Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions expands nursing options to better meet educational needs of Advanced Practice Nurses

by | Jan 6, 2022 | home highlight, News

Contributing Author(s): Mark Kremer
two nursing students practice skills

Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions (RMUoHP) has expanded its graduate nursing programs to provide students a more accessible, individualized educational experience. As of fall 2021, nurses with a Bachelors of Science in Nursing can earn their Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN) while preparing for licensure as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN). 

Students will graduate with their MSN, ready to sit for certification as a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP), and/or Emergency Nurse Practitioner (ENP) depending on whether they choose the single or dual-certification option as an APRN.

This MSN/APRN program complements RMUoHP’s existing nursing certificate programs that prepare masters-level nurses for certification as either an FNP, PMHNP, or ENP. Like the MSN/APRN program, students pursuing these certifications can enroll in multiple certifications at once through the FNPC/ENPC or FNPC/PMHNPC dual tracks.

The dual tracks are an efficient way for students to prepare for demanding clinical careers. “Students want the dual option,” explains Kristina Davis, DNP, FNP-C, AGACNP-BC, ENP-C, ENP Program Director. “For instance, students who want to work in an emergency department (ED) would greatly benefit from the dual FNP/ENP program. The ENP speciality education not only prepares them to work in an emergent/urgent setting but also makes graduates more marketable when applying for a position in the ED.” 

The dual FNP/PMHNP dual-certification also offers students uncommon versatility as primary care providers. “This allows you to treat the whole person,” explains Kevin Ballard, FNP, FAANP, FNP and DNP Program Director. “It facilitates the integration of behavioral health and primary care. Lots of people have chronic medical and chronic mental health issues but would like to meet with one provider.” Besides making students more marketable as providers, these dual-certification options help students provide the most comprehensive clinical care for their patients.

Regardless of whether students pursue a single APRN certification or a dual option, RMUoHP offers an educational experience that empowers future clinicians. The FNP and ENP programs feature on-site skills acquisition every semester, with access to RMUoHP’s cadaver lab for intensive study.

Meanwhile students in the PMHNP track can prepare for licensure in a fully-online format. “There is a great need for mental health care in many communities throughout the United States,” said Allyce Jones, DNP, MSN, PMHNP-BC, APRN, CNE, NCMP, PMH-C. Students engage in clinical experiences in their own communities and usually continue their practice as a graduate near their homebase. Each program design embraces a practical approach to clinical progression inspired by student feedback.

These MSN/APRN options represent an evolution from RMUoHP’s combination FNP/DNP program that required students to earn their Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree at the same time they completed their FNP clinical hours. Now students complete the FNP or PMHNP certification and can be licensed to practice while pursuing their DNP.

“We still believe the terminal Doctor of Nursing Practice is extremely important,” explains  Ballard, “so students looking to go on to their DNP take doctoral courses while sitting for their APRN certification.”

The Doctor of Nursing Practice has been refined to help students pursue their specific career goals. This terminal degree enables nurses to meaningfully affect their profession at the highest levels. Nurses gain insight into the healthcare system that allow them to participate in “system change, organizational change, and organizational leadership,” Davis elaborates.

The DNP curriculum now caters to each student’s specific leadership aspirations through three separate concentration tracks: Academic Leadership, Clinical Leadership, and Executive Leadership. The Academic Leadership track prepares students for a career in education through classes in areas like curriculum and course design. Clinical Leadership, through a focus on advanced practice and specialized care, prepares students to leverage clinical expertise to transform healthcare delivery; while Executive Leadership trains students to shape the future of healthcare organizations through courses in subjects such as leadership fundamentals, law, and regulations.

These tracks help students determine their independent focus that leads to “a final systems change project that reflects the track they selected,” according to Ballard. Ultimately, these track offerings train students to become leaders in their chosen nursing specialty, to affect meaningful change where they see the need.

This upgraded DNP curriculum, in combination with the new MSN/APRN program, creates renewed pathways for students to advance their nursing careers. RMUoHP is excited to provide more students with access to graduate nursing education, while delivering an educational experience that fits their personal aspirations. Prospective students can visit the MSN/APRN and DNP webpages to learn more about RMUoHP’s nursing programs.