What You Can Expect When Taking Nursing Classes Online

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Earning a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) can position nurses to pursue many different nursing career paths, including research, education, clinical practice, and management. But with just an MSN, it may prove difficult to quickly expand their clinical roles. To bridge the gap, experienced nurses can train pursue a post-master’s certification to study the specialized clinical discipline of their choice. Yet many aspiring students are also active professional careers with strict work hours that make it challenging to find the time to pursue higher education. Taking nursing classes online can allow nurses to earn their post-master’s nursing certificates without compromising their work-life balance.

What Is a Post-Master’s Certificate?

Post-master’s certification coursework is designed to prepare students to advance their nursing practice by improving the level of care they provide their patients. The purpose of certification is to help qualify registered nurses to become nurse practitioners (NPs) and to allow NPs to add a specialty or more autonomy to their current primary care practice.

Should You Earn Your Post-Master’s Certificate Online?

After earning their Master of Nursing Science, nursing professionals typically enter the workforce as soon as possible to start gaining valuable work experience. After working for some time some nurses wish to continue their education with a post-master’s certificate, but hectic work schedules and a busy personal life may leave little or no time to travel to and from campus for lectures. Taking nursing classes online is an exciting alternative for ambitious nurses who are interested in advancing their education, but never imagined they would have the time. Rather than attending classes, students can view course materials online and interact with their instructors from the comfort of their own home. These flexible online education tools allow any qualified student nurse to pursue the education they desire.

What Is a Nurse Practitioner?

Nurse practitioners are clinicians who serve as patients’ primary care providers. They must have at least a master’s degree, and they need advanced training and certification beyond their registered nurse credential. The concentration an NP chooses for his or her certification program will determine the range of patients the NP is qualified to treat. Although the specific duties of each specialization may vary, there are a few core concepts that all nurse practitioner students learn:

  • Health assessment
  • Disease prevention
  • Health management

Nurse Practitioner Specializations

  • Pediatrics (PNP) — Pediatric nurse practitioners are specialists who work with children, from newborns to adolescents. Through lectures and hands-on clinical training, nurses learn to diagnose and treat children. They also learn how to educate their patients and their patients’ families about maintaining health and wellness.
  • Psychiatric Mental Health (PMHNP) — Curriculum in this specialization focuses on teaching nurses to assess the mental health needs of individuals, families, and communities. They are also taught how to diagnose patients’ mental health disorders and develop treatment plans. Psychiatric mental health NPs treat their patients through interventions such as prescribing medications and administering psychotherapy.
  • Adult-Geriatric (AGNP) — Adult-geriatric nurse practitioners learn how chronic illness affects people across the adult lifespan. They also learn how to help their patients cope with the pain and discomfort those conditions entail using nursing practices such as palliative care and polypharmacy.
  • Family (FNP) — FNPs administer care to all members of the family. They treat pregnant women during the pre-, post-, and perinatal periods, promote positive health decisions for children as they age, and provide primary care to all members of the family as necessary. The courses featured in this certification program emphasize teaching students how to promote better overall health for families using methods such as disease prevention, patient education, and counseling.
  • Women’s Health (WHNP) — Women have unique health concerns that can be treated only by someone who has an in-depth understanding of female biology. By completing an accredited program, experienced nurses can develop the skills needed to help female patients and their families navigate many women’s health issues, such as those related to childbearing and fertility.

Course Examples for Each Specialized Certification Program

When taking nursing classes online, students should prepare to take core courses, as well as several courses that are based solely on their chosen specializations. These are some examples of specialized courses prospective students can expect to find in the different post-master’s certificate programs:

Clinical Concentration Course: Primary Care of the Child II (Required for the PNP specialization)

The pediatric specialization centers on caring for the physical and mental health of children; therefore, this course is included to teach students how to safely deliver primary care health services to younger patients. These services include well-child checkups, physical examinations, immunizations, developmental screening, and care for minor injuries or illnesses. As this is an advanced course, students will also learn how to manage chronic conditions in adolescents and plan ongoing care for children with special needs.

Theory and Practice of Contemporary Psychotherapies (Required for the PMHNP specialization)

To tend to the diverse mental health needs of their patients, mental health nurse practitioners must be prepared to facilitate psychotherapy sessions that help explore the underlying causes of problems or symptoms. Through this class, student nurses will learn how to administer short-term, problem-focused, and long-term psychoanalytically oriented treatments.

Sociological, Political, and Economic Perspectives in Aging (Required for the AGNP specialization)

Topics covered in this course include how government policies, finances, and societal factors can impact an individual’s ability to seek and receive health care. By learning how different aspects of life can affect aging patients, students can provide the highest quality of service.

Clinical Concentration Course: Primary Care of the Family II (Required for the FNP specialization)

When providing primary care to families, it is necessary to look beyond treatment of disease and to prioritize holistic management of their overall health. This course will teach student nurses how to advocate for improved health for all members of the families they treat. Core topics include counseling, communication, and delivery of primary health care services.

Care of the Childbearing Woman (Required for the WHNP specialization)

When a woman is pregnant or hoping to become pregnant, she will rely on women’s health professionals to guide her through the process. In this course, nurses will learn about the different variables that may occur throughout the childbearing process, such as fertility complications and difficult pregnancies. Using that knowledge, they can assure that the care they provide to childbearing women is tailored to their needs.

Regis College Online Post-Master’s Nursing Certificate Programs

The nurse practitioner role is attractive to many practicing nurses because of the opportunities for specialization, independence, career advancement, and leadership possibilities. A post-master’s nursing certificate program prepares students for their specialties and to sit for one of the six national board certification exams. Regis College offers five NP certificate specializations in its online post-masters nursing certificate programs. An online program allows you to pursue the nursing career you want in a way that fits into your lifestyle.

Recommended Reading

Should Nurse Practitioners Have Full Practice Authority?

10 Best Practices to Promote Cultural Awareness in the Nursing Profession

5 Areas of Study for the Master of Science in Nursing Student


Children’s National

Institute for Contemporary Psychotherapy

American Psychiatric Nurses Association

American Association of Nurse Practitioners