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Best Online FNP/ACNP Dual Programs For 2021


Written By: Darby Faubion BSN, RN

Nursing is a remarkably diverse field with many opportunities to pursue. There are some nurses who have a desire to give care to a specialized group of people and who decide to pursue a degree as a nurse practitioner with a specialty concentration. Among this group of goal-oriented, patient-focused nurses, many feel led to follow a path that leads to a dual nurse practitioner degree, such as those who enroll in ACNP/FNP dual programs. If you are interested in a career that involves becoming an advanced practice nurse who specializes in general family care and acute nursing care, continue to read this article as we discuss six of the best online FNP/ACNP dual programs for 2021.


What Exactly Is The Purpose Of An FNP/ACNP Dual Program?


Dual FNP/ACNP programs focus on educating and equipping qualified nurse practitioners to address patients' healthcare needs across their lifespan. Family Nurse practitioners (FNP) treat clients from young children and adolescence to young, middle-aged, and older adults. Acute Care Nurse Practitioners (ACNP) care for the same patient population. However, they specialize in caring for patients during times of acute or sudden illnesses, providing the treatment needed for episodes of typically brief but severe trauma, illness, or recovery from trauma or surgery. Online ACNP/FNP dual programs are focused on training nurse practitioners in both family and acute care practice.


7 Advantages Of Online ACNP/FNP Dual Programs


The thought of taking on the responsibility of enrolling in one of the best online ACNP/FNP dual programs may feel a bit daunting, especially at first. Still, there are some advantages to enrolling in online dual FNP/ACNP programs. Weighing the pros and cons of enrolling in any program is essential. Let’s take a look at some of the advantages of choosing a dual ACNP/FNP program.

1. Save time: One of the most significant advantages of pursuing a dual degree is that you may reduce the amount of time it takes to graduate. In fact, many students enrolled in online FNP/ACNP dual degree programs can save almost a year's time in school by pursuing a dual degree rather than getting one degree at a time.
2. Flexibility in your career: There are not many jobs that require candidates to hold dual or multiple degrees. However, it simply makes sense that having dual degrees means you have the potential to be qualified for twice the number of available jobs.
3. Save money over the long-term: Because earning a dual degree means saving at least an extra year on schooling, you will also experience the benefit of saving money. A year or two worth of tuition and fees can add up quickly, which is one thing that attracts people to pursue a dual FNP/ACNP degree rather than completing one degree at a time.
4. Leadership opportunities: The more experience a person has and the higher the degree level, the more opportunities for leadership positions there are that tend to become available. After graduating from one of the best online ACNP/FNP dual programs, you may find that you are offered roles such as being the clinical director of an emergency room or the director of nursing in a hospital.
5. You have more choices. Having dual FNP/ACNP certification means you have more choices when it comes to career options. This is a plus, especially if you are looking for a job in one area, for instance, a family practice clinic, but there are no local positions open. Having a dual degree means you can pursue a job working another position until the one you prefer to have presents itself.
6. The potential to earn a higher salary. In general, nurse practitioners have the potential to earn a substantial income, even if they only have one specialty. Being dually certified as FNP/ACNP makes you valuable because your skills are versatile and can be used in various settings. This means that some employers may be willing to offer a higher salary to have you as part of their healthcare team.
7. Less competition: Having a dual FNP/ACNP degree means that you have been thoroughly trained in two specialty areas that are in high demand. Successful completion of this degree sets you apart from other nurses and even from other nurse practitioners, as you will have the skills necessary to provide both general family practice nursing care and acute care to patients in need.


5 Tips to Successfully Make It Through Online ACNP/FNP Dual Programs


Even if you are enrolled in one of the best online ACNP/FNP dual programs available, there is no doubt that this is a serious undertaking. The curriculum can be rigorous, and it is not uncommon to feel overwhelmed at first. However, there are some tips to help you make it through the program successfully.

1. Plan for your financial situation. Some NP students work through their program's duration, and if you can do that, that’s great! However, being enrolled in FNP/ACNP dual programs online requires a lot of time and attention being given to studying and clinical rotations. The thought of taking out student loans may not be something you really want to do, but don’t throw the idea aside completely. If there comes a time in the program that you feel you need to lighten your load at work or even take some time off to finish the program, be prepared by knowing your financial options.
2. Get comfortable using cloud-based (internet) storage. By using online storage programs, you can keep your notes for studying and other important information with you at all times. You can use cloud storage on your phone, tablet, or laptop and have your school/study information with you anytime you want to access it.
3. Make sure you have a support system. Having people you can count on to encourage you and help you as you are going through any of the top acute care nurse practitioner/family nurse practitioner dual programs online is essential for success. If you have a spouse or family members that you live with, discussing ways to share household chores and responsibilities can take some stress off you. Also, consider starting an online study group with others who are enrolled in your classes. Just because you are not physically sitting in a classroom with your peers doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of ways to meet, such as setting up a zoom meeting to discuss assignments and ask questions. Knowing that there are others who are going through the same experience as you and leaning on one another can make a big difference in your stress level during this program.
4. Make full use of preceptors and clinical opportunities. If you put forth the effort to enroll in one of the best online ACNP/FNP dual programs, you should put forth the effort to use every resource that you can. Any clinical opportunities you can participate in, do it! If you can meet new people in clinical areas who are preceptors, whether to you or other students, learn everything you can from them.
5. Never lose sight of your "Why"! The most important thing to remember to help you be successful while enrolled in any online ACNP/FNP dual programs is why you wanted to begin this journey in the first place. There may be days when you feel like you can conquer the world of NP school. Then there may be days when you feel like you must have been crazy to enroll in a dual nurse practitioner program. Remember, the reward, in the end, will be well worth the effort you put in now. If you have to make a list of reasons why you chose this path and post it somewhere that you can see it every day, do it. Never lose sight of your “why”!


How Long Are Online Dual FNP/ACNP Programs?


Colleges and universities that offer online ACNP/FNP dual programs vary in the amount of time it takes to complete their programs. Some schools offer MSN, DNP, or Post-Master's Certificate programs. A student's current level of education upon admission to any dual nurse practitioner program will impact how long it may take to graduate. Here are a few examples of program length related to some of the best online dual FNP/ACNP programs we have found.

At the University of South Alabama, students can complete a BSN to DNP FNP/ACNP dual program in five to seven years, having successfully completed 72 to 81 credit hours, depending on whether they have already taken support courses. The University of Iowa offers an online MSN to DNP dual acute care nurse practitioner/family nurse practitioner program. This program can be completed in four years. Students who enter the MSN to DNP program at the university are required to complete a minimum of seventy-two post-baccalaureate semester hours.


How Much Do Online Dual FNP/ACNP Programs Cost?


An online FNP/ACNP dual program cost may vary depending on factors such as whether you have to pay out-of-state tuition or if you receive any kind of financial assistance to help with school expenses. A few examples of online ACNP/FNP dual program costs include the following.

The University of Arizona’s tuition rate is $975 per unit, which is equal to $33,320 per year. Students enrolled in the DNP-FNP program typically spend just under $67,000 for their degree. Each additional course required for the ACNP program part of dual enrollment adds another $975 per unit. Madonna University’s tuition rate is $980 per credit. Students complete a total of 58-60 credit hours, making overall tuition for the online acute care nurse practitioner/family nurse practitioner program


Clinical Training


Dual ACNP/FNP students must attend two mandatory orientations on the campus of the University of South Alabama that include simulation workshops and basic skills. Additionally, they must complete 1080 total hours of supervised clinical hours. These hours are spread across settings such as family practice, pediatrics, acute care clinics, specialty hospitals, and emergency departments. The University of Tennessee Health Science Center requires students in the FNP/ACNP dual programs online to complete 1140 clinical hours overall, which involve different clinical site rotations. Five hundred of those hours must be in supervised primary care settings. At the University of Iowa, MSN to DNP-FNP/ACNP students must complete at least 1,540 clinical practicum hours.


Admission Requirements


Each college or university typically has a list of admission requirements that is specific to their school. The criteria for admission to online FNP/ACNP dual programs have many of the same requirements for admission as programs that are traditionally offered on campus. For example, almost every school requires a cumulative GPA of 3.0 from all post-secondary schools, letters of recommendation from professional acquaintances, such as former instructors or supervisors, and submission of a resume' or curriculum vitae. Although some universities still require standardized testing such as the MCAT or GRE, many no longer have that requirement.

The University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center requires a cumulative GPA of 3.0 on all college-level work, or a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.2 that was earned during the most recently completed degree program and at least two years' work experience as a registered nurse in a primary care and/or acute care setting. Additionally, applicants must submit a letter of intent and three letters of recommendation from doctorly-prepared faculty members or nurses, which address the prospective student's ability to function as an advanced practice RN.

Applicants to Madonna University must complete an application for admission online, submit two letters of recommendation, submit official transcripts, provide a resume or curriculum vitae, and submit a personal goal statement.

The University of Arizona offers both DNP-FNP and DNP-ACNP programs for prospective students and the opportunity to apply for dual enrollment and accomplish both degrees. Admission requirements at the university include

• Students entering the BSN to DNP program should have a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or higher
• Students entering the MSN to DNP program must prove a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher
• DNP applicants must complete two applications:

o Application to the University of Arizona Graduate College to be admitted as a graduate student
o Application to the college of Nursing

• Two letters of recommendation from professional colleagues such as faculty from a previous nursing school or supervisors
• Submit official transcripts from all post-secondary schools attended
• Be computer literate



FOLLOWING ARE THE 6 BEST ONLINE FNP/ACNP DUAL PROGRAMS IN THE NATION FOR 2021


1. University of South Alabama - Mobile, AL

Programs Offered: MSN, DNP (BSN to DNP & MSN to DNP), and Post-Master Certification



2. The University of Tennessee Health Science Center - Memphis, TN

Programs Offered: BSN to DNP



3. Madonna University - Livonia, MI

Programs Offered: BSN to DNP



4. The University of Iowa - Iowa City, IA

Programs Offered: BSN to DNP



5. The University of Arizona - Tucson, AZ

Programs Offered: DNP



6. Colorado State University-Pueblo - Pueblo, CO

Programs Offered: MSN, DNP (BSN to DNP & MSN to DNP) and Post-Master Certificate



View Ranking Methodology



Career Opportunities After Completion of This Dual Degree


After completion of either one of the best online dual FNP/ACNP programs, there are several career opportunities that you may have access to and can choose from. For instance, family nurse practitioners can typically easily find work in family practice, pediatric, and women’s health clinics. They may work in ambulatory or outpatient settings and community health clinics.

Acute care nurse practitioners manage patients who are experiencing acute illnesses in a variety of settings. Some may work in hospitals or other locations. ACNPs often work in trauma units, acute and sub-acute settings, specialty clinics, and emergency departments.

Additionally, dually prepared nurse practitioners often find that roles in nursing education are appealing to them. Their education in more than one specialty makes them a valuable part of college and university nursing faculty.


Salary for Graduates of This Dual Program


Nurse practitioners who graduate from online dual family nurse practitioner/acute care nurse practitioner programs have the potential to earn substantial salaries. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics does not differentiate between nurse practitioners in different focus areas or specialties regarding wages. However, it does report that nurse practitioners across various specialties earn an average of almost $112,000 annually. The setting where an FNP/ACNP works and years of experience in the nursing industry can impact the potential salary he or she earns. Additionally, the type of setting where the FNP/ACNP is employed, what shift they work, and their geographical location can also affect earnings. Some FNP/ACNP degree earners make significantly higher salaries than the average shown here.


Job Outlook for Graduates of This Dual Program


Coupled with a shortage of primary health physicians, factors such as a health-conscious population that are living longer lives and the presence of both acute and chronic health conditions in people who are aged make the job outlook for graduates of a dual FNP/ACNP program favorable. The BLS projects that nurse practitioner jobs overall should grow by forty-five percent from 2019 to 2029. Being dually certified as both an FNP and ACNP will make you more marketable in a time where there is an increased need for qualified healthcare providers.


Bottomline


If providing care for families across the lifespan in both general practice and acute care settings is a career you can see yourself involved with, enrolling in one of the best online dual FNP/ACNP programs for 2021, like the ones mentioned in this article is a step in the right direction. Take the time to research schools and find the one that fits your goals and ideas for your career and future.


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ANSWERED BY OUR EXPERT


Is it hard to get accepted into online dual FNP/ACNP programs?

Admission into any nurse practitioner program can be competitive. That’s why it is important to make sure when you apply that you follow the admissions guidelines as closely as possible. Be sure that you submit all required documentation, have met all pre-requisite requirements, and have maintained an active, unencumbered license to practice as a registered nurse. The more proactive you are about keeping your credentials valid and following through with the application process in a timely manner, the more you will increase your chances of acceptance. Also, if you want to pursue a dual acute care nurse practitioner/family nurse practitioner degree, be sure you have current work experience in both family practice and acute care settings, as this is one requirement of all dual ACNP/FNP programs, whether on-campus or online.

What is the first step to pursuing an online dual ACNP/FNP degree?

The first step is to research the different schools that offer the program. Make sure you find out how each school structures its program, what admission requirements are, and whether the school is accredited.

If I have GRE scores but the school does not require them, will submitting them increase my chances of acceptance in an online dual ACNP/FNP program?

If you took the GRE and you scored well, submitting your scores to the admissions coordinator, or along with your application, certainly couldn’t hurt. While sending your scores to a school that does not require GRE testing is optional, good scores on the test could quite possibly give you an advantage over other applicants who did not take the test.

How do students in online FNP/ACNP dual enrollment programs get the clinical experience needed to complete the program?

Students enrolled in online FNP/ACNP (or other online NP programs) generally work with their school's clinical coordinator to find approved clinical sites and preceptors. One thing to keep in mind is that many schools (not all) require students to find their own sites and preceptors and then seek the school's approval to use them. Not all clinical sites or preceptors are approved. Therefore, it is vital to begin planning for your clinical rotation as soon as possible.

Can students enrolled in a dual ACNP/FNP online program get any type of financial aid to help pay for school?

Yes, students enrolled in graduate and post-graduate programs such as a dual ACNP/FNP program can apply for financial aid. Be sure to fill out a Free Application for Financial Student Assistance (FAFSA), which can give you access to federal grants and loans if you qualify. Also, some employers offer education contracts for employees who want to go back to school in exchange for agreeing to work for the company for a certain amount of time after graduation. Lastly, private loans and school payment plans may be options you can consider.

Is it really essential for an online FNP/ACNP dual program to be accredited?

Absolutely! Accreditation is the process used to evaluate nursing programs and make sure that those programs meet state and national standards. Accreditation is meant to assess the quality of the family nurse practitioner/acute care nurse practitioner dual programs and to create an atmosphere that allows continuous improvement of the academic quality of the programs offered to students.


Darby Faubion BSN, RN
Darby Faubion is a nurse and Allied Health educator with over twenty years' experience. She has assisted in developing curriculum for nursing programs and has instructed students at both community college and university levels.