3 Best Surgical Nurse Practitioner Programs – 2024

Written By: Darby Faubion, RN, BSN, MBA

Are you a flexible, detail-oriented advanced practice nurse who thrives in a challenging medical environment? Do you work well with a team of people? Perhaps you have some experience in surgery but want to grow your career. If this sounds like you, a surgical nurse practitioner program is an excellent way to obtain the education you need to open the door to opportunities and do what you love. The area of surgical nurse practitioner practice has gained popularity in recent years, making the availability of surgical nurse practitioner programs much more relevant. As you read this article, you will learn about three of the top surgical nurse practitioner programs for 2024, as well as find information about what it takes to step into this very rewarding career.

What Is the Goal of a Surgical Nurse Practitioner Program?

The goal of surgical nurse practitioner programs is to educate and train advanced practice registered nurses to become well-prepared, qualified surgical practitioners. Surgical NP programs are designed to equip students with the ability to practice with a high level of autonomy and within acceptable standards of care for surgical patients. Students in these programs participate in didactic coursework and clinical rotations in various surgical settings, including vascular surgery, surgical oncology, transplantation, reconstructive surgery, surgical intensive care. The exposure to diverse surgical opportunities gives program participants the chance to see first-hand the different types of surgical specialties available and prepare them to make decisions about their careers moving forward.

Top 7 Benefits of Surgical Nurse Practitioner Programs

If you want to become a surgical nurse practitioner, you may choose from a surgical nurse practitioner fellowship, residency, or post-master's/post-graduate certificate program to accomplish your goal. There are some great benefits of surgical nurse practitioner programs, no matter which type you choose.

1. The challenges you face can make you a better surgical nurse practitioner.

A day in the life of a surgical NP is anything but boring. Even routine procedures require skill, skill that is only learned from practice. Every challenge you face while in a surgical nurse practitioner program is something you can use to help make you a better provider to your patients.

2. You will learn from skilled surgical professionals.

Surgical nurse practitioner programs allow students to learn from highly qualified professionals and learn first-hand how to perform the job well.

3. You will feel a sense of gratification with a job well done.

Anything worth doing is worth doing well. Caring for surgical patients is no exception. When you have accomplished the knowledge and skills provided by a surgical NP program and begin caring for your patients, you will undoubtedly feel a true sense of fulfillment, especially as you watch them progress and recover.

4. Good income earning potential:

Surgical nurse practitioners work in a variety of settings and care for patients with diverse surgical care needs. The amount of responsibility that comes with the job is often rewarded with good compensation. As you will find later in this article, surgical NPs earn approximately $97,380 each year.

5. Flexible work schedule:

Although there are exceptions to the rule, many surgical nurse practitioners work in surgical wards of hospitals, outpatient surgery centers, and recovery rooms. Routine surgeries are typically scheduled during the workweek, which means you may not have to work nights or weekends.

6. Long-term career opportunities:

There will always be a need for qualified surgical care practitioners, and surgical NP programs help prepare students to fill those roles. Choosing a specialty like surgery is a great way to increase opportunities for long-term employment options.

7. Several options of where to work:

After completing a surgical nurse practitioner program, there are several settings where graduates may be employed. For example, some surgical nurse practitioners work in hospital operating rooms, Veteran’s medical centers, specialty surgical centers, ambulatory surgery centers, or academia.

How Long Are Surgical Nurse Practitioner Programs?

Becoming a surgical nurse practitioner can take from six months to four years or more. The main factor that determines how long a candidate will take is the nursing degree he or she has when they begin the program. Post-master's or post-graduate certificate programs may take six to twelve months. Some nurse practitioner schools offer a surgical subspecialty that involves adding surgery-relevant coursework to the student's current study plan. Fellowships are typically designed for candidates who have already achieved a master's or Doctorate in nursing and are what many compare to on-the-job training. Each surgical nurse practitioner fellowship featured in this article is a twelve-month program.

How Much Do Surgical Nurse Practitioner Programs Cost?

The cost related to surgical nurse practitioner programs varies and is determined mainly by the type of program. For example, individuals who choose to enroll in a university nurse practitioner program that offers sub-specialty certification or class options may pay anywhere from $8,000 to $80,000, depending on the current degree they hold at the time of enrollment.

Other programs, like the surgical nurse practitioner fellowship programs shared in this article, do not have tuition or fees for participants. Instead, fellowship participants (commonly referred to as "fellows") are typically considered employed by the institution offering the fellowship. As such, fellows receive salaries and other benefits, including insurance, paid sick days, and vacation time. Additionally, many fellowships offer educational stipends so participants can meet continuing education requirements without the burden of the extra expense.

What Is the Curriculum Like?

The curriculum for surgical nurse practitioner programs includes pre-operative and post-operative care as well as rotations in surgical settings. Students learn the importance of managing fluids and electrolytes, maintaining acid/base balance, recognizing surgical emergencies or complications, and preventing post-operative infection.

The following are examples of the curriculum included in the surgical NP fellowships featured in this article.


University of California San Francisco

offers a Surgical and Critical Care Nurse Practitioner Fellowship Program designed for licensed and certified Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioners. The fellowship includes clinical rotations in surgery and critical care settings and is focused on advanced assessment, planning, collaboration, and negotiation skills of the advanced practice nurse. The UCSF Surgical and Critical Care program for advanced practice registered nurses is the first APRN program in the United States to earn the Accreditation with Distinction recognition from the American Nurses Credentialing Center. This distinction makes it one of the best surgical nurse practitioner programs available. The fellowship includes didactic experiences as well as clinical rotations involving adult inpatient services in the following areas.

◦ Critical Care Medicine
◦ Kidney Transplant
◦ Liver Transplant
◦ Advanced Lung Disease
◦ Interventional Cardiology
◦ Plastic Surgery
◦ Neurosurgery
◦ Acute Care and General Surgery

The Advanced Practice Provider Surgical Fellowship at the

University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Center

is designed for both Physician Assistants and Adult Acute Care Nurse Practitioners who wish to pursue a career in general surgery or a surgical subspecialty. The fellowship, one of our featured surgical nurse practitioner programs, includes a didactic curriculum that is presented alongside clinical experiences.
Didactic Curriculum: The initial three weeks of the APP Surgical Fellowship include theory instruction on topics relevant to the surgical patient, including fluid management, acid/base balance, electrolyte replacement, surgical emergencies, and surgical complications.
Clinical Curriculum: During the clinical portion of UC-Anschutz's surgical nurse practitioner fellowship, participants work with medical residents and interns. Fellows learn to obtain an accurate patient history, perform a physical examination, write orders, and develop differential diagnoses related to surgical conditions. Participants also assist in the operating room, order and interpret diagnostic studies and perform surgery-related procedures with the supervising physician.


University of South Florida’s

Department of Neurosurgery and Brain Repair and College of Nursing have partnered to offer an Advanced Practice Provider Neurosurgical Fellowship. The fellowship allows participants to work with faculty and neurosurgical APRNs from the Department of Neurosurgery. The program's curriculum involves hands-on training in neurosurgical subspecialties, including spinal, functional, cerebrovascular, endovascular, and neuro-oncology neurosurgery.

What Are the Admission Requirements?

Admission criteria for surgical nurse practitioner programs are determined by the school or healthcare institution that offers the program. Typical requirements include the following general criteria.

◦ Possess an active, unencumbered license to practice as a registered nurse
◦ Provide letters of professional recommendation (usually a minimum of two)
◦ Submit a Personal Statement describing reasons for interest in the program
◦ Provide official transcripts from all post-secondary schools
◦ Submit resume and/or curriculum vitae
◦ Graduate from an accredited nurse practitioner program

For discussion purposes, it is worth noting that the type of nursing degree a candidate is required to have to meet admission requirements (BSN, MSN, DNP) varies among programs. BSN to MSN, post-baccalaureate, or post-master's to DNP programs are offered at the university level. Some colleges or universities allow students to take additional classes while enrolled in their nurse practitioner program to give them a surgery certificate.

The surgical NP programs featured in this article are all offered in fellowship format and require applicants to have at least a master's in nursing. The following few paragraphs give examples of admission criteria for the surgical nurse practitioner fellowships we have featured.

Of the three surgical nurse practitioner fellowships featured in this article, the

University of California San Francisco

outlines the longest admission criteria. Individuals who seek a position in the Surgical and Critical Care Nurse Practitioner Fellowship at UCSF must meet general fellowship requirements, administrative requirements, and "before hire" criteria as follows.

Fellowship Requirements

◦ Must have a master's or Doctorate in nursing from an accredited program earned within 18 months of the program’s start date (current or pending)
◦ Current American Heart Association CPR and ACLS certification

Administrative Requirements:

◦ Have health clearance through the UCSF Occupational Health Department
◦ Negative substance abuse screening
◦ Successful background check
◦ Verification of identity and eligibility to work in the United States
◦ Complete the credentialing process through the UCSF Medical Staff Services Office

Before Being Hired for the Fellowship:

◦ Graduate from an accredited Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner program within 18 months of the fellowship’s start date
◦ Possess current RN and NP licensure from the California Board of Registered Nursing
◦ AACN or ANCC certification as an Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
◦ DEA license upon start of the fellowship

In addition to the general admission criteria mentioned at the beginning of this section, applicants to the surgery fellowships at the University of Colorado and the University of South Florida must meet the following requirements.

◦ Nurse practitioners who wish to participate in the Advanced Practice Provider Surgical Fellowship at the University of Colorado must have passed or be eligible to take the National Acute Care Nurse Practitioner or Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner certification exam.
◦ Applicants for the Advanced Practice Provider Neurosurgical Fellowship at the University of South Florida must have a degree from a regionally accredited Acute Care Nurse Practitioner program and be certified as an Acute Care nurse practitioner.


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

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

Program Type:

Surgical and Critical Care Nurse Practitioner Fellowship

2. University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus - Aurora, CO

Program Type:

Advanced Practice Provider Surgical Fellowship

3. University of South Florida - Tampa, FL

Program Type:

Advanced Practice Provider Neurosurgical Fellowship

What Kinds of Career Opportunities Exist for Surgical Nurse Practitioners?

There are many options when it comes to career opportunities for graduates of surgical nurse practitioner programs. The setting you prefer to work in will likely determine the position for which you apply. Here are a few examples.

• Clinical Review Surgical Nurse Practitioner:

Uses critical thinking skills, nursing judgment, and clinical expertise combined with medical criteria to perform clinical reviews for procedures that require prior authorization

• Vein and Vascular Center Surgical Nurse Practitioner:

Assists vascular surgeon in providing care for patients experiencing diseases, disorders, or injuries related to the circulatory system

• Nursing Instructor:

Nurse practitioners with specialty certifications, such as graduates of a surgical nurse practitioner fellowship or program, often lend their expertise in academia.

• Director of Surgery Services:

Responsible for overseeing the day-to-day activities in a surgery center or hospital surgical ward, including scheduling employees, managing the departmental budget, and collaborating with the interprofessional team

Average Salary for Surgical Nurse Practitioners

The average salary for graduates of surgical nurse practitioner programs, according to PayScale, is $97,380 yearly. The same source reports that many surgical NPs earn up to $136,000 annually. Typical benefits that could add value to a salary package include health, life, disability insurance, paid sick days, paid vacation, employer-sponsored retirement plans, and education stipends to help offset the cost of meeting continuing education requirements.

Per Hour$46.82
Per Month$8,120
Per Year$97,380
(Source: Payscale.Com)

Job Outlook for Surgical Nurse Practitioners

In the last decade, there has become a greater understanding of the healthcare needs of the population. With this understanding, it has become evident that nurse practitioners who have specialized training are an asset to the healthcare delivery team and help improve patient outcomes. Surgical nurse practitioners participate in various aspects of surgical care and provide both direct and indirect care to clients. As the role of nurse practitioners, in general, continues to expand, there is increased demand for qualified NPs to work in the surgical spectrum, making the job outlook for graduates of surgical nurse practitioner programs quite favorable.


If you enjoy the idea of fast-paced, exciting, and rewarding work, becoming a surgical nurse practitioner could be the perfect job for you. The surgical nurse practitioner programs for 2024 featured in this article offer a few great opportunities for anyone wishing to become a surgical NP.


How can I become certified as a surgical nurse practitioner?

Becoming certified is a great way to demonstrate your ability in your chosen field. Although there is no surgical nurse practitioner certification exam, credentialing agencies offer surgery nursing certification, and graduates of surgical nurse practitioner programs are eligible to test. These include the American Nurses Credentialing Center (Medical-Surgical Nursing Certification), Medical-Surgical Nursing Certification Board (Certified Med-Surg Registered Nurse), the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (Adult Cardiac Surgery Certification), and the Plastic Surgical Nursing Certification Board (Certified Plastic Surgical Nurse).

Are there any cons to surgical NP programs or becoming a surgical NP?

There are pros and cons related to everything in life, including personal, professional, and academic choices. Weighing the pros and cons is a great way to help you determine whether the pursuit of this degree is best for you. Some of the cons may include the stress of the job (or program), the length of time it takes to complete the program or the amount of time you must devote to the program.

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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