Family Nurse Practitioners (FNP) play a vital role in today’s American healthcare system, but that wasn’t always the case. Just over 50 years ago, no educators in the United States offered an FNP program, leaving a gap for families desiring comprehensive primary care. In the late 1960s, Frontier Graduate School of Midwifery, now known as Frontier Nursing University (FNU), recognized this need and began providing a broader-based education for nurses. Frontier soon offered the nation’s first FNP program in 1970, releasing the first family nurse practitioners out into the field.
In 1999, Frontier enrolled its first FNP class under today’s distance education model. This new model has been in place for over 20 years because it has the advantage of allowing students to complete the program from their home communities. Today, Frontier is proud to have helped over 2,600 FNP graduates meet their goals of providing quality care to families in their communities. With a long history of compassionate, visionary healthcare, it is no surprise that Frontier continues to draw in dedicated students and produce top-of-the-line nurse practitioners 50 years into the program.
Although FNU has expanded and introduced a range of graduate nursing degrees and specialties since 1970, they have always considered their rich foundation of reaching underserved and rural communities as they move forward. Today, Frontier is proud to have graduates providing care in all 50 states and dozens of countries. While there have been many innovations to programming throughout the years, FNU has always centered around the Culture of Caring that rests at the heart of the university.
Through their Culture of Caring, FNU emphasizes professionalism, inclusivity, respect, positive communication, and mutual support. In combination, these core values lead to an incredible sense of community that gives students a life-long support system. Many FNP students find themselves returning to FNU as educators to build on the system that brought them an in-depth knowledge of healthcare and humanity.
“I returned to FNU to teach because I was an FNU student and fell in love with the school. I love the passion for education in this environment,” said Dr. Amber Littlefield, DNP, FNP-C.
Dr. Joanne Keefe, DNP, MPH, FNP-C, also returned to Frontier after graduating.
“I wanted to teach at FNU after attending it myself for my FNP and DNP degrees,” said Dr. Keefe. “At FNU, instructors teach nursing how I always thought it should be taught, using a model where students are the focus. Administration, faculty and staff support them as they become competent providers. I wanted to be part of spreading and growing that.”
Because FNU invests in educating strong nurse practitioners and nurse-midwives, the majority of its instructors still actively practice in their nursing specialties in addition to teaching. FNU instructors understand the challenges students face and remain available to answer questions and provide support throughout their nursing journey. When a student enrolls in FNU’s FNP program, they are joining a team of students, educators, staff and faculty who are dedicated to improving the lives of those for whom they care throughout their lifetimes.
It is a true honor to celebrate 50 years of this impactful program whose students and alumni continue to make a difference. Although Frontier has gone through many transformations since 1970, high-caliber programming continues to draw in and build leaders with a passion for reaching their communities through quality family care. With a history of compassion, trail-blazing programs and foundational support, there is little doubt that FNU will continue to pioneer healthcare, break educational barriers and celebrate many more anniversaries in its future.