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PNP-AC Overview

The University of Iowa, Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (PNP-AC) program educates nurses through didactic and clinical experiences to enable graduates to successfully practice as PNP-ACs. The PNP-AC Program focuses on the care of complex acutely, critically and chronically ill infants, children, adolescents and their families. At the completion of the program graduates are eligible to be nationally certified through the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board. Our goal is to prepare clinical leaders within the profession and U.S. health care system.

Program Design
The College of Nursing offers robust options including pathways to a clinical doctorate as a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and Post Graduate Certificates. 

  • The BSN to DNP program focuses on the educating students in the DNP competencies with 3 and 4 year options. This program can be clinically focused on one population.
  • (PNP-AC) or can be constructed as a dual program which allows students to be educated in two APRN populations (for example, PNP-AC and PNP in primary care).
  • A two-year Post MSN to DNP program for APRNs is also offered for those who have master’s degrees but would like to achieve clinical doctorate.

A streamlined post master’s certificate program is available to for those NPs with a master’s degree who wish to match their practice with certification and licensure. This program is typically one year depending on a Gap Analysis.

Benefits of the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
The American Association of College of Nursing (AACN) has recommended the DNP as the graduate degree of choice for advanced practice nurses. The University of Iowa College of Nursing was one of the first in the nation to receive approval for the DNP from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) in 2009.

In a landmark report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, the Institute of Medicine recommended that “Nurses should practice to the full extent of their education and training; and, be full partners in redesigning health care in the United States.” The DNP degree will allow PNP-AC to be full partners in the developing health care system of the future and provide the high quality, cost-efficient care for which they are known.

Program Sequence
The curriculum follows the University of Iowa academic calendar. You will receive a week off at Thanksgiving, a month for winter break, and a week at Spring break and two weeks between the spring and summer terms as well as summer and fall terms.

The University of Iowa PNP-AC program from BSN to DNP will involve either 3- or 4-years of intense academic study and clinical experience (see plans of study). The curriculum is a hybrid model (both on-site and online coursework) designed to be completed in either a three- or four-year period, starting each August.

The initial portion of the plans of study provides you with courses that provide a solid foundation in advance nursing practice where you will learn from experts in various specializations. You will follow your cohort through the entire program but in these first two years you will be introduced and develop relationships with others in the Adult/Gero, Family and

Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner tracks. This foundation will prepare you for the 3rd year of clinical training and for future practice as a full partner in the future health system.

The middle and final portions begins your intense specialized training in the PNP-AC field. During the fall, spring and summer semesters you will be required to receive at least 180 clinical hours each term along with didactic training. At the University of Iowa, you will receive exceptional clinical training in varied setting to include outpatient, specialty clinic and other areas that may be of interest to you across the state of Iowa. The DNP-PNP-AC program at Iowa also matches you with your preceptors and arranges your clinical experience through the expertise of Angela Melsa-Worrell, clinical coordinator, and Dr. Judy Verger, Director. You will be guided through the program and clinical experiences working toward graduation in which you will have the skills to practice autonomously as a PNP-AC.

In the spring semester before graduation PNP-AC students defend their DNP projects. Sample projects can be found here

The University of Iowa PNP-AC program also offers a plan of study to receive post certification in Pediatric Acute Care for those wanting a second APRN certification. This program is a hybrid program. The plan of study starts in June and finishes in the summer of your second year (4 semesters total). Successful completion of this track will enable this individual to be board certified as a PNP-AC. During this training you are provided the same didactic and clinical experience as BSN to DNP students are provided along with being given credit for all the experience and credits you received with your initial APRN certification.

The University of Iowa Adult/Geriatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner program also offers a hybrid Post MSN/APRN to DNP plan of study for APRNs that would like to become certified as a PNP-AC as well as receiving a DNP, and an online Post MSN/APRN to DNP program for PNP-AC providers with a master's degree who want to complete their DNP.

The University of Iowa is also excited to offer plans of study for Dual Certification with PNP-AC specialization. This is an extremely intense plan of study where an eligible person could be ready for board certification in Pediatric Acute Care specialization along with one of the following specialization: Pediatric Acute Care. Family Nurse Practitioner, Adult/Gero Nurse Practitioner or Psychiatric/Mental Health specializations. This is done in four years and graduates with a DNP as well. Due to the intensity of this plan of study it is recommended that the individual who undertakes this feat would solely focus on their academic and clinical training; however, the individuals who complete this dual certification would be allowed to define their practices as they see fit. They would also be known for their level expertise in more than just one area of specialization. These individuals would be defined by their exceptionalism.

The academic and clinical experience you receive in the Iowa DNP PNP-AC program surpasses all requirements of the PNCB to sit for the national Pediatric Acute Care board exam. The Iowa program has a strong reputation for preparing remarkable PNP-AC clinicians who can practice throughout the state of Iowa and across the nation. The future is bright for PNP-ACs in the U.S. health care system and very bright for Iowa DNP PNP-ACs who are prepared to be leaders within that system.