What Courses Are Included In a Nurse Practitioner Program?

Nurse PractitionerNurse practitioner program courses are designed to provide the student with training in several areas critical for advanced nursing practice. The typical masters-level program requires a Bachelor’s degree in nursing as a prerequisite, lasts two years and includes coursework in anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, diagnosis, ethics, and research methods. Students may choose to specialize in a particular area, such as pediatrics, gerontology, or acute care, which requires additional coursework relevant to that area. Nurse practitioner programs also involve several semesters of supervised clinical practice. The American Association of Nurse Practitioners offers helpful information and resources for students considering this degree. Following is a detailed overview of the course of study and specific courses one would find in a typical nurse practitioner program.

Core Courses

Most nurse practitioner degree programs involve a set of basic core courses focused on nursing theory, public policy, and research principles. Sample course titles and descriptions are listed below:

Theoretical Foundations of Nursing Practice: Students explore how nursing knowledge has evolved, and how theory can be used as a foundation for nursing practice, research, and administration. Students will be expected to synthesize their learning to build a personal framework for their own nursing practice.

Research Principles for Evidence-Based Practice: This course would focus on teaching the theoretical, methodological, and statistical concepts used in the development, implementation, and evaluation of clinical research. Students learn how to ask good clinical questions, find and evaluate evidence, and apply that evidence to the care of their individual patients.

Ethics and Public Policy in the Health Care System: This course provides an overview of the structure, regulation, and financing of the U.S. healthcare system and also explores the role of nursing within this system. The course also introduces principles of ethical decision-making within the nursing role and discusses a range of contemporary biomedical ethical issues, both in the nurse-patient relationship and in the broader system of healthcare delivery and allocation.

Population Health, Diversity, and Social Issues: This course equips students to appreciate human diversity in health and illness and to explore the factors involved in health disparities within and among populations. The emphasis is on developing effective strategies for providing quality primary and preventive care to diverse and often vulnerable populations.

Clinical Core Courses

The technical foundation of the nurse practitioner program is in clinical core courses that teach advanced skills in pathobiology, pharmacology, and patient assessment.

Advanced Pathophysiology: The course focuses on the advanced physiological knowledge needed for assessing both acute and chronic health conditions, with emphasis on etiology, pathogenesis, and developmental and environmental influences.

Advanced Pharmacology: The course builds on basic pharmacology to train students at a more advanced level in principles of drug action and interaction, dosing levels, and the legal and professional issues involved in prescribing drugs.

Advanced Physical Assessment: Students develop advanced skills in patient assessment based on chief complaint. The coursework emphasizes theories of human development and communication and principles of epidemiology, health promotion and prevention.

Related Resource: Physician’s Assistant

Clinical Major Courses

Courses in this component of the program are designed to train students in their chosen area of specialization within a clinical setting. The most common areas of specialization are: pediatrics, family and women’s primary care, gerontology, acute care, occupational health, and mental health.

Nurse practitioner program courses provide comprehensive training for the advanced practice nurse. Nurse practitioners today play a critical role in the healthcare system, in many cases taking the place of scarce physicians in serving the primary and acute-care needs of patients in diverse settings nationwide.