Questions to Consider When Choosing an APRN Program Blog Header
Questions to Consider When Choosing an APRN Program Blog Header

Questions to Consider When Choosing an APRN Program

What Are the Different Types of APRNs? What Do They Do?

So first things first, do you know what an APRN is and do you know the different types of APRNs? APRN stands for advanced practice registered nurse. It is the umbrella term for advanced practice registered nurses and encompasses four roles:

  • Certified Nurse Practitioner
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Certified Nurse Midwife
  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist

The Certified Nurse Practitioner (CNP) makes up the largest number of APRNs in the country and is the most well-known. According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, a CNP provides specialized primary healthcare services to different populations. It can refer to any Nurse Practitioner in any specialty.

The Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) is a multifaceted role and can provide direct patient care, but also works at the organizational level. What this means is that a Clinical Nurse Specialist is more likely to be a consultant for a healthcare organization or work in an administrative role rather than on the individual patient level.

The Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) provides care for women across the healthcare continuum, particularly in childbearing years.

The Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) is a provider of anesthesia care in operative and procedural settings.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Choosing a Program

When choosing a future APRN role, first think about:

  • What do you love about the nursing discipline?
  • What do you want to do with your nursing career?
  • What type of patients are you passionate about?
  • What practice settings do you prefer or thrive in?

Do not base your decision solely on salary and schedule – make it about passion and satisfaction. Every nurse has had at least one moment in their careers when the pieces just fell into place and all seemed right and comfortable. Every nurse has also had at least one moment when nothing seemed to fit. Before you decide on a specialty area, think about your career experiences and make a list of those that really stand out as positive as well as those that stand out as negative. Look for patterns in your lists and focus your energy on the areas that correlate with your most positive experiences.

Questions to Ask When You Are Considering a Specific Program

Below are some specific questions you should ask regarding program specifics:

  • What is the average time to completion?
  • Is the program accredited?
  • What is the success rate of program graduates in passing certification exams?
  • How long does it take a program graduate to find an advanced practice nursing position after graduation?
  • How many clinical hours are in the program?
  • Is the program affordable and does it fit with your work-life balance?
  • How are clinical placements managed?
  • What is the availability of faculty?

You will want to ensure that you have the option to attend as a full-time or part-time student. You never know when your professional or personal circumstances might change, so having the flexibility to adjust your course load is crucial. It’s also helpful if the program provides a roadmap of coursework and expectations so you can prepare, plan and meet your goals as efficiently as possible.

Another key detail to consider is the program’s support of clinical placements. Make sure you know, first, if it supports clinical placements and, second, how it supports them. You may be surprised at how clinical rotations vary from school to school. To get the most out of your experience and best prepare for your new career, you need comprehensive training. Similarly, you should research program faculty members to determine if they are experienced in their practice areas. For example, has the faculty member teaching the pediatrics course actually worked as a pediatric nurse practitioner?

Final Thoughts

Do not enter a program because it is quick or easy. Do not hastily make a decision to be an NP because it is popular – know the work you want to do.

My advice: before you go from being the person who takes the orders to the one giving orders, make sure you want that responsibility.

Cherish the word “advanced” in advanced practice nursing. It takes time and effort to be advanced. In fact, your clinical experience is an integral part of your advanced education.


Author Biography:

Meredith Lahl-Foxx received her BSN and MSN from the University of Pennsylvania. She is currently the ACNO of Advanced Practice Nursing (APRN), Nursing Quality & Practice for the Cleveland Clinic Nursing Institute. The APRN scope involves overseeing the practice of over 1,600 APRNs throughout the Cleveland Clinic Health System. Her role entails oversight for APRN scope, role expectations, quality assurance and recruitment. She also serves as a consultant to all for any APRN topic.  

Lahl-Foxx is a member of AANP (American Association of Nurse Practitioners), OAAPN (Ohio Association of APNs) and APHON (Association of Pediatric Hematology & Oncology Nurses). She is a regional director for OAAPN (Ohio Association of Advanced Practice Nurses).