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Will gaining acute care experience make me a better candidate for NP-MPH school?

Nurse Beth Nurse Beth, MSN (Columnist) Educator Columnist Innovator Expert Nurse

Specializes in Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho. Has 30 years experience.

Hello Nurse Beth,

I am hoping to get advice as to what NP-MPH programs look for on a resume/what experience would be best before entering this program.

I just graduated from nursing school and have been working at the VNA in their new graduate residency program for a couple months.

I decided to go straight into the community setting instead of the hospital, and it's been going well. I'm hoping to apply to an NP-MPH program within the next 5 years.

I signed up to be a Red Cross volunteer and a medical reserve corps volunteer. I'm also going to join the American Association of Public Health. I hope to work in health policy and research, while still doing some direct patient care (not quite sure what job this is yet but something down this track!).

My main question is should I be getting hospital experience before entering this program?? I've had some people tell me that home care is not going to prepare me well enough and these programs would prefer applicants with hospital experience. Originally I wanted to work for a health department after my home care experience and before an NP-MPH program. Now I'm rethinking of replacing that idea with the hospital. And what other advice is there for a nurse interested in applying to this?? Thank you so so much!! I have yet to meet a nurse in this type of program and it's been hard obtaining good advice.

Dear Rethinking,

Your plans are really inspiring.

Having a Master's in Public Health along with your NP will open many doors for you. You will be prepared to design and monitor programs and outcomes with a societal and global health perspective as well as have clinical credibility.

Your question is, you will gaining acute care experience make you a better candidate for NP-MPH school?

Here's my disclaimer- I do not have expertise on dual-degree NP-MPH acceptance criteria. There is a graduate forum here on allnurses with nurses who may have some pertinent information for you.

I would start talking to the intake folks at colleges who do offer these programs.

They will quickly answer your question (Do I get an extra point for acute care?)

I'll be happy to give you my thoughts, though. Acute care experience does not directly translate to the community healthcare setting. Health department experience does.

The things you are doing- professional development, joining organizations, volunteering- are golden when it come to school applications. They will serve to help you stand out.

Whoever gave you the advice to join the Red Cross, medical reserve corps, and the AAPH is a good advisor. Keep following their advice :)

Your GPA of course is important, and I would not be surprised if yours is competitive, based on your ability to set and achieve goals so far. Your application letter and references will also be very important.

Best of luck to you, I expect you to do great things.

Nurse Beth


spotangel, BSN, MSN, DNP, RN, APRN, NP

Specializes in ED,Tele,Med surg, ADN,outpatient,homecare,LTC,Peds. Has 31 years experience.

Yes! Acute care experience will give you an edge and will hone your critical thinking to split second decision making mode!

An ER experience will not just give you an idea of what the general population comes in with but also an idea about the socioecnomic issues and our resources to help these patients. That will help you with the MPH aspect! Go for it if your gut says so! All luck and enjoy studying!

I'm in an NP-MPH program. Athough I have not graduated or found a job yet, I have similar aspirations.

I think the most important question to ask yourself is... what kind of policy/research do you hope to do? My goal is to influence policies that directly affect healthcare delivery systems, so having hospital experience is a big plus for me. More and more care is being delivered in outpatient settings, so that experience may be less relevant as time goes on, but for now, acute care is a very large player in healthcare organizations. My experience in acute care has definitely helped me connect to those giving care, "speak their language", in order to assess and help change processes. (Otherwise, healthcare workers tend to just see you as a "suit" who is not very attuned to their work/needs).

Moreover, what kind of patient care do you want to do? In acute care, you will be able to see/do a lot of abnormal assessments, which may help you as an NP. Community and outpatient nurses, of course, do their own type of assessment, but the type can really vary on your role. Many clinics utilize unlicensed personnel, so your "hands on" contact with patients may be limited. Also, typically, patients are in clinic to see a provider, so the bulk of physical assessment can easily fall to them and not nursing. Health departments, depending on your role, can have you do more program planning or health promotion activities rather than assessing a medical problem. Not saying all jobs are like that, but I do find roles/duties outside the hospitals are more diverse than acute care. NP education notoriously does not provide a lot of clinical time, so if you feel you will need more assessment practice, acute care may be the way to go.

It comes down to what you want to do in the future and what you feel you will need to most practice with. You may not have a solid idea of what you want to do now. That's ok, but keep in mind it may be harder to get into acute care after working in outpatient/community health whereas the opposite is not usually true. I can't speak to what the graduate school admissions office is looking for. However, as long as you can articulate your goals and how the experience you've gained supports those goals, I imagine you will be able to find a school that is a good match. Good luck!