Trying to become the best nurse practitioner you can be is a difficult task to achieve with so much educational material on the market. There are countless online courses, CME, DNP programs and post-graduate certifications. It can become overwhelming and stressful. Where does one start?
The first thing you need to realize is that the results you deliver to your patients matter more than anything else. If you can fix the way a patient feels, they do not care about your DNP or post-graduate certification you paid $25,000 on. All they care about is feeling better.
It is time to stop wasting your money and time on educational material that does not deliver results to the patient and to you for that matter.
So how do you improve patient outcomes? How do you produce the results you want with patients? It must be through practical education.
The DNP folks will say they can deliver better “evidenced based care” and utilize the critical thinking ability developed during their program to help shape health care policy blah blah blah…
Post-graduate certifications allow you to branch out into another clinical area such as psychiatry or acute care.
CME will provide you with a structured educational course that awards CME credit that goes towards licensure/certification.
Self-study gives you the ability to learn what you want, when you want, and how you want. CHEAPLY.
Hence, which one is best in terms of providing real life results? Well let’s go over each way a nurse practitioner can increase their clinical knowledge and ability.
Ah, the Doctor of Nursing Practice. Our “terminal” degree… Such a disappointment in terms of creating tangible real-world results. The DNP is 2-3 years of leadership, nursing informatics, quality improvement, patient safety, integrative evidenced based practice, management of systems, scholarly writing, ethics, and more adjectives and fancy bullshit words.
Where is advanced pathophysiology? Pharmacology? Microbiology? Differential Diagnosis? You know, actual science and clinically relevant information? Classes that help you be an excellent clinician whom understands the physiology of the human body.
Where are the advanced practicums? Many DNP programs have the nurse practitioner student finish all their clinical work in the first 2 years and the last year is focused on research. GREAT IDEA! You are totally going to be ready to practice when your done…
Why not just skip the research project and have an in depth 2000-hour clinical practicum? That would produce results! Throwing a bunch of words in a hat and shaking them up and inserting them into a hypothesis statement does not. Sorry.
If there was a significant clinical component to it, it would have utility that produces results. It simply does not do this. If your DNP did, great! You are a minority.
The predominant result a DNP will provide you is the ability to teach nursing at a higher level. If that is your goal and the result you desire, then the DNP is for you.
If you want to increase your clinical ability and generate real life results, there are far superior options.
Nurse Practitioner Certification
Post-graduate certifications are about the best source of result producing education you will get from nursing academia. These programs are practical, have clinical components and award a certification at the end. After you take your boards and obtain your certification it allows you to bill insurance companies for psychiatric care, acute care, etc…
Are they necessary though? It totally depends on what your goal is. If you are family practice and want to move into more comprehensive psychiatric care, then sure, getting your psych certification would produce those results if that is your goal. But here is the issue, it mostly comes down to insurance reimbursement and certain state requirements.
Try to get a practice credentialed for mental health as an FNP without a psych certification. It won’t happen. I have tried. But what if you are comfortable treating the majority of psychiatric problems such as ADHD, anxiety, depression, substance abuse and bi-polar disorder as an FNP? You will have to do so through primary care unless you have that psych certification. Therefore, your rates are different and insurance could potentially deem your services as not covered. Ahhh, being a slave to insurance is awesome!
I know adult nurse practitioners who cannot treat anyone under the age of 18 due to insurance restraints and state regulations. It is a barrier to their practice even though treating a 12-year-old for strep is not rocket science…
What about the countless FNPs like myself who work in the emergency department? Insurance companies, Medicaid and Medicare are getting stricter with reimbursement and some hospital systems are requiring you have your acute care certification. Really? Will that produce better results vs the real life experience of working years in the ER? I doubt it. Others that went back and got their acute care certification thought it was a waste of their time and money. But they had to do it if they wanted to keep their job. Utterly ridiculous…
Overall, post graduate certifications are another way to nickel and dime the nurse practitioner. If it is an absolutely necessity for your livelihood then get one… But if it is not and you are contemplating going back to school for one, please put deep thought into it and ensure it aligns with your long-term goals and produces the results you desire.
Nurse Practitioner Continuing Education
A necessary evil! We all are required to have a certain amount of CME hours each year for our licenses and when we renew our certification. I agree that it is important that we all continue to learn throughout our careers to be competent medical providers. It is essential for long term career growth.
There are “official CME” and “unofficial CME” products. Official CME are those that have been “certified” by organizations such as the ANCC and AANP for a fee. You must meet their requirements, pay them anywhere from $500-$5000, and boom! The CME is certified! Hallelujah! The CME now awards hours that goes towards certification. Money racket? You decide.
On the other hand, unofficial CME is self-study essentially. It often has the same caliber of educational material and will produce the same if not better results. We will get to that point further down.
If you look at the reality of it however, does official CME produce substantial results? It depends.
Many CME programs are filled with a bunch of fluff that never benefits you. There can be a few interesting topics but often there are topics thrown in the mix that are a total waste of time.
I recently finished a men’s health CME and there was a long 2-hour lecture about classifying prostate cancer and the subsequent treatment options for each. It was interesting but this does not help me in my day to day clinical practice. It was a waste of time. My job is to refer that to the urologist. Not treat it.
Look at the buprenorphine waiver course for nurse practitioners. This course allows you to prescribe buprenorphine/Suboxone to opioid addicts. It is an 8-hour course for the MD/DO. It is 24 hours for the NP/PA…. Yep, we dumber… The first 8-hour portion is the practical clinical training component. The actual needed component for practice. The other 16 hours? FLUFF!
There are some great CME programs out there though!
In my strong opinion one of the best investments you can make towards your CME requirement as well as improving your clinical skill set is using Audio Digest. There are THOUSANDS of interesting lectures from the top minds of medicine that offer practical real-world advice.
Easily 50% of what I know about testosterone replacement therapy came from Audio Digest. Same can be said with most of my clinical knowledge. This information is priceless and to the point. I learned more from Audio Digest then I did in my MSN program.
If you are not aware of what Audio Digest is, it is simply recorded lectures from experts in any specialty you could imagine. The lectures are typically part of a conference therefore the information is relevant, engaging and allows you to start implementing the information immediately into your clinical practice. This produces results while giving you an enormous amount of CME hours! My last certification renewal hours were 80% Audio Digest and 20% fluff courses so I could just go on tax free vacations.
Reading guidelines, medical books, articles and published studies is what I consider “self-study” and “unofficial CME.” Going this route does not award any type of CME credits but its advantage is that you study what you want. It is like Audio Digest but much cheaper and often times free.
When I opened my men’s health clinic, I purchased books that were specifically tailored to men’s health and testosterone replacement. They did not award CME or were certified by some organization but were RELEVANT to what I was doing. Some were written by fitness specialists and others by physicians. I read multiple guidelines, listened to podcasts and scanned message boards relevant to testosterone replacement.
That is what is so great about self-study! Multiple perspectives and “outside of the box” approaches. The material I digested and assimilated in my mind from my men’s health self-study cannot be found in any other book on the planet. This provided massive results! $20,000 a month in revenue PART TIME kind of results. Tell me how a DNP, post-graduate certification or a CME can do that?
When it comes to self-study though you need to be very picky with what material you could utilize. There is a lot of sketchy information online so you must use your best judgement. The best route to take is to utilize sources from reputable individuals. Do your research! If it sounds to good to be true, then it is. If the science or clinical aspect sounds outrageous, then it probably is.
I remember reading an article from some “doctor” in Mexico utilizing apple seeds to treat certain types of cancer and was having amazing results and cure rates. Really? You probably need to skip that one…
Physicians read and study new practice protocols, guidelines and trends all the time. They implement this into their practice without issue. So can you! I have seen emergency medicine physicians watch a video on YouTube about a certain clinical procedure and then go do it! I learned how to do cervical muscular releases, trigger point injections, elbow injections, and various other procedures from YouTube videos as well. Use your clinical judgement. That is how we grow!
Conclusion: DNP vs Certifications vs CME vs Self-study…Which is the best?
If you want to be a professor, then get your DNP. It will produce the result you want.
If you want to open a psychiatry practice and bill insurance, then the psych post-graduate certification will give you your desired result.
Scrambling for CME hours because you slacked off the past year? You better take some CME courses so you can maintain your certification/license!
But if you want to create a side business and define your niche skill, then self-study is by far the best and cheapest option. Self-study allows you to focus your attention on gaps of knowledge that you have that you know for a fact will help your patients and build your business/practice.
If you can combine it with CME also, then you are gold! Audio Digest is the way to go my friends. (I have no ties with Audio Digest by the way.)
You want to open the largest allergy practice in town? Think a DNP will help you with that? Hardly… You know what will? Self-studying the immunology and allergy societies guidelines about allergy testing and treatment. Reading patients’ stories on message boards. Buying an immunology book and understanding the science behind what you are doing. Watching free educational videos. Read the allergy board reviews the doctors use! Self-study just like they do! It is not difficult; it just takes perseverance and discipline.
Imagine how much you could learn if you spent the 2 years it takes to go back to DNP school self-studying practical, marketable and self-improving skills instead? You would increase your clinical ability SIGNIFICANTLY. And for a fraction of the cost!
I am a self-taught NP in many aspects. I estimate 80% of what I know has been achieved by self-study and a few focused courses, NOT A COSTLY STRUCTURED EDUCATIONAL DEGREE/CERTIFICATION. I have never had a bad outcome in my entire career. I am damn proud of that fact too.
If you want to become an elite nurse practitioner, you must do it yourself. No one else will. It takes hard work and dedication to study. It is exhausting at times. Football and a beer is far more enjoyable…
You do not need to waste your money or time on nonsense that lines the pockets of academia’s administrative team.
If you are thinking about DNP school, please think again…
Thinking about that post-graduate certificate? Think again…
Thinking about dropping $5,000 on some hormone replacement or functional medicine CME? Think again…
Really sit down and evaluate what your long-term goals are. Will it help you produce the results you desire? If it does not, skip it. If it does, dive right into it with full force regardless of what it is!