Schools Offer New Training Programs to Help Nurse Practitioners Manage Acute Care

Crain’s Health Pulse
July 21, 2016
Schools Offer New Training Programs to Help Nurse Practitioners Manage Acute Care

In December, nurse practitioner Michelle Avent, 52, completed her post-master's certificate in adult acute care at Pace University. She paid out of her own pocket to participate in the yearlong program to better cope with patients needing more acute care in her unit at Forest Hills Hospital in Queens.

“I wasn't thinking about money or promotion,” she said of her decision to go back to school. “I was thinking about a way for me to better manage my patients.”

As more patients are treated at outpatient facilities, New York’s hospital-based nurse practitioners are being called upon to treat more patients with acute conditions, say nurse educators. In response, nursing schools are beginning to offer programs to meet their needs for advanced training in acute care.

There are 8,685 nurse practitioners who maintain New York state licenses specializing in family health while just 857 report their specialty as acute care, according to data from the New York State Department of Education. Nurse practitioners have seen the scope of their practice expand following the 2014 passage of the Nurse Practitioners Modernization Act, effective Jan. 1, 2015, which gave experienced clinicians the ability to treat patients without a written agreement with a physician.

New York's 25 Performing Provider Systems reported an interest in hiring more than 3,000 additional nurse practitioners for their health systems in applications tied to the state’s DSRIP program, according to a 2015 analysis by Patrick Coonan, dean of Adelphi University's College of Nursing and Public Health.

While Avent paid for the program herself, some employers are reimbursing tuition for students, said Renee McLeod-Sordjan, program director for Pace’s acute-care certificate, which costs $38,232. So far, Pace has graduated just three students from the new program, and will enroll its next class in the fall.

"For many years, many of us did not work in hospitals,” McLeod-Sordjan said. In her 20-year career, she said she's seen nurse practitioners take on an increasingly vital role in hospitals.

McLeod-Sordjan, also an employee of Northwell Health, said acquiring the additional certification is about providing higher-quality care, but it probably won’t lead to an automatic bump in pay.

She said the certificate could help protect nurses who practice in acute-care settings from malpractice claims by demonstrating that they are qualified to care for patients who need more complex care. While the expansion of the scope of practice means more independence it has also led to some double-digit increases in malpractice premiums, McLeod-Sordjan said.

“If we’re not trained, we’re opening ourselves up to malpractice” she said. “Now that we are independent practitioners, we can no longer hide behind a collaborating physician.”
New York University's nursing school also offers a post-Masters certificate in adult acute care. The part-time program takes two years to complete.
Kathleen Gallo, dean of the Hofstra Northwell School of Nursing, said new programs that offer additional certifications to nurses who already have a master’s degree can increase access to care.

Her nursing school, founded in 2015, enrolled its first class of 30 nurse practitioners last year and it’s currently waiting for approval from New York state to offer a full-time psychiatric mental-health nurse practitioner program. It then plans to apply for advanced certificate programs in family nursing, adult gerontological acute care and psychiatric-mental health.

“The nursing environment is changing,” she said. “Academic nursing is responding to the needs of health care.”

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