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Professional certification in a specialty indicates that a nurse demonstrates high competencies in their field, according to research in the Journal of Trauma Nursing.

“Certified nurses have reported feeling more empowered, with better collaborative relationships, as well as believing that they provide better care,” the article abstract says. “Nurses also have perceived intrinsic value to obtaining certification in a specialty practice area.”

Nursing certifications can help nurses grow personally and professionally, improve patient outcomes and advance their careers. While some basic nursing certifications are universally required, nurses can pursue additional specialty board certification to further their professional opportunities and gain advanced practice expertise.

Read on to learn more about some of the different types of nursing certifications. 

FNP-BC vs. FNP-C 

After graduating, a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) must obtain certification before they can practice. There are two certifications FNPs can obtain — FNP-BC and FNP-C — which are provided by two different certification boards.  

Types of Nursing Certifications 

There are a number of nursing certifications nurses can obtain based on their specialty. Some specialties require board certification for nurses to practice. Before obtaining certification, candidates must confirm their eligibility and pass a certification exam. Here are some of the certifications offered within different specialties, as well as their requirements:

Specialization Area: Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)

After completing a family nurse practitioner program, aspiring FNPs can receive certification from one of two bodies.

FNP-BC

Certifying organization: American Nurses Credentialing Center 

Eligibility requirements:

  • Current active RN license.
  • Master’s, post-graduate or doctoral degree from an accredited FNP program.
  • Three graduate-level courses in advanced physiology/pathophysiology, advanced health assessment and advanced pharmacology.
  • Content in health promotion/maintenance, differential diagnosis and disease management.

Applicants for the FNP-BC certificationExternal link:open_in_new must pass an initial certification exam of 175 questions. Offered year-round, the 3.5-hour test is a competency-based examination that assesses entry-level knowledge and skills of FNPs. The ANCC provides free study aids to assist examinees. Initial certification costs $290–$395.

After receiving their initial certification, FNP-BCs must maintain the credential through professional development and renew the certification every five years. Renewal fees run between $275 and $375.

FNP-C

Certifying organization: American Academy of Nurse Practitioners

Eligibility requirements:

  • Current active nursing license.
  • Master’s, post-graduate or doctoral degree from accredited FNP program, including supervised clinical hours.
  • Academic transcript. 

The initial certification exam for the FNP-C certificationExternal link:open_in_new consists of 150 questions that assess an FNP’s entry-level knowledge of clinical care for families and individuals across their lifespan. The cost for the initial application is $240 for AANP members or $315 for nonmembers.

Similar to the FNP-BC, the FNP-C must also be renewed every five years after completing at least 1,000 hours of clinical practice hours and 100 hours of advanced continuing education, or recertifying by examination. It costs $120 for members to renew or $195 for nonmembers through clinical hours and education. Recertification by examination costs $240 for AANP members or $315 for nonmembers.

In 2019, the average school certification rate was 100% for Georgetown University FNP program graduates who took either the American Nurses Credentialing Center exam or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board exam. 

Specialization Area: Adult Gerontology-Acute Care Nurse Practitioner                                                             

Georgetown University’s School of Nursing & Health Studies offers an online adult gerontology acute care nurse practitioner (AG-ACNP) program that prepares students to provide evidence-based care in acute and complex care settings. Once complete, aspiring acute care nurses can begin to explore certification options. Certifying bodies retired general certification for Acute Care Nurse Practitioners (ACNPs) to opt for certifications that focus on specific patient populations. However, nurse practitioners (NPs) can still get certified in acute care for adult gerontology and pediatrics.

Here are some of the certifications available:

Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Certified in Adult-Gerontology (ACNPC-AG)

Certifying organization: American Association of Critical Care Nurses

Eligibility requirements:

  • Current unencumbered registered nurse (RN) or advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) license.
  • Graduation from a graduate-level education program focused in advanced care adult-gerontology as an ACNP at an accredited nursing school.  

Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner – Board Certified (AGACNP-BC)

Certifying organization: American Nurses Credentialing Center 

Eligibility requirements:

  • Current active RN license.
  • Master’s, post-graduate or doctoral degree from an accredited adult-gerontology ACNP program, including 500 clinical hours.
  • Three graduate-level courses in advanced physiology/pathophysiology, advanced health assessment and advanced pharmacology.
  • Course content in health promotion/maintenance, differential diagnosis and disease management.

Acute Care Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (CPNP-AC)

Certifying organization: Pediatric Nursing Certification Board

Eligibility requirements:

  • Current unencumbered RN license.
  • Official transcripts after graduating from an accredited college/university with an ACEN- or CCNE-accredited nursing master’s or doctoral program, with a concentration in pediatric acute care.
  • At least 500 hours of supervised direct patient care hours. 

In 2019, 100% of Georgetown University’s Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner program graduates passed the American Association of Critical Care Nurses’ exam, and 100% passed the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s exam. 

Specialization Area: Nurse Anesthetist

The American Board of Perianesthesia Nursing Certification, Inc. offers two anesthesia-related certifications for nursesExternal link:open_in_new, and the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists offers one, too.

Certified Post Anesthesia Nurse (CPAN)

Certifying organization: American Board of Perianesthesia Nursing Certification, Inc.

Eligibility requirements:

  • Current unrestricted RN license.
  • At least 1,200 hours of direct clinical experience within two years of applying for certification.
  • For dual certification as a CPAN and CAPA, nurses must have at least 1,200 hours of clinical experience caring for patients in postanesthesia phase I, as well as at least 1,200 hours of direct experience caring for patients in the preanesthesia phase, day of surgery, postanesthesia phase II and/or extended care.

Certified Ambulatory Perianesthesia Nurse (CAPA)

Certifying organization: American Board of Perianesthesia Nursing Certification

Eligibility requirements:

  • Current unrestricted RN license.
  • At least 1,200 hours of direct clinical experience within two years of applying for certification.
  • For dual certification as a CPAN and CAPA, nurses must have at least 1,200 hours of clinical experience caring for patients in postanesthesia phase I, as well as at least 1,200 hours of direct experience caring for patients in the preanesthesia phase, day of surgery, postanesthesia phase II and/or extended care.

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)

Certifying organization: National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists

Eligibility requirements:

  • Master’s, post-graduate or doctoral degree in nursing (by 2025, all candidates must have a doctorate). 

Specialization Area: Nurse-Midwifery

Individuals interested in providing physical care to women and their newborns can complete a dual nurse-midwifery/women’s health nurse practitioner program. Nurse-midwives who complete such a program can become nurse-midwife/women’s health nurse practitioners (NM/WHNPs). See below for more on WHNPs.

Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM)

Certifying organization: American Midwifery Certification Board

Eligibility requirements:

  • Active RN license.
  • Master’s, post-graduate or doctoral degree from an accredited nurse-midwifery education program. 
  • From 2017-2019, an average of 86.15% of Georgetown University nurse midwifery/women’s health nurse practitioner program graduates were certified annually through the American Midwifery Certification Board. 

Specialization Area: Pediatric Nurse

There are a number of pediatric nursing certifications in different specialties. Here are some of them:

Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN)

Certifying organization: Pediatric Nursing Certification Board 

Eligibility requirements:

  • Current unrestricted RN license.
  • At least 1,800 hours of pediatric clinical experience within the previous two years; or at least five years as an RN in pediatric nursing and 3,000 hours in pediatric nursing during the previous five years, including at least 1,000 hours during the most recent two years.

Pediatric Nursing Certification (PED-BC)

Certifying organization: American Nurses Credentialing Center

Eligibility requirements:

  • Current active RN license.
  • Two years of practice as an RN.
  • At least 2,000 hours of pediatric nursing clinical practice within the previous three years.
  • 30 hours of continuing education in pediatric nursing within the previous three years.

Certified Pediatric Emergency Nurse (CPEN)

Certifying organization: Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing

Eligibility requirements:

  • Current unrestricted RN license.
  • Two years of clinical experience in an emergency specialty are recommended, but not required.

Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN) – Pediatric

Certifying organization: American Association of Critical-Care Nurses 

Eligibility requirements:

  • Current unencumbered RN or APRN license.
  • 1,750 practice hours as an RN/APRN in direct care of acutely/critically ill children during the previous two years, with at least 875 hours during the year before applying for the CCRN; or 2,000 practice hours as an RN/APRN in direct care of acutely/critically ill children during the previous five years, with at least 144 hours during the year before applying for the CCRN.

CCRN-K (Pediatric)

Certifying organization: American Association of Critical-Care Nurses

Eligibility requirements:

  • Current unencumbered RN or APRN license.
  • At least 1,040 practice hours within the previous two years, with at least 260 hours in the most recent year.

ACCNS-P (Pediatric)

Certifying organization: American Association of Critical-Care Nurses 

Eligibility requirements:

  • Current unencumbered RN or APRN license.
  • Completion of an accredited, graduate-level advanced practice education program as a pediatric CNS. 

Specialization Area: Trauma Nurse or Emergency Nurse

Both RNs and NPs are able to obtain certification in trauma and emergency specialties.

Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN)

Certifying organization: Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing

Eligibility requirements:

  • Current unrestricted RN license
  • Two years of practice in emergency nursing are recommended, but not required.

Trauma Certified Registered Nurse

Certifying organization: Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing

Eligibility requirements:

  • Current unrestricted RN license
  • Two years of practice in trauma nursing are recommended, but not required.

Emergency Nurse Practitioner (ENP)

Certifying organization: American Academy of Nurse Practitioners

Eligibility requirements:

Three eligibility tracks:

  • At least 2,000 direct emergency care clinical hours as an FNP in the previous five years, 100 hours of continuing education in emergency care and at least 30 continuing education hours in emergency care procedural skills during the previous five years; or
  • Graduation from an accredited emergency care graduate or post-graduate NP program, or completion of a dual FNP/ENP graduate or post-graduate certificate program from an accredited program; or
  • Completing an approved emergency fellowship program.

Specialization Area: Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner

Before pursuing certification, those interested in this specialty usually earn an advanced degree from a women’s health nurse practitioner program. [email protected] offers an online MS in Nursing degree with a focus on women’s health. Students develop the skills and knowledge to provide primary, prenatal and postpartum care to women.    

In addition to nurse midwife/women’s health nurse practitioner certifications, there are others related to women’s health. They include: 

Women’s Health Care Nurse Practitioner (WHNP-BC)

Certifying organization: National Certification Corporation 

Eligibility requirements:

  • Current unencumbered RN of APRN license.
  • Graduation from an accredited master’s, post-graduate or doctoral WHNP program.
  • Diploma, transcript and certification of completion from educational program.

Maternal Newborn Nursing (RNC-MNN)

Certifying organization: National Certification Corporation

Eligibility requirements:

  • Current unencumbered RN license.
  • Two years and at least 2,000 hours of specialty experience.
  • Employment in maternal newborn nursing sometime during the previous two years.

Inpatient Obstetrics Nursing (RNC-OB)

Certifying organization: National Certification Corporation

Eligibility requirements:

  • Current unencumbered RN license.
  • Two years and at least 2,000 hours of specialty experience.
  • Employment in obstetrics nursing sometime during the previous two years.

Required Certifications 

Some basic certifications are required for RNs,External link:open_in_new such as Basic Life Support (BLS) certification, but specialty nursing certification is not always required to practice in the field.

As indicated in the section above, a number of certifying bodies require nurses to first have an active license and accrue a certain number of clinical hours in the field before pursuing nursing certification in a specialty. Understanding nursing certification requirements — including licensure, clinical hours and continuing education — can help nurses work toward achieving a certification in their desired specialty.

As a nurse focuses on a specialty, receiving a nursing certification indicates that a nurse exceeds the minimum skill and education requirements for that particular specialty, and obtaining and maintaining certifications may help nurses advance in their careers. Typically, more advanced or specialized practice areas require more nursing certifications and additional education. 

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