Brenau offers family nurse practitioner post-graduate certification to close health care gap

An FNP student examines a practice patient
(AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Brenau University is now offering a post-graduate certification for those working towards a career as a family nurse practitioner in an effort to boost health care accessibility in the state.

The program allows those with their Master of Science in Nursing or a doctoral degree in nursing  to earn certification in four semesters. Students have opportunities to complete more than 600 clinical hours, learn from practicing nurse practitioners, and study to take the FNP certification exam as a part of coursework.

“Georgia is in the bottom 10% in the nation of primary care clinician to patient ratios,” Troy Heidesch, director of Brenau’s Mary Inez Grindle School of Nursing, said. “Wait times to see primary care physicians have increased and, in some areas of Georgia, a family physician may be more than an hour’s drive from someone’s home. Family nurse practitioners are working to fill that gap.”

That gap is expanding due to changes in social norms among generations, and the aging population, Heidesch said. Family nurse practitioners are able to provide care much like physicians do, and those with a Master of Science in Nursing or a Doctor of Nursing Practice may take the certification to move to a new area of practice in primary care.

“Brenau already has a very successful MSN-FNP program for those students with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, but it takes three years to complete the master’s level work as well as the clinically focused courses,” Heidesch said. “The post-graduate FNP cuts out redundancy, except for the clinically focused courses, because the students have already completed all of that work. So they can now get a new certification in just 18 months in a part-time program giving them the opportunity to continue working and have time for family life while advancing their education.”

Nurse practitioners are one of the Georgia Department of Labor’s Hot Careers to 2030. Roughly 1,250 job openings are expected annually in the state from 2020-30, and the average salary in 2021 was estimated to be $110,500.