As a Certified NP, how do I sign my name?

by Margaret A. Fitzgerald, DNP, FNP-BC, NP-C, FAANP, CSP, FAAN, DCC

As a newly or soon-to-be graduated nurse practitioner (NP), the challenge of NP certification, licensure and practice are ahead. As you prepared for this role, you have earned new professional credentials. Now for the challenging part, how do you sign your name? Should you omit your academic credentials, drop the RN and just add NP as advocated by many? This would be a great idea for all NPs, regardless of area of certification, specialization and practice. Indeed, increasing public and professional awareness of the NP title will benefit all of us. However, at times, such as in your CV, when making up that well-earned desktop nameplate, listing out all your designations, that alphabet soup list that now follows your name is warranted. Here is some advice on how to do this.   
Now that I have an advanced degree, how do I list my academic credentials? 
Your highest academic degree should be placed immediately after your surname, before professional designation and certification credential. Most NPs have a master of science (MS), with some earning a master of nursing (MN) or master of science in nursing (MSN), and a growing number with a doctor of nursing practice (DNP), doctor of philosophy (PhD), or doctor of nursing science (DNSc). In addition, some NPs that have returned to school for post-master or post-doctoral NP preparation have earned a certificate of advanced study (CAS). Check with your school to make sure you are using the appropriate academic designation.

I am now a certified NP. Is there a special way to designate this? 

The NP certification credential differs according to the certifying body. Here are the designations of the various certifying organization. 

The credentials for the American Certification Credentialing Center (ANCC) certified NPs is NP-BC preceded by a letter indicating the particular specialty,
·  Family nurse practitioner: FNP-BC
·  Adult nurse practitioner: ANP-BC
·  Adult-gerontologic primary care NP: AGPCNP-BC
·  Acute care nurse practitioner: ACNP-BC
·  Adult-gerontologic acute care NP: AGACNP-BC
·  Pediatric nurse practitioner (primary care): PNP-BC
·  Gerontological nurse practitioner: GNP-BC
·  Psychiatric and mental health nurse practitioner: PMHNP-BC

Here is an example of an ANCC-certified family nurse practitioner:
·  Hugo Moreno, MS, FNP-BC 

Family, adult-gerontologic, adult, and gerontologic nurse practitioners certified by the American Association of  Nurse Practitioners (AANP) are granted the designation of NP-C, or nurse practitioner-certified. Here is an example: 
·  Melissa Hammond, DNP, NP-C 

The NP-C can be modified, if desired, to include a first letter consistent with area of certification such as a family NP using the designation FNP-C.  

A comment that I often hear made about this designation is that NP-C clearly denotes that a person is a certified nurse practitioner and that perhaps all NPs should use this. However, NP-C is the AANP’s certification designation and should only be used by those who have earned it.  

Those who are certified by the National Certification Corporation (NCC) include women’s health NPs and are granted the designation of WHNP-BC.  Here is an example: 
·  Sarah Thiam, DNP, WHNP-BC

A pediatric nurse practitioner in primary care who is certified by the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB) is granted the designation CPNP, with the modifier of PC (primary care) or AC (acute care). Here is an example: 
·  Clifford Frost, MS, CPNP-PC
·  Kara Ashley, DNP, CPNP-AC

What do I do if I hold more than one certification?

In general, the most recently earned credential is listed last. Here is an example of a nurse practitioner who is recently passed the AANP family nurse practitioner certification exam but also an American Diabetes Association Certified Diabetic Educator (CDE). 
·  Maggie Ashley, PhD, CDE, NP-C 

What about adding RN or APRN to my credentials?

This is certainly an option, particularly with the adoption of the Consensus Model for APRN Regulation. In that case, the designation RN or APRN should be immediately before the NP certification title. Here is an example of a NP who is AANP certified and practicing in a state where the Consensus Model has been adopted and has assigned the designation APRN to NPs, certified nurse midwives (CNMs), certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs), and certified nurse specialists (CNSs).
·  Iris Buck, MS, APRN, NP-C

In the state where I am licensed and practice, your state board of nursing grants a specific advanced practice license designation. Where does this go? 

State law can dictate that a specific mandated title be used, such as advanced registered nurse practitioner (ARNP), which is used in New Hampshire, Washington and other states, and advanced practice nurse (APN), which is used in New Jersey and other states. Since these titles are not recognized state-to-state, using them as part of your formal credentials is likely not warranted. This issue is further confused by the APRN designation being used increasing to refer to NPs, CRNAs, CNMs, and CNSs.

How should I list an honorific designation? 

An honorific designation such as Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing (FAAN) or Fellow of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (FAANP) typically goes at the end of the credentials. Here is an example: 
·  Kathleen Thomas, PhD, NP-C, FAANP 


For the day-to-day, keep it simple and use the NP designation. For those special occasions when you need to use your full set of hard earned, well-deserved professional credentials, show them off the right way.
Click here to read an FHEA News article about the Consensus Model for APRN Regulation and NP certification examinations that will be retired in 2014.

Click here for a full list of Fitzgerald Health’s NP Certification Exam Review and Advance Practice Update

Updated 3.8.13