Maintaining NP Certification: Family, Adult-Gerontology Primary Care, & Emergency
Margaret A. Fitzgerald, DNP, FNP-BC, NP-C, FAANP, CSP, FAAN, DCC, FNAP
I am a newly certified NP and I know I will eventually need to renew my certification. When do I need to renew and what are the steps involved?
Maintenance or renewal of certification is an ongoing process designed to help NPs maintain a current knowledge base and professional competence in their practice. Soon after you achieve initial certification, you should learn your certifying organization’s certification renewal requirements and set a plan for meeting them. Keep in mind, however, that recertification requirements are dynamic, and that you need to fulfill the recertification requirements for the year of recertification, not the year of initial certification.
NPs have a professional responsibility to be aware of current recertification requirements. The certification organizations provide ample notice when requirements change. As a starting point for newly certified NPs unfamiliar with the recertification process, this article provides an overview of the current recertification requirements of each NP certifying organization. This article focuses on the certification maintenance requirements for family (FNP), adult-gerontology primary care (A-GNP), and emergency NPs (ENPs).
American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board (AANPCB)
NPs certified by the AANPCB must renew their certification every 5 years after initial certification. The AANPCB provides two options for recertification: take and pass the appropriate exam before the current 5-year certification end date or meet the AANPCB’s requirements for clinical practice and continuing education (CE). Emergency NPs must maintain active FNP certification in order to renew their ENP certification; those certified as an FNP by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) must provide a copy of a current ANCC FNP certification when applying for and renewing ENP certification through the AANPCB. The AANPCB retired the adult (ANP) and gerontologic NP (GNP) certification exams; ANPs and GNPs therefore must renew certification through clinical hours and CE. ANPs and GNPs who allow their certification to expire are unable to renew it. NPs who are currently dual-certified by AANPCB as both an ANP and GNP are eligible to apply for conversion of these certifications to the A-GNP certification.
NPs renewing by clinical hours and CE must complete at least 1,000 hours of clinical practice in any specialty appropriate for the population focus of certification and obtain 100 contact hours of advanced CE in their role and specialty, of which at least 25 must be advanced practice pharmacology credits. NPs can earn and apply up to 25 credits of non-pharmacology CE to their CE requirement by serving as a preceptor for interdisciplinary advanced healthcare students while providing direct patient care as a NP in their area of certification. A maximum of 125 preceptor hours may replace 25 non-pharmacology CE credits. In addition, graduate and postgraduate courses that promote and expand knowledge and skills and are directly related to NP advance practice are accepted (1 academic semester credit = 15 contact hours); an official or unofficial transcript from an accredited university is required. All certifying organizations require that NPs hold current RN licensure during the period of certification.
NPs who plan to maintain their certification through practice hours and CE must track their CE hours over the 5-year certification period; CE credits outside the 5-year period are not accepted. NPs who renew via the exam can begin the application process 12 months prior to certification expiration, and applications must be submitted at least 120 days before expiration to allow sufficient time for application processing, scheduling, testing, and receipt of scores. Those who renew by clinical practice and CE should apply for renewal at least 4 weeks prior to the expiration of their certification. NPs certified by the AANPCB who allow their certification to expire must take the initial certification exam. The cost of recertification ranges from $120 (practice and CE) to $240 (exam) for American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) members and from $195 to $315 for non-members. There is also an additional $50 fee for recertifying using a paper application.
American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)
Certification by the ANCC is valid for 5 years and can be renewed by completing professional development and practice activities over the 5-year certification period. NPs can apply for renewal up to 1 year before or up to 2 years after their certification expires (which requires payment of a $125 reactivation fee). After more than 2 years, the exam must be retaken to regain certification, if the exam in your specialty is still available, and the mandatory 75 CE hours must be completed. If the exam or portfolio is not available, there is no option to renew your certification.
The ANCC’s certification renewal process requires NPs to complete 75 CE hours in their certification specialty, of which 25 hours must be in pharmacotherapeutics, and to complete one or more activities in eight other renewal categories within the 5 years preceding their renewal application submission. The renewal categories are:
- Academic credits (five semester credits or six quarter credits in the NP’s certification specialty)
- Presentations (one or more presentations totaling five clock hours in the NP’s certification specialty)
- Evidence-based practice/quality improvement project, publication of articles(s) or book chapter or authorship of grant, or research
- Preceptor hours (120 hours)
- Professional service (two or more years of volunteer service with an international, national, state, or local healthcare-related organization)
- Practice hours (minimum of 1,000 hours in the NP’s specialty completed within the five years preceding the date on the renewal application submission)
- Assessment (exam or portfolio, if available)
Further details about what activities the ANCC will accept as fulfilling these categories are provided in the ANCC’s 2017 Certification Renewal Requirements. To document these professional activities, NPs must record the activity in the appropriate section in the Professional Development Record of their online account. NPs do not have to submit supporting documents proving completion of these activities when they update their Professional Development Record, but they must be able to submit such documents if the AANC audits their record. Details about the required documents needed for each activity are listed in the 2017 Certification Renewal Requirements. The cost of renewal is $275 for American Nurses Association members, $295 for AANP members, and $375 for nonmembers.
Recertification challenges NPs to engage in continuous learning and professional development. NPs should take advantage of the opportunities the recertification process offers to further their professional development and update their knowledge base. At the same time, recertification requirements are not static, and NPs should be alert for periodic changes, as the certifying organizations regularly revise the requirements to better reflect the learning and information needs of practicing NPs.