15 Best Critical Care Nurse Practitioner Programs – 2023

Written By: Darby Faubion, RN, BSN, MBA

Are you an advanced practice registered nurse who feels comfortable with your ability to evaluate and react to quickly changing situations? Are you interested in providing care to acute or critically ill patients? If so, have you ever considered becoming a critical care nurse practitioner? One of the most integral parts of the healthcare team is the men and women who work with critically ill patients. Critical care nurse practitioner programs help prepare advanced practice RNs to provide support and care to acutely ill or injured patients. In this article, I will share some of the most popular critical care nurse practitioner programs for 2023 with you and give you some insight on how you can begin your career as a critical care nurse practitioner.

Top 5 Benefits of Critical Care Nurse Practitioner Programs

Critical care nurse practitioner fellowship programs, residencies, and certificate programs open the door of opportunity for advanced practice registered nurses who want to transition their care focus to the critically ill. The following are some benefits of choosing a critical care NP program.

1. Gain experience in a specialized field:

Intensive or critical care units are very specialized departments within hospitals. Choosing to enroll in a CCNP program or to apply to a residency or fellowship allows nurse practitioners to gain experience and more in-depth medical knowledge of the needs of patients who require critical nursing care.

2. Sense of fulfillment:

When you know you have the knowledge and skills necessary to provide excellent patient care, you will experience a sense of making a true difference. Being the shoulder to cry on, the hand to hold, and the voice of comfort may bring peace to hurting patients and their loved ones, but it can also leave you feeling incredibly fulfilled as a healthcare provider.

3. Increased income:

Critical care nurse practitioners shoulder a great deal of responsibility while caring for patients in some of the most unstable conditions and are often compensated well for it. By earning a CCNP certificate or completing one of the popular critical care nurse practitioner fellowship programs or residencies, you can set yourself up to be able to earn a higher income.

4. The job challenges you to become better each day.

A critical care patient’s health status can change quickly, and critical care nurse practitioners must be able to handle the challenges that come with those uncertain or unpredictable changes. One benefit of critical care nurse practitioner programs is that they prepare you to respond to the unexpected safely while promoting positive patient outcomes.

5. Job security:

While there is no shortage of critically ill patients, critical care nurse practitioners are not as abundant in numbers. By becoming a CCNP, you can increase your marketability and job security in hospitals and other healthcare facilities that provide critical care. The more experience you gain as a critical care NP, the more security you will feel in your job.

How Long Are Critical Care Nurse Practitioner Programs?

Critical care nurse practitioner programs are designed for the advanced practice registered nurse who wants to specialize in caring for critically ill clients. Some colleges and universities offer specialty certificate programs focused on acute or critical care. Additionally, healthcare facilities and universities may offer nurse practitioner fellowships or residency programs that are focused on critical care only. The length of time it takes to become a critical care nurse practitioner will vary, depending on the type of program you choose.

Columbia University

offers a one-year Critical Care Nurse Practitioner Fellowship Program designed for nurse practitioners holding a minimum MSN with a specialty in adult acute care.
The Surgical and Critical Care Nurse Practitioner Fellowship at the

University of California-San Francisco

is a twelve-month program. Interested applicants must possess RN and NP licenses to practice in California. Because California has pending Nurse Licensure Compact legislation, out-of-state nurse practitioners should apply for a California RN and NP license as soon as possible as the licensing process can take from three to nine months.
Nurse practitioners who have graduated from an accredited pediatric acute care or critical care pediatric nurse practitioner program can apply for admission to the Pediatric Critical Care Nurse Practitioner (PCCNP) Fellowship at the

Medical College of Wisconsin

. The fellowship is designed to be completed in twelve months, including ten months of CICU/PICU clinical work, six weeks of electives, and two weeks of anesthesia training.

How Much Do Critical Care Nurse Practitioner Programs Cost?

Critical care nurse practitioner programs vary in price, depending on the path of study you choose. Certificate programs are typically the most affordable, ranging from $5,000 to $8,000. Graduate programs, which can cost as much as $50,000 or more, offer nurse practitioner students the chance to choose a specialty such as acute care pediatric nurse practitioner or adult/gerontology acute care nurse practitioner. Fellowships and residencies are structured differently. Advanced practice registered nurses who wish to specialize as critical care nurse practitioners and who are accepted into a residency or fellowship can actually earn money during the program, rather than having to payout.


Mayo Clinic College of Medicine & Science

, nurse practitioners can apply for the Nurse Practitioner or Physician Assistant Critical Care Fellowship. Graduates from the program receive a certificate of completion from Mayo Clinic School of Health Sciences, which documents completion of a one-year post-graduate critical care medicine fellowship. There are no tuition fees for members of the fellowship. This program provides an opportunity for a competitive stipend that is paid bi-weekly and full Mayo Clinic benefits.

St. Luke's University Health Network

offers one of the most popular critical care nurse practitioner programs in the form of a Critical Care and Emergency Medicine Advanced Practitioner Fellowship. While participating in this fellowship, nurse practitioners earn an annual salary of $60,316. Other benefits include forty-eight hours of holiday pay, one hundred twenty hours of paid leave, malpractice insurance, uniforms, on-call meal cards, as well as dental, vision, and health insurance.
The Advanced Practice Provider (APP) Critical Care Fellowship at

North Texas Critical Care UMass Memorial Health Care

is a twelve-month fellowship. The program's fellows are provided a stipend of $85,000 for the year, four weeks of paid vacation, tuition assistance for conferences, and on-site continuing education conferences.

What Is the Curriculum Like in A Critical Care Nurse Practitioner Program?

The curriculum in critical care nurse practitioner programs focuses on comprehensive clinical training in several critical care areas. Critical care is a sub-specialty of nurse practitioner practice and the programs offered are used to build upon the education and work experience that NPs have already earned.

The Emory Critical Care Nurse Practitioner/Physician Assistant Post-Graduate Resident offered at

Emory University

is a one-year training program. The program combines a competency-based curriculum with clinical practicum, which gives students the opportunity for hands-on learning. Students experience patient care rotations in this program, including medical, surgical, and neurology intensive care, cardiac care unit (CCU), nephrology, infectious diseases, operating room, and trauma/surgical ICU.
At the

University of Pittsburgh

, certified registered nurse practitioners who are interested in achieving advanced training in adult critical care medicine can apply to the Critical Care Advanced Practice Provider (APP) residency. During this twelve-month critical care nurse practitioner program, resident NPs study medical and surgical critical care, trauma, transplantation, and cardiothoracic diseases. Additionally, residents provide general care to patients with acute respiratory failure, sepsis, and other types of critical illnesses and diseases.
The Critical Care and Emergency Medical Advanced Practitioner Fellowship Program at

St. Luke's University Health Network

is a year-long program. It combines didactic lectures with six months of core rotations and critical care rotations.

Mayo Clinic College of Medicine & Science

offers a one-year post-graduate critical care fellowship at the Mayo Clinic's Rochester, Minnesota campus. Residents at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science are taught to improve time management and critical-thinking skills and to enhance critical care skills and procedures. Didactic coursework includes lectures, educational conferences, modules, and Grand Rounds. The curriculum consists of rotations in the following intensive care units.

◦ Cardiovascular surgical
◦ Cardiovascular and thoracic transplant
◦ Infectious disease
◦ Medical intensive
◦ Medical, surgical, and transplant intensive
◦ Surgical and trauma

What Are the Admission Requirements?

Before applying to critical care nurse practitioner fellowship programs, it is essential to verify the admission criteria. Although programs may have different minimum requirements, the following are some of the most common things applicants must possess and/or submit with their application.

◦ Minimum one year experience working as an adult/gerontology acute care nurse practitioner or pediatric acute care nurse practitioner
◦ Curriculum Vitae or Resume
◦ Official transcripts from any undergraduate college and ACNP school
◦ Personal Statement
◦ Two letters of recommendation
◦ National Certification from a Professional Credentialing Body


University of Colorado

offers an Advanced Practice Surgical Fellowship with Critical Care track. Like some other critical care nurse practitioner programs, this program is designed for adult acute care nurse practitioners interested in specializing in surgical critical care. Nurse practitioner applicants must have graduated from an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Program. Further, applicants must have passed or be eligible to take the National Acute Care Nurse Practitioner or Adult/Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner certification exam.

University of Rochester Medical Center

accepts applications to its Critical Care Fellowship Program from new graduate nurse practitioners or early-career nurse practitioners who support a strong desire to have a critical care nursing practice career. Fellowship hopefuls must be licensed or eligible for licensure in New York State.
The Nurse Practitioner Critical Care Fellowship offered by the

University of Maryland Medical Center

is a fast-paced critical care nurse practitioner program. The fellowship is designed to be completed in nine months. Applicants must be a graduate of an accredited Acute Care Nurse Practitioner program (NLN or CCNE), be nationally board certified (AACN, or ANCC), and possess or obtain a Maryland RN and CRNP license.


(The following Certificates, Fellowships, and Residency Training Programs are ideal for individuals who aspire to become a Critical Care Nurse Practitioner.)

1. Columbia University - New York, NY

Program Type:

Critical Care NP

2. University of California-San Francisco - San Francisco, CA

Program Type:

Surgical and Critical Care Nurse Practitioner Fellowship

3. Medical College of Wisconsin - Wauwatosa, WI

Program Type:

Pediatric Critical Care Nurse Practitioner (PCCNP) Fellowship

4. Emory University - Atlanta, GA

Program Type:

Critical Care Centers NP/PA Post Graduate Residency

5. University of Pittsburgh - Pittsburgh, PA

Program Type:

Critical Care Advanced Practice Provider (APP) Residency

6. Mayo Clinic College of Medicine & Science - Rochester, MN

Program Type:


7. University of Colorado - Aurora, CO

Program Type:

Advanced Practice Provider Surgical Fellowship

8. University of Rochester Medical Center - Rochester, NY

Program Type:

APP Fellowship

9. The Ohio State University - Columbus, OH

Program Type:

Oncology and Acute Critical Care Fellowship

10. University of Maryland Medical Center - Baltimore, MD

Program Type:

Nurse Practitioner Critical Care Fellowship

11. Dartmouth-Hitchcock - Lebanon, NH

Program Type:

Critical Care Advanced Practice Provider Residency

12. UMass Memorial Health Care - Worcester, MA

Program Type:

Critical Care Affiliate Practitioner Residency

13. Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital - New Brunswick, NJ

Program Type:

Advanced Practice Provider (APP) Critical Care Fellowship

14. St. Luke's University Health Network - Bethlehem, PA

Program Type:

Critical Care & Emergency Medicine Advanced Practitioner Fellowship

15. North Texas Critical Care - Dallas, TX

Program Type:

Surgical Critical Care APP Fellowship

What Kinds of Career Opportunities Exist for Critical Care Nurse Practitioners?

After completing a critical care nurse practitioner program, residency, or fellowship, there are various settings where you may find career opportunities. Critical care NPs may work in intensive or critical care units, emergency departments, surgery units, medical units, inpatient subspecialty practice centers, and skilled nursing facilities.

Earning Potential for Critical Care Nurse Practitioners

Critical care nurse practitioners earn an average yearly income of $104,634. However, it is not uncommon for CCNPs who are willing to work odd or split schedules, nights, weekends, or holidays to be offered a higher wage. Additionally, as a critical care NP gains more experience, increased salary may be negotiable. Other factors that may impact critical care nurse practitioners' earning potential are geographical location and a facility's need to employ a nurse practitioner for critical care.

Per Hour$50.30
Per Month$8,720
Per Year$104,634
(Source: Ziprecruiter.com)


Of the almost three hundred thousand nurse practitioners in the United States, only eight percent specialize in acute care, which is one of the pre-requisites for becoming a critical care nurse practitioner. If, after reading about some of the most popular critical care nurse practitioner programs for 2023, you believe becoming a critical care NP is something you would like to do, this could be a perfect time. Job security, increased income, and a fulfilling career could be just a phone call away.


What is the difference between an acute care nurse practitioner program and a critical care nurse practitioner program?

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services defines critical care as the direct delivery of medical care by a physician or nurse practitioner for a critically ill or critically injured patient. Acute care is provided to patients who are stable but require treatment, assessment, or intervention every two to four hours. Acute care NP programs prepare APRNs to care for acutely ill clients. Critical care NP programs build upon the education and experience of acute care NPs and offer specialized training to deal with critical medical situations.

Why do some people get a Critical Care NP Certificate and others participate in a Critical Care NP Fellowship or Residency?

First, it’s important to note that neither certificate programs, fellowships, or residencies are considered stand-alone degree programs. Instead, these programs offer APRNs the chance to hone in on specialized skills required for critical patients. Certificate programs are typically shorter, which may make them a better option for someone who cannot commit to a year of residency or fellowship. However, certificate program participants are usually required to pay tuition. Fellowships and residencies are like on-the-job training. Once accepted, fellows and residents are afforded many of the same benefits as regular employees, as well as a designated, often generous, income while learning.

What is the difference between a CCNP residency and a CCNP fellowship?

A residency is a post-graduate program completed following nurse practitioner school, and it is focused on your chosen specialty. For instance, family nurse practitioners may complete a primary care residency program. A fellowship is a post-graduate program that helps nurse practitioners sub-specialize beyond their chosen specialty. For example, an adult/gerontology acute care nurse practitioner may wish to specialize in critical care and would, therefore, apply to a critical care nurse practitioner fellowship.

Is a critical care nurse practitioner fellowship program necessary?

Nurse practitioners are not required to go through a fellowship or residency program to practice. However, it can be a great supplement to the education you receive in nurse practitioner school. Fellowships and residencies can make the transition from student nurse practitioner to practicing NP easier.

Darby Faubion, RN, BSN, MBA
Darby Faubion is a nurse and Allied Health educator with over twenty years of experience. She has assisted in developing curriculum for nursing programs and has instructed students at both community college and university levels. Because of her love of nursing education, Darby became a test-taking strategist and NCLEX prep coach and assists nursing graduates across the United States who are preparing to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).

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