Post-Master's Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (PPCNP) Graduate Certificate Programs - Campus and Online Post-MSN Programs
Updated: October 15, 2022
Nursing graduate certificate programs that offer a Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (PPCNP) specialization are designed to provide Registered Nurses (RNs) who hold a graduate degree in nursing with advanced training in the delivery of healthcare services, the provision of medical treatments, and the promotion of general wellness for infants and young children. These programs, which may be designated as Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (PPCNP) graduate, postgraduate, or post-master’s certificate programs, require applicants to hold a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. Additionally, some programs may also require that applicants have prior training in an Advance Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) specialization.
These programs provide master’s trained RNs with a pathway to becoming a licensed PPCNP that is faster, more direct, and less costly than completing a second MSN program with a specialty in pediatric primary care nursing.
Pediatric Primary Care Nursing Explained
Pediatric primary care nursing involves the clinical care of children from infancy up through adolescence in a range of healthcare settings, including hospitals, medical centers, community-based clinics, and private pediatric medical practices. Like other types of Nurse Practitioners (NPs), PPCNPs are licensed in their state of practice to conduct physical exams, order and interpret diagnostic tests, manage patient care in coordination with physicians and other healthcare professionals, and prescribe treatments and medications subject to the prescriptive authority granted to NPs in their state. PPCNPs must also be adept at working with families and legal guardians to promote the health and wellness of the infants and young children in their care, and at assisting families in managing chronic and episodic illnesses in children who are too young to care for themselves. Finally, some PPCNPs engage in clinical research and take on public policy responsibilities that include educating the public about pediatric health and assessing and coordinating the efforts of public health initiatives.
Identifying and Classifying PPCNP Post-Master’s Graduate Certificate Programs
PPCNP graduate certificate programs are non-degree granting academic programs offered by regionally accredited universities, typically through a school, college, or department of nursing with programmatic accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN). These programs prepare RNs who have already completed a graduate degree in nursing (MSN or DNP) for state licensure and/or the Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner-Primary Care (CPNP-PC) credential awarded by the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB). PPCNP graduate certificate programs accomplish this by ensuring that program graduates have completed general advance practice nursing coursework in pathophysiology, pharmacology, and patient assessment, specialized coursework in the care and treatment of infants and young children, and supervised clinical hours in a pediatric primary care setting.
Among programs that meet the above criteria, there are three distinct types of programs that prospective applicants should be aware of as they vary in terms of their admission requirements.
- Post-MSN PPCNP certificate programs that accept RNs who have completed an MSN in any specialization
- Post-MSN PPCNP certificate programs that require RNs to have an MSN or DNP degree in an NP/APRN specialty
- Post-MSN PPCNP certificate programs that require applicants have MSN or DNP training in a specific NP/APRN specialty, such as a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP).
For MSN trained nursing who are not practicing APRNs, it is important to find a program that does not require an APRN license for admission. APRNs have additional options because they can typically attend a program that does or does not require an APRN for admission and the curriculum should be similar. As explained in more detail below, programs usually conduct a gap analysis to ensure students do not have to repeat courses they have already taken in previous graduate degree programs.
In addition, some nursing schools may require RNs to have one or more years of clinical experience prior to enrolling in a PPCNP certificate program. As a result of these variations and the fact that primary care is one of two pediatric NP specializations, PPCNP programs may be formally designated in a number of ways, including but not limited to the following: PPCNP graduate, postgraduate, post-master’s, or post-professional certificate programs; and Pediatric Nurse Practitioner-Primary Care (PNP-PC) graduate, postgraduate, post-master’s, or post-professional certificate programs.
PPCNP Graduate Certificate Coursework
PPCNP graduate certificate curricula are largely designed to align with state boards of nursing licensure and PNCB professional certification requirements, which are similar but may not be the same in all states, as licensure requirements vary by state. These standards include holding a master’s or doctoral degree from a program accredited by the CCNE or ACEN; the successful completion of graduate coursework in advanced pharmacology, advanced pathophysiology, and advanced patient assessment; and a graduate degree or certificate in pediatric primary care nursing with a minimum of 500 supervised clinical training hours.
RNs who enroll in a PPCNP graduate certificate program typically submit to a gap analysis in which a program administrator reviews a student’s prior academic and clinical training in order to determine the specific courses and the number of pediatric primary care clinical hours that student will need in order to qualify for licensure and certification. RNs who have already taken courses in advanced pharmacology, pathophysiology, and/or patient assessment are typically exempted from having to repeat these courses. Similarly, RNs who have completed applicable clinical rotations in a pediatric primary care setting are generally credited with some or all of those hours.
Thus, the exact number of courses/credits required to earn a PPCNP graduate certificate varies by school, by program, and by student. The names and descriptions of required courses vary as well. However, a typical PPCNP graduate certificate program curriculum includes the following types of coursework in pediatric primary care principles and practices:
- Advanced Practice Nursing in Primary Care Pediatric Patients – An overview of the role of the PPCNP in various clinical settings with a focus on health and wellness promotion in young patients and the identification and treatment of common illnesses in that patient population.
- Wellness, Development, and Behavior of the Pediatric Population – Advanced practice nursing of the pediatric population and care coordination with patients’ families to promote children’s well-being and provide effective interventions for comprehensive and preventative care.
- Management and Care of Adolescents in Primary Care – An examination of typical health issues, common illnesses, and preventative care among the adolescent patient population.
- Primary Care of Children with Special Needs – An overview of health and wellness issues among children with disabilities and special needs.
Online Post-Master’s PPCNP Graduate Certificate Programs
PPCNP graduate certificate programs are designed to accommodate practicing RNs, many of whom choose to continue working full- or part-time while earning their certificate. One way that schools maximize the flexibility and convenience of a program while extending its reach beyond the confines of a college or university campus is through the deployment of online learning techniques and technologies. There are fully online PPCNP graduate certificate programs, which offer all or most of their didactic instruction via web-based learning management systems (LMSs), and there are partially online programs, which provide a mix of online and campus-based instruction and are commonly referred to as hybrid or blended online programs.
An online PPCNP graduate certificate program is a program that uses an LMS to deliver most or all of its required lectures and coursework online, while overseeing the completion of clinical rotations under the supervision of a qualified preceptor at sites that are local for students. Some online programs integrate a limited number of campus visits into their curricular requirements in order to provide hands-on lab experiences and other forms of instruction that benefit from having students on campus. These campus visits are typically short in duration and may be held on weekends and at other times that are less likely to cause scheduling conflicts for students. However, there are online PPCNP graduate certificate programs that do not require students to attend any campus-based sessions. GraduateCertificates.com classifies a nursing program as online if it requires three or fewer in-person instructional activities per year.
Blended or hybrid online PPCNP graduate certificate programs occupy a broad space between traditional, campus-based programs and online programs. Some blended/hybrid programs are weighted more towards campus-based instruction and require students to attend weekly on-site classes while receiving additional instruction remotely. Other blended/hybrid programs offer a significant amount of their didactic instruction online and only require students to be on campus four or five times per semester. While blended and hybrid online programs represent a more convenient and flexible alternative to traditional, campus-based programs, they may not be a practical option for students who do not live or work within commuting range of the school offering the program, unless the student is willing to relocate for the duration of the program.
In contrast, online programs are generally designed to accommodate students for whom commuting is not an option provided the student has access to a high-speed internet connection for streaming lectures, participating in online discussion groups and/or virtual class sessions, completing instructional modules, and submitting assignments for grading and review. As noted above, online students are still required to complete clinical hours in-person at a site approved by the program*.
Finally, there are two modes of online instruction that programs may choose to utilize, and that choice can impact the online learning experience of individual students. Synchronous instruction is the term for learning activities that take place in real-time and that require students to be logged on to a program’s LMS while the instruction is taking place. Examples of synchronous instruction include live-streamed lectures and virtual class meetings in which students and instructors interact remotely via the program’s LMS. Asynchronous instruction refers to all types of learning and instructional activities that do not have a real-time component and that are thus accessible whenever it is convenient for a student to log on to a program’s LMS. Examples of asynchronous instruction include pre-recorded lectures and interactive learning modules that only require one participant.
Synchronous instruction is more rigidly formatted than asynchronous instruction and may be a more comfortable fit for students who prefer an online learning experience that is similar to attending campus-based classes. Asynchronous instruction offers more scheduling flexibility to students than synchronous instruction, but it also requires a greater amount of self-discipline and self-motivation. All online programs incorporate asynchronous learning, but not all programs have live synchronous sessions that are required or routinely scheduled.
Examples of Online Post-MSN PPCNP Programs
The programs listed below offer representative examples of online PPCNP graduate certificate programs.
Drexel University and its CCNE-accredited Division of Graduate Nursing offers an Online Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (PPCNP) certificate program with a curriculum that is designed for MSN/DNP graduates regardless of their current area of specialization. The program’s curriculum is comprised six PPCNP specialization courses and 640 hours of clinicals, all of which can be completed in one to two years, depending on a student’s entry point. RNs who have not yet taken courses in advanced pathophysiology, advanced pharmacology, and advanced patient assessment are required to spend the first two or three terms of the program completing those courses. These requirements are waived for RNs who have already taken courses in those subject areas. For more information about the program, visit Drexel’s College of Nursing and Health Professions at drexel.edu/cnhp/.
Duke University offers an online Post-Graduate Certificate in Nursing program with a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – Primary Care (PNP-PC) specialization through its School of Nursing. The program requires applicants to hold an MSN degree from an ACEN- or CCNE-accredited nursing school, although applicants are not required to be practicing APRNs. It is however recommended that RNs have a minimum of one year of full-time professional work experience prior to enrolling in the program. The Duke program offers most of its coursework online but requires students to attend one campus-based session for each of the program’s two clinical courses. In addition, students must complete 616 supervised clinical hours in a PPCNP setting at a program-approved site. For more information, visit the Duke School of nursing at nursing.duke.edu.
The University of Tennessee at Knoxville offers a hybrid online Primary Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Graduate Certificate program through its College of Nursing. Most of the program’s didactic coursework is delivered via distance learning. However, students in the program are required to attend two campus visits per semester for each of the program’s clinical courses in addition to completing 600 supervised direct patient care clinical hours. Admission to the program is open to RNs who have completed an MSN or DNP degree in any specialization. For more information, visit the University of Tennessee at Knoxville’s College of Nursing at nursing.utk.edu.
More Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Graduate Certificate Programs
*Important to note that some online PPCNP graduate certificate programs are not authorized to accept applicants from all 50 states, and that licensing requirements for PPCNPs vary by state. It is therefore advisable to read program admissions policies and review state licensing requirements carefully prior to applying to an out-of-state online PPCNP graduate certificate program.