The Importance of Becoming a Nursing Fellow

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Designation as a fellow can lead to career advancement.

The invitation to become a fellow of a professional membership organization is an honor reserved exclusively for the most senior scholars. Two options for nurse practitioners (NPs) are the Fellows of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (FAANP) and the Fellows of the American Academy of Nursing (FAAN).

Not to be confused with post-PhD fellowship, the FAANP or FAAN program is an invitation-only, for which nominees must detail their achievements and show a substantial amount of work that has enriched their profession.

Designation as a FAANP or FAAN can lead to international work collaboration, mentorship experiences that cultivate leadership, influence in policy change, and substantial career growth, according to The title of FAANP or FAAN indicates prestige and often offers the recipient the chance to do something exceptional in a particular field of interest. Advantages include exposure to invaluable professional networks, engagement in challenging and varied work, and possible opportunities to experience funded work abroad.

Denise Lucas was recently selected as a FAANP. Lucas is the chair of advanced practice programs at Duquesne University’s school of nursing.

Colleagues Patricia Watts Kelley and Lenore K. Resick have also been named as FAANPs, as well as fellows of the AAN. Having three fellows on the faculty offers Duquesne nursing students expanded opportunities in research and within the professional membership organizations.

Becoming a Fellow with the AANP

Started in 2000, the FAANP is the highest professional designation for any NP, according to the American Journal of Nurse Practitioners. The program annually invites colleagues who have made a significant impact on the NP profession. Of the more than 75,000 members of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, only 1 percent, or about 700 NPs, have been inducted as FAANPs.

The FAANP is dedicated to the global advancement of NPs and their delivery of high-quality healthcare. “By engaging recognized NP leaders who have made outstanding contributions to NP education, policy, clinical practice or research, and developing NP leaders of the future, we are furthering the NP profession while enhancing AANP’s mission,” writes the AANP.

The application process opens every fall and wraps up the following spring. However, the AANP advises that the process of preparing for application should start at least a year before the application period. To be considered, a candidate must secure an invitation from a fellow who then sponsors the application process. A secondary fellow member is named as a mentor to assist the candidate through the application process.

The FAANP candidate’s application must provide evidence of contributions in four priority areas: research, clinical practice, education, and policy.

While selection as a FAANP is considered more prestigious, the process does share some similarities in both application and goals with being a fellow of the AAN.

Becoming a Fellow with the AAN

The American Academy of Nursing has more than 2,500 fellows. Members are considered to be nursing’s most accomplished leaders in education, management, practice and research, with more than 90 percent of fellows holding doctorate degrees and the rest having completed a master’s program.

Similar to the process for the FAANP, the application for the FAAN starts in the fall with invitations sent out the following spring. Also similar to the FAANP, candidates must secure two sponsors to mentor them during the process.

According to the organization’s application page, the candidate must provide specific evidence of contributions to the improvement of healthcare through nursing at the national level or show the regional impact that demonstrates the potential for national application. Examples of evidence can include:

  • Consistent outstanding contributions over time
  • Contributions with significant, measurable impact
  • Dissemination of important information about the contributions
  • Substantive honors, awards, and recognition by prestigious academies and organizations
  • Adoption of research findings or innovations that guide changes in education, research, administration, policy, advocacy or nursing practice

If selected as a fellow, members are expected to engage with other health leaders outside the academic sphere in transforming America’s health system by:

  • Enhancing the quality of health and nursing
  • Promoting healthy aging and human development across the life continuum
  • Reducing health disparities and inequalities
  • Shaping healthy behaviors and environments
  • Integrating mental and physical health
  • Strengthening the nursing and health delivery system, nationally and internationally

The Impact of Being Named a Fellow

The invitation to become a fellow is a career highlight for Lucas. “It’s probably the biggest honor I will ever get in my life,” she says. While she spent a month writing the application, Lucas says that she truly spent her entire career working on it. “To get to this level, it is not something that happens as a whim or overnight,” she notes.

With the designation comes obligations, Lucas adds, including exhibiting leadership, advancing the nursing profession, being a representative, and staying up to date in terms of talking points and practice skills.

The designation will also allow Lucas more opportunities to expand her clinical work with underserved populations.

“I will now be a part of different meetings and different conversations,” she says. “We all know the issue of primary care in rural and underserved areas — even specialty care. It’s difficult to get some of that done there. I think at this level of fellowship, that is what a lot of these conversations are around. And I think I also have different research and grant opportunities that would support my patient practice.”

“While I am just as thrilled for myself, I am even more pleased to bring this to the school,” says Lucas. “This isn’t something I did on my own independently. I had good mentors. I had people who gave me the opportunity to do things and make changes, who supported me along the way for this.”

“It’s not really just for me,” she says. “It also reflects my school.” 

Kelley agrees that being named a fellow provides career growth to the recipient as well as expanded opportunities to the recipient’s school. 

“It lends more credibility to the work that I do,” says Kelley. “It helps the rankings of the school and the prestige of the organizations. It lends more credence when you speak.”

On the teaching level, Kelley’s status as a fellow provides more opportunities for her Duquesne students. For example, when Kelley teaches at the doctorate level, her fellowship connections give her doctoral students access to populations and collaborators that might not otherwise be available.

Kelley stresses that nurses should understand the importance of belonging to professional organizations.

“I think the work of the association to advance nursing in the world and in the United States is worth investing in,” she says, emphasizing association membership as an essential requirement of professionalism. “Not every organization speaks at all times to your particular interests. But over time, it’s important.”

“Often nurses are not at the table when critical decisions are made,” says Kelley. “Women and men who choose to practice as nurses and not join their professional organization miss the opportunity to have a voice at the table.”

About Duquesne University’s Family Nurse Practitioner Program

The nursing curriculum in Duquesne University’s online Post-Master’s Certificate in Family (Individual Across the Lifespan) Nurse Practitioner programs includes clinical hours geared toward preparation for both national certification exams and licensure.

Duquesne University offers specializations for a post-master’s certificate:

Duquesne’s programs provide nurses with a convenient opportunity to pursue a degree remotely while maintaining their busy careers and personal lives.

Sources:, “Fellowships: What They Are and 3 Reasons Why They are Exceptional”
Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, “So you want to be a Fellow in the American Association of Nurse Practitioners: Navigating the Fellowship process to ensure your success”
AANP, Becoming a Fellow
AAN, Academy Fellows