A Guide to Certifications for Nurse Practitioners

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Numerous certifications are available for nurse practitioners, allowing you to get certified in the practice area you’re most passionate about. There are two governing boards that administer tests to those seeking to become a certified nurse practitioner: The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) and the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).

If you’re not sure about which certification options exist or are wondering which certification you should pursue, use our guide below to learn more. We’ll detail the certification options each of the governing boards offers.

AANP Certifications for Nurse Practitioners 

The AANP offers 3 certification options:

  1. Family NP

The FNP certification exam is an entry-level exam that tests clinical knowledge in family and individual practice across the lifespan (from prenatal through elderly primary care).

  1. Adult-Gerontology NP

The A-GNP certification exam is an entry-level exam that tests clinical knowledge of the young adult, adult, and elderly populations.

  1. Emergency NP

The ENP exam tests clinical knowledge of emergency specialty care across the lifespan (from prenatal through elderly).

ANCC Certifications for Nurse Practitioners

The ANCC has similar certification options as the AANP, as well as a few additional ones. ANCC certification options are:

  1. Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner

Credential Awarded: AGACNP-BC

Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioners help assess and manage acutely ill patients within the inpatient/hospital setting. They also provide care across hospital-to-clinic settings, which include:

  • Emergency departments
  • Intensive care units
  • Specialty labs
  • Acute and sub-acute care wards
  • Specialty clinics
  • Any combination of the above

With this certification, you would be responsible for legally diagnosing and treating medical conditions. You may also provide direct patient management (from admission to discharge) in collaboration with the physician and other members of the health care team.

  1. Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner

Credential Awarded: AGPCNP-BC

Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioners focus more on illness prevention and health promotion. In this role, you may play a large part in community health efforts, working in community clinics or private practice. Common tasks you would be responsible for include:

  • Taking detailed health histories
  • Making health assessments based on data collected
  • Promoting healthy lifestyle changes
  • Helping patients manage chronic illnesses
  1. Family Nurse Practitioner

Credential Awarded: FNP-BC 

Family Nurse Practitioners are registered nurses who serve as primary and specialty health care providers under a physician. Similar to doctors, they work with patients across their lifespan and are responsible for tasks such as:

  • Diagnosing illness
  • Conducting exams
  • Prescribing medication

As a family nurse practitioner, you would also able to serve as the sole health care provide for your patients and can run your own private practice.

  1. Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner

Credential Awarded: PPCNP-BC 

Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioners provide care to children from birth through young adult. They have in-depth knowledge and experience in both well child care and prevention/management of common pediatric acute illnesses and chronic conditions.

  1. Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (Across the Lifespan)

Credential Awarded: PMHNP-BC

This certification was formerly known as Family Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioners provide individual, group and family counseling. Psychopharmaceutical management may be practiced, as prescribed by law in the state where you practice. 

  1. Emergency Nurse Practitioner

Credential Awarded: ENP-BC

Emergency Nurse Practitioners provide health care to patients across the lifespan in emergency and primary care settings. This is a specialty certification that is provided through portfolio assessment, rather than an examination. It assesses an individual’s entry-level clinical knowledge and skills of nurse practitioner in the emergency nursing specialty after initial NP certification and licensure.

The credential is awarded once you complete eligibility requirements and successfully pass the portfolio review process.

ANCC Nurse Practitioner Examinations that Have Been Retired

There are several nurse practitioner certification examinations that are now retired. For those holding these credentials, testing is no longer an option to renew the certification. Instead, credentials may be renewed by meeting the professional development and practice hour requirements.

The retired certification exams are:

  • Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP-BC)
  • Adult Nurse Practitioner (ANP-BC)
  • Adult Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP-BC)
  • Gerontological Nurse Practitioner (GNP-BC)
  • School Nurse Practitioner (SNP-BC)

With so many different certification options available for nurse practitioners, you’re sure to find one that’s perfectly suited to your interests and personality! Once you’ve narrowed down the areas you’re most excited about, be sure to click on the links above to learn more about what each practice area entails and to find out details about the specific certification requirements.

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