in nursing have several options to expand their knowledge and even to change careers. They can choose to complete a doctoral program such as a DNP or opt for a post-master’s certificate program. Post-master’s certificate programs are streamlined for master’s prepared nurses, and a project is not usually required.
Nurses and nurse practitioners (NPs) can also move "laterally" in their careers, perhaps selecting a new population to care for. For example, a pediatric nurse practitioner can choose to focus on newborns and return to school to earn a neonatal NP post-master's certificate.
It can be daunting when deciding to return to school. Some nurses have been out of the classroom for years and are not sure what to expect, or where to begin searching. The following serve as a starting point for nurses interested in a neonatal NP post-master’s certificate:
- Accreditation– Nurses should ensure the school they choose is either accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). These two organizations are the only nationally recognized accreditation agencies in the United States. Certification by these entities ensures that educational standards are met for the student to practice safely and up to current standards of care. There are local agencies that accredit schools, but students should be aware that accreditation by any agency other than the CCNE or ACEN may affect licensing and certification.
- Cost– The expenses required to complete a post-master’s certificate program can vary greatly. The cost can depend on city and state where the school is located, whether it is a public or private institution, and can also depend on the student’s starting point (some courses may be required if not completed in a master’s program). Technology and university fees, residency status, parking, living expenses, and supplies are additional costs students must prepare for. However, most programs offer financial aid as well as a part-time curriculum to help offset the expense.
- Program Length– The length of time it takes to complete a post-master's program depends on the school as well as the student's starting point. Usually, the program can be anywhere from 12 to 36 credits. Some required courses may not have been completed in a master’s program, so students must complete them. The necessary classes mean extra time needed to finish the program. Additionally, whether the student attends full or part-time will determine the length of time the program is completed.
- Online Options– Nowadays, online learning is becoming more and more popular. An online neonatal post-master’s degree program is beneficial for working nurses and nurse practitioners as it offers the flexibility needed to maintain a healthy work-life-school balance. Prospective students should carefully research each school to ensure it meets their needs, as sometimes campus visitation is required even with an online program. Mandatory orientation sessions, presentations, and multi-day intensives may be necessary. Luckily, most schools are very transparent about campus visitation requirements so that students can plan accordingly.
- Internship/Externship Options– Students enrolled in a neonatal post-master’s certificate program must also complete supervised clinical hours to apply what they have learned in the healthcare setting. Depending on the school, students may need to find their clinical preceptor, or the school may contract with area hospitals and other healthcare facilities. Those looking for a neonatal program should ensure there is a facility nearby that will allow them to gain valuable hands-on experience. A state-of-the-art labor and delivery unit, as well as a NICU, should be available to the neonatal post-master’s NP student.
Online learning is the wave of the future. Online nursing programs are becoming more and more prevalent as well, allowing nurses to study from the comfort of their own homes in a program that may be based across the country. Deciding whether to choose an online program is a personal choice depends on the individual needs of the nurse. The following are some pros and cons to consider.
Online vs. Classroom-Based Post-Master’s Neonatal NP Certificate Programs
One of the most prominent advantages of online learning is the flexibility. Nurses work many different shifts, including overnight. Flexible schedules are a must when returning to school while continuing to work. Nurses can study at any time and anywhere- if they have internet access and a computer! Another advantage is that students can learn at their own pace and by the learning method that works best for them. Many online programs allow students to complete the program in a set amount of time, so students can work as fast or as slow as they want (or need). This, in turn, can lead to a higher success rate for students.
One of the drawbacks of online learning is that many students need the structure that classroom learning has. “Learning at your own pace,” for some, may translate to procrastination and disorganization. Many prefer a uniform structure. Some students also enjoy being in the company of peers and being able to speak face-to-face with instructors. The campus life is one that many enjoy, as well as prefer. Additionally, some students are not as technologically inclined as others; they may struggle with online programs which can hinder success.
Post-Master's Neonatal NP Graduate Certificate Admission Requirements
The admission requirements for the neonatal post-master's NP certificate program may vary depending on the school. General admission requirements may include:
- An active RN or APRN license
- A master's degree from an accredited program
- Submission of transcripts
- A written statement of purpose or goal statement
- Completion of advanced pharmacology, pathophysiology, and health assessment courses
- Completion of a statistics course
- Current BLS/PALS/NALS
- Current liability insurance
- Have prior clinical experience with neonatal health or other care areas
Post-Master's Neonatal NP Graduate Certificate Curriculum
The neonatal NP post-master’s certificate program curriculum may also vary slightly between schools, although the content is pretty much consistent. The curriculum may include courses in:
- Advanced physiology, pharmacology, and physical assessment (if not already completed in the student's master's degree program)
- Neonatal health assessment
- Genetics and embryology
- Care and management of the high-risk newborn
In addition to the above courses, students must also complete a specified number of clinical hours working in a neonatal acute care setting.
- National Association of Neonatal Nurse Practitioners
- Academy of Neonatal Nursing
- Association of Women's Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses
- American Association of Nurse Practitioners
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