The Master of Science — Family Nurse Practitioner Degree Program prepares graduates to deliver care as family nurse practitioners (FNP). In alignment with the school's vision to advance health, the mission of the family nurse practitioner program is to educate health care professionals to lead clinical programs in collaborative teams and to improve the availability of culturally relevant primary health care to underserved populations throughout California.

Preparing primary care providers

Family nurse practitioners are registered nurses who are prepared, through advanced education and clinical training, to provide a wide range of preventive and acute health care services to individuals of all ages. They complete health histories and provide physical examinations, diagnose and treat many common acute and chronic problems, interpret laboratory results and X-rays, prescribe and manage medications and other therapies, provide health teaching and supportive counseling with an emphasis on prevention of illness and health maintenance, and refer patients to other health professionals as needed.

Jonathan Hernandez, R.N., Nurse Practitioner Student, Class of 2017

Programs at the School of Nursing both prepare advanced practice nurses with the knowledge and skills needed to serve in those capacities and meet the needs of a constantly changing health care system. Rooted in a growing body of research and nurtured by visionary faculty who seek to transform health care, the curricula embrace integrative case-based learning, technology and systems-wide perspectives. Instruction is also designed to be “more inspiring…and create an atmosphere of a community of learners,” as identified in a 2012 report by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

As a result of health care reforms and an increasingly aging population with advanced chronic illnesses, millions more people require primary-care services, exceeding the number of providers currently available. The family nurse practitioner program at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing provides a partial solution to this growing problem by educating and preparing primary-care providers versed in preventive measures, who advance health through health promotion and disease prevention, practice in ambulatory and community-based settings and enhance the existing workforce. A key to that preparation is learning in a collaborative environment, rather than in the absence of other health professions.

In the 2010 landmark report, “The Future of Nursing,” researchers with the Institute of Medicine determined “nursing education needs to be transformed in a number of ways to prepare nursing graduates to work collaboratively and effectively with other health professionals in a complex and evolving health care system in a variety of settings.” Leaders of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation expand upon that premise recognizing health educators and professionals must break out of their silos and “work in tandem with others to transform what it means to be a healthy nation.” Furthermore, a “Culture of Health” looks at health from a bird’s-eye view, recognizing the bigger picture of health care, but also taking into effect how health extends to family and community life.

The family nurse practitioner and physician assistant programs at the School of Nursing are the only ones in the country where students in these different disciplines learn alongside each other. Together, they discover how to interpret different perspectives, collaborate and lead as members of health care teams. The experience fosters awareness and appreciation of other cultures, promotes qualities that transcend the classroom and shapes how students provide care once in practice. With a focus on primary-care serving rural, diverse and aging populations, the UC Davis programs enable students to experience serving underserved populations during clinical rotations and prepare clinicians to fill the gap of providers that continues to grow.

Growing a community of learners

Like the school’s other four graduate-degree programs, the Master of Science — Family Nurse Practitioner program is led by the Nursing Science and Health-Care Leadership Graduate Group, an interprofessional team of more than 55 faculty from disciplines including nursing, medicine, health informatics, nutrition, biostatistics, pharmacy, sociology and public health.

While the family nurse practitioner program is full-time, the schedule allows students to maintain employment while they pursue their education. This professional degree program includes academic courses, clinical skills courses and supervised clinical practice. Academic courses provide a broad education that includes advanced skills in understanding complex problems and generating solutions, how health systems and health care work, how to improve quality, as well as how to lead teams and manage business aspects of care, including informatics and reimbursement. Together, students in the family nurse practitioner and physician assistant programs benefit from an enriched primary-care curriculum, in-depth pharmacology curriculum and interprofessional preparation.

Graduates are prepared to work as leaders of health care teams and learn methods to continually critique and improve care, provide care that is evidence-based and establish systems of care to address population health issues. All students must complete core academic courses and a comprehensive exam as well as 720 hours of supervised clinical practice.

The family nurse practitioner program is a 24-month, year-round program. Core courses are offered summer, fall, winter and spring quarters on the UC Davis Sacramento campus. Students typically attend class Monday through Friday and they should also expect some weekend and evening course requirements and clinical experiences. A mandatory Leadership Immersion Experience serves as an orientation for students. This full-time, three-day experience runs the week prior to the first summer quarter. Throughout their time together, students interact with School of Nursing leadership, participate in team building and develop one-on-one faculty relationships. The Leadership Immersion Experience serves as the foundation for the Nursing Science and Health-Care Leadership Graduate program curriculum.

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When UC Davis first offered postgraduate certificate programs to prepare both family nurse practitioners and physician assistants more than 40 years ago, a dual-track program was offered to nurses to prepare simultaneously for the two professions. Today, as master’s-degree programs, these are the only physician assistant and family nurse practitioner programs where students in both programs learn together to practice collaboratively with clinicians in a variety of settings. Due to accreditation-limited enrollment and the need to ensure all physician assistant seats are filled by physician assistant students, the dual-track option is now only offered on a space-available basis. Click here to learn more.