The skills of today's nurse practitioner are in high demand and for a good reason. With the challenges facing healthcare organizations, the nurse practitioners' position allows providers a strategic way to ensure continuous, quality care to their patients. Many healthcare organizations facing ongoing staffing vacancies fret about the delays in treatment, long wait times for patients, and provider burnout that prey on facilities dealing with chronic staffing issues.
As nurse practitioners provide their expertise across various healthcare settings, the advantage of NPs pursuing post-graduate certificates has gained momentum. With an additional one to two years of study, an NP can add a clinical focus in a specialty other than their original Master’s track. This continuation of their education affords an NP more job opportunities and enhances their clinical knowledge in day to day practice. Some ways an NP might choose to apply a post-master’s certificate.
- To change the focus of his/her master's degree. For example, a transition from primary care to acute care.
- To enhance one's current practice area, for example, a family practice NP may choose to pursue a post-master’s Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner certificate.
- An NP in leadership could benefit from a post-master's certificate in nursing informatics.
There may be many "whys" behind a desire or decision to pursue a post-master's certificate, yet they ultimately intersect at this common juncture: increasing knowledge opens the door to new opportunities and growth.
"I have talked with an increasing number of NPs who are tossing around the idea of going back to school to add a post-master’s cert to their CV. Either to expand their current practice or for increasing their income and marketability," notes Katie Gibson, WHNP-BC, LeaderStat’s Clinical Director. "Post-graduate certificates in areas such as Nurse Midwife, WHNP, Family NP, Psych NP, expand a nurse practitioner's skill set and are in demand for both permanent roles as well as locum tenens positions. Our clients are always seeking certain specialties—psych and acute care are especially needed. "
What should a nurse practitioner look for in a post-graduate certificate?
The American Association of Nurse Practitioners suggests attention to several factors when choosing which academic institution, of the approximately 400 that offer NP programs in the U.S, is the best fit for you.
- Does the institution offer training in your desired population focus or concentration?
- Does it fit your preferred attendance method, online versus on-campus?
- Which degrees and certificates does the program offer?
- What are the entry prerequisites?
- What is the program's accreditation and graduate certification rate?
Whether you are looking for in-person opportunities or online courses to obtain a post master's certificate, many options are available. The AANP offers a handy, searchable database, courtesy of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), that provides timely and valuable information on planning for the course of your nurse practitioner education.
When deciding which certifications to pursue to explore, NPs should talk with colleagues about which programs they selected and why. Programs that are less expensive and faster than others are not always better. Quality is vitally important in all that providers do and choosing a post-master’s program that truly elevates your practice is critical.
Continuing your education as an advanced practice provider will serve you on multiple fronts. Not only will additional training keep you at the top of your field, but it will also prepare you for future job opportunities that will challenge you and satisfy your desire to care for others' needs.