As healthcare delivery becomes more complex and models move toward population-based care, some nurses are seeking programs that provide not only higher education but also expertise in a subspecialty.
Programs at New York and New Jersey colleges of nursing some masters and some post-masters are immersing nurses in their areas of interest, from HIV/AIDS to forensic nursing to case management to teaching.
A certificate program at Ramapo College of New Jersey in Mahwah, for example, fills a need for nurses who already have masters degrees, but are not teaching experts.
The assumption is if youre a really good clinical nurse, you can teach, said Kathleen Burke, PhD, RN, assistant dean of nursing programs. But how do you create a valid, reliable exam? How do you design curricula so they meet regulatory standards and learners needs?
Ramapo developed the program 10 years ago because, at the time, they were alone statewide in filling the need for a post-masters program devoted to teaching nursing, Burke said.
Many of Ramapos students come from local community colleges that provide tuition reimbursement for new faculty to master teaching, she said. Students typically take two courses per semester for one year and then go into academic settings or become educators in the clinical arena to manage patient, staff and medical education, Burke said.
Local work experienceHarriet Feldman, RN
Harriet Feldman, PhD, RN, FAAN, is dean of the College of Health Professions and the Lienhard School of Nursing at Pace University in New York City. She also sits on the board of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.
She said certificate programs appeal to nurses who want to add another layer of expertise to their chosen field.
Theres no national movement to require any additional specialty, she said. This is more consumer-driven, where people want to switch to something different or add on to what they already have.
In some instances, a particular institution may require specialty certification or insurance companies and Medicare and Medicaid may require them as a condition of reimbursement, Feldman said.
The programs offer a wide variety of alternatives, depending on how each school sets them up. Programs can meet online or in person. Some courses involve work experience inside area hospitals or clinics, while others include independent study, an exam at the end of the program, a final project or a deliverable for the students assigned hospital.
Exposure to financesJamesetta A. Halley-Boyce, RN
Seton Hall Universitys College of Nursing in South Orange, N.J., offers a 12-hour certificate program for case management, said Jamesetta A. Halley-Boyce, PhD, RN, FACHE, the schools associate professor and director of the health systems administration program.
The program requires a bachelors degree and is online except for clinical experience and in-person consultation.
Our program isnt for the beginning nurse, Halley-Boyce said of the course of study.
Nurses learn skills needed for evolving delivery models such as medical homes, according to Halley-Boyce.
We really want you to have the exposure to be able to function in a healthcare delivery system today, and healthcare delivery today is very complex, she said.
Nurses studying to be case managers will learn how, among other lessons, to analyze finances to make sure hospitals have the resources to stay in business.
From student to nurse navigatorDeborah Slate, RN
One of Halley-Boyces students, Deborah Slate, BSN, RN, will graduate in December with a masters from the 30-credit case management/health systems administration degree program.
Slate said after 25 years of bedside nursing experience, she wanted to get a masters but didnt want to be a nurse practitioner.
Through the program, she is studying how hospitals are paid for their services, who the payers are, how the revenue cycle works, how diagnoses are coded and how decisions are made to open and close units.
Not even a full year into the program, she said, doors were opening. First, she was hired as a clinical documentation specialist. In late September, she became a nurse navigator at Atlantic Health Systems Heart Success Program, where she works with Medicaid patients who have congestive heart failure. Shell be teaching and following up to improve coordination of their care, improve outcomes and reduce readmissions.
The certificate takes you to the next level to understand the business aspects of healthcare and nursing, Slate said. That is essential, I think, to being a successful case manager because you are so part of the finances having the right patient in the right bed at the right time. If you understand the financial end of it, you understand why that is so important.
HIV/AIDS nursing careKathleen Burke, RN
Students in the nine-credit HIV/AIDS nursing care program at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., get hands-on training in treating HIV populations in hospitals and nursing homes.
Suzanne Willard, PhD, RN, APN-C, FAAN, director of the program, said Rutgers chose the specialty because many on the faculty were already specialists and funding was available from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration.
When this opportunity came around, it just made perfect sense, Willard said.
It is one of four such HRSA programs in the U.S. where nurses become nurse practitioners with a specialty in HIV, she said. The program, now in its second year of funding, takes three years for those who arent nurse practitioners and one year for NPs.
The certificate can strengthen a resume, and nurses may find more facilities are requiring certification in a specialty. While the certification likely will help you get a job, its unlikely to result in more pay than a nurse practitioner without the specialty, Willard said. This program is designed so grads can work in Federally Qualified Health Centers or in hospitals or clinics that have HIV populations. Having that certificate adds a layer of confidence for both nurses and employers, Willard said.
It validates that youre an expert.
Marcia Frellick is a freelance writer.
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