The Next Generation of Healthcare Providers

A New Fellowship Program Trains Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assistants to Provide Specialized Care for Patients

APP Fellowship

Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital celebrated when the new Advanced Practice Provider Fellowship Program received accreditation by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. NOTE: This photo was taken before mask and social distancing recommendations were in place.

In 2006, about 10 advanced practice providers (APPs) were members of the medical staff at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH).

Today, more than 375 APPs help care for patients undergoing heart transplants, cancer treatment, palliative care and more. “They’re trained to work in different areas of the hospital,” says Olivia Nicastro, MSN, RN, APN, ACNP-BC, an ICU nurse practitioner and Director of the Advanced Practice Provider Fellowship Program at RWJUH.

APP is an umbrella term that refers to skilled healthcare providers, such as clinical nurse specialists, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists, physician assistants (PAs) and nurse practitioners (NPs).

APPs are licensed healthcare providers who work in collaboration with attending physicians.

NPs and PAs are versatile because they can help care for patients with a variety of medical problems. “Their autonomy is unmatched,” says Sherry Stein, MS, RN, APN, ACNP-BC, Administrative Director, Hospital-Based Providers at RWJUH. “They can perform many procedures. They can place central venous catheters in the ICU, manage critically ill patients and suture wounds in the Emergency Department.”

First in New Jersey

In 2016, RWJUH introduced a fellowship program for APPs in New Jersey. In 2019, the hospital was the first in New Jersey to receive Accreditation with Distinction by the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

“We developed the program because we have highly specialized departments, such as cardiothoracic surgery, rapid response and many Intensive Care Units, which use APPs,” says Stein. “We wanted to give APPs the support, education and training they need.”

In the one-year, intensive program, APPs rotate through various clinical areas in the hospital, such as cardiology, neurology, neurosurgery, infectious disease, renal, endocrine, trauma and acute care. They also work with physicians in the medical, surgical, neurological and cardiovascular ICUs.

So far, seven people have graduated from the APP fellowship program. Three APPs are participating this year.

“The program creates a collaborative, multidisciplinary culture,” says Nicastro. “APPs develop an appreciation for each team’s role in patient care. When you’ve worked in a certain area of the hospital, you develop a relationship with people there and you know who to call later. You can provide better care for patients as a result.”

The fellowship program enables APPs to practice to the highest level of their licensure, says Nicastro.

It’s highly competitive. Each year, there are more than 20 applicants for just three spots. Graduates are often hired to fill open positions at RWJUH.

Currently, the program is working to expand advanced training for other specialties, such as primary care.

“We have a shortage of primary care providers, so APPs can help combat the physician shortage,” says Stein. “We want to train the next generation of skilled healthcare providers.”

To learn more about the Advanced Practice Provider Fellowship Program, visit www.rwjbh.org/RWJUHappfellowship.