New FNP Program

BY Celia Zevon

Staff Reporter

Last year, Sacred Heart University’s 2019 class of Family Nurse Practitioners (FNP) master’s degree program all passed the American Association of Nurse Practitioner certification exam.

Dr. Susan M. DeNisco is the Professor and Director for the Family Nurse Practitioner/ Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Program. DeNisco said that Sacred Heart has had a pass rate of 100% for nearly two decades.

The program gives the knowledge and experience these future nurses will need.

“Our exams, while they were not easy, challenged our knowledge and allowed us to work on our critical thinking skills. We were immersed in a number of hands-on and collaborative activities and clinical experiences and immersions. The program also arranged for us to take the Fitzgerald Review Course, which was a wonderful tool that helped us become more confident and prepared for taking the certification exam,” said graduate student of the Doctoral FNP program, Jean A’Layn Segalla.

This exam grants students the ability to apply for an advanced practice licensure in the state they hope to be employed in. DeNisco said that there are over 80 nurses involved in Sacred Heart’s Doctoral FNP program.

“It entails a rigorous plan of study that incorporates both didactic and direct patient care and clinical education to develop a nurse practitioner who can provide primary care services to patients from birth to death,” said DeNisco.

DeNisco also said that students must complete 600 clinical hours in addition to 450 hours dedicated to leadership development skills in advanced practice nursing.

“Students take the “3 Ps” – Advanced Physical Assessment, Advance Pharmacology and Advanced Pathophysiology prior to beginning their primary care clinical rotations. They have three primary care courses and in the doctoral program clinical immersion courses that includes suturing, splinting and casting, and bedside ultrasounds,” said DeNisco.

Segalla said that in the program they must learn how to properly suture, splint and cast, interpret x-rays and perform ultrasounds while also collaborating with Physician Assistant (PA) students to practice teamwork. The FNP program also allows students to participate in health policy, community initiatives, and organizational events.

Segalla earned her Bachelor’s of Science in Biology, Pre-Med from Sacred Heart University back in 2011 and then went on to work locally for The Institute of Neurodegenerative Disorders in New Haven.

“I wanted to eventually work for myself. I wanted to be able to make a difference in the lives of others as their provider, not just their nurse. The DNP FNP program attracted me because it would prepare me not only to be a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) but I would get my Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree and be able to educate future nurses,” said Segalla.

According to DeNisco, students cannot work as an FNP without passing the certification exam. To be eligible for the exam they must have a minimum of 500 direct patient care hours and then cleared by DeNisco to take the exam which occurs before graduation.

Sacred Heart University’s website said, “Upon graduation, you’ll be eligible to take a national examination for certification as a family nurse practitioner and to apply to practice in the expanded role in Connecticut or other states based on regulatory guidelines. The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree is a terminal degree for nursing.”

The American Academy of Nurse Practitioner’s Certification Board said that in 2019 there was an 86% pass rate on the certification exam with over 118,000 certifications, almost 18,000 more than the previous year.

“We are very proud of our program and our alumni who give back by being clinical preceptors,” said DeNisco. “The MSN Online FNP program will expand the reach of the program by training students to work in rural areas across the country.”

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