Nursing Certifications | Pathways to Advanced Nursing Practice

Nursing Certification Overview

Registered nurses are encouraged to engage in life-long learning and continuing education to enhance their practice and, thus, the quality of patient care. Beyond basic nursing education, registered nurses have several opportunities to acquire additional knowledge and skills in various specialties.

In general, there are two pathways to achieve certification:

1) Certification examination,

2) Advanced Nursing education at the Masters and Doctoral level.

1. Certification by Examination

A wide variety of nursing organizations in several specialties offer certification by examination. Though achieving a passing score on the examination is the ultimate determining factor for certification, most certifying organizations have additional requirements to achieve and maintain certification. These requirements may include:

  1. Minimum years of experience in the given specialty.
  2. Membership in the certifying organization.
  3. Minimum number of CEUs offered by the certifying organization (certification and re-certification)

The listing of certifying organizations is dynamic, as new certifications are being developed over time. The following is a list of certifications and the certifying agency. Nurses wishing to pursue certification are encouraged to visit the respective organization’s website to review specific certification requirements.

List of Nursing Certifications

CertificationCertifying Organization
Ambulatory Care Nursing Certification (AMB-BC)American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)
Cardiac Medicine Certification (CMC)American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN)
Cardiac Surgery Certification (CSC)AACN
Critical Care Knowledge Nurse (Adult, Pediatric and Neonatal) (CCRN-K)AACN
Critical Care Nurse (Adult, Pediatric and Neonatal)(CCRN)AACN
Critical Care Telehealth Nurse (CCRN-E)AACN
Progressive Care Knowledge Nurse (PCCN-K)AACN
Progressive Care Nurse (PCCN)AACN
Care Coordination and Transition Management (CCTM)The American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing (AAACN)
Certified Addictions Registered Nurse (CARN)Addictions Nursing Certification Board (ANCB)
Certified Rehabilitation Registered Nurse (CRRN)Association of Rehabilitation Nurses (ARN)
Gerontological Nursing Certification (GERO-BC)ANCC
Certified Dialysis Nurse (CDN)Nephrology Nursing Certification Commission (NNCC)
Certified Nephrology Nurse (CNN)NNCC
Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN)Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing (BCEN)
Certified Flight Registered Nurse (CFRN)BCEN
Certified Pediatric Emergency Nurse (CPEN)BCEN
Certified Transport Registered Nurse (CTRN)BCEN
Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE)International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN)
Trauma Certified Registered Nurse (TCRN)BCEN
Advanced Holistic Nurse Board Certified (AHN-BC)American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Corporation (AHNCC)
Advanced Practice Holistic Nurse Board Certified (APHN -BC)AHNCC
Health and Wellness Nurse Coach Board Certified (HWNC-BC)AHNCC
Holistic Nurse Baccalaureate Board Certified (HNB-BC)AHNCC
Holistic Nurse Board Certified (HN-BC)AHNCC
Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse (CHPN)The Hospice and Palliative Credentialing Center (HPCC)
Certified Hospice and Palliative Pediatric Nurse (CHPPN)HPCC
Certified Aesthetic Nurse Specialist (CANS)Plastic Surgical Nursing Certification Board (PSNCB)
Certified Ambulatory Perianesthesia Nurse (CAPA)American Board of Perianesthesia Nursing Certification, Inc (ABPNC)
Certified Ambulatory Surgery Nurse (CNAMB)Competency & Credentialing Institute (CCI)
Certified Foundational Perioperative Nurse (CFPN)CCI
Certified Medical-Surgical Registered Nurse (CMSRN)Medical-Surgical Nursing Certification Board (MSNCB)
Certified Perioperative Nurse (CNOR)CCI
Certified Post Anesthesia Nurse (CPAN)ABPNC
Certified Registered Nurse First Assistant (CRNFA)National Assistant at Surgery Certification (NASC)
Certified Surgical Services Manager (CSSM)CCI
Clinical Nurse Specialist Perioperative Certification (CNS-CP)CCI
Medical Surgical Nursing Certification (MEDSURG-BC)ANCC
Registered Nurse Assistant at Surgery – Certified (RNAS-C)NASC
Certified Executive in Nursing Practice (CENP)American Organization of Nursing Leadership (AONL)
Certified Nurse Leader (CNL)Commission on Nurse Certification (CNC)
Certified Nurse Manager and Leader (CNML)AONL
Nurse Executive Board Certified (NE-BC)ANCC
Nurse Executive Advanced Board Certified (NEA-BC)ANCC
Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse (AOCN)Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC)
Blood and Marrow Transplant Certified Nurse (BMTCN)ONCC
Certified Breast Care Nurse (CBCN)ONCC
Certified Pediatric Hematology Oncology Nurse (CPHON)ONCC
Oncology Certified Nurse (OCN)ONCC
Association of Clinical Research Professionals Certification (ACRP-CP)Association f Clinical Research Professionals (ACRP)
Board Certified Patient Advocate (BCPA)Patient Advocate Certification Board (PACB)
Cardiac Vascular Certification (CV-BC)ANCC
Certification for Registered Nurse in OphthalmologyAmerican Society of Opthalmic Registered Nurses
Certification in Infection Prevention and Control (CIC)Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC)
Certified Academic Clinical Nurse Educator (CNE cl)National League for Nursing (NLN)
Certified Bariatric Nurse (CBN)The American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS)
Certified Clinical Research Certification (CCRP)The Society of Clinical Research Associates (SOCRA)
Certified Correctional Health Professional Advanced (CCHP -RN)National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC)
Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES)Certification Board for Diabetes Care and Education (CBDCE)
Certified Gastroenterology Registered Nurse (CGRN)American Board of Certification for Gastroenterology Nurses (ABCGN)
Certified Managed Care Nurse (CMCN)American Association of Managed Care Nurses
Certified Neuroscience Registered Nurse (CNRN)American Board of Neuroscience Nursing (ABNN)
Certified Nurse Educator (CNE)NLN
Certified Nurse Life Care Planner (CNLCP)Certified Nurse Life Care Planner Certification Board
Certified Occupational Health Nurse (COHN)American Board of Occupational Health Nurses (ABOHN)
Certified Occupational Health Nurse Specialist (COHN-S)ABOHN
Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN)Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB)
Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality (CPHQ)National Association for Healthcare Quality (NAHQ)
Certified Radiology Nurse (CRN)Radiologic Nursing Certification Board, Inc (RNCB)
Certified Registered Nurse InfusionInfusion Nurses Certification Corporation (INCC)
Dermatology Nurse Certified (DNC)Dermatology Nurses Association
HIV/AIDS Certified Registered Nurse (ACRN)HIV/AIDS Nursing Certification Board
Informatics Nursing Certification (RN-BC)ANCC
Legal Nurse Consultant Certified(LNCC)The American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants (AALNC)
Nationally Certified School Nurse (NCSN)The National Board of Certification of School Nurses (NBCSN)
Nurse Coach Board Certified (NC-BC)AHNCC
Nursing Case Management Certification (CMGT-BC)ANCC
Nursing Professional Development Certification (NPD-BC)ANCC
Orthopedic Nurse Certified (ONC)Orthopedic Nurses Certification Board (ONCB)
Pain Management Nursing (PMGT-BC)ANCC
Pediatric Nursing Certification (PED-BC)ANCC
Pediatric Primary Care Mental Health Specialist (PMHS)PNCB
Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing Certification (PMH-BC)ANCC
Stroke Certified Registered Nurse (SCRN)American Board of Neuroscience Nursing (ABNN)
Breastfeeding Counselor Certification (CBC)Prepared Childbirth Education, INC
Care of the Extremely Low Birth Weight Neonate (C-ELBW)National Certification Corporation (NCC)
Certification in Electronic Fetal Monitoring (C-EFM)NCC
Certification in Neonatal Pediatric Transport (C-NPT)NCC
Certified in Perinatal Loss Care (CPLC)The Hospice and Palliative Credentialing Center (HPCC)
Inpatient Obstetric Nursing (RNC-OB)NCC
Low Risk Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing (RNC-LRN (R)NCC
Maternal Newborn Nursing (RNC-MNN)NCC
Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing (RNC-NIC)NCC
Obstetric and Neonatal Quality and Safety (C-ONQS)NCC
Certified Continence Care Nurse (CCCN)Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nursing Certification Board (WOCNCB)
Certified Ostomy Nurse (COCN)WOCNCB
Certified Wound Care Nurse (CWCN)WOCNCB
Certified Wound Ostomy Nurse (CWON)WOCNCB
Certified Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurse (CWOCN)WOCNCB

Why Should I Pursue Certification as a Nurse

In addition to providing more in-depth knowledge of a chosen specialty, preparation for and achievement of certification make a profound statement about the nurse’s commitment to life-long learning and professionalism.

This statement often suggests that the nurse has leadership potential and is committed to providing quality nursing care. In many organizations, specialty certification can contribute to higher compensation through clinical advancement programs.

Finally, certification achievement makes a nurse more marketable for specialty and leadership positions when available.

Advanced Nursing Education

Registered nurses have many options should they desire to advance their careers through graduate and post-graduate education.  Choosing one of these career options typically results in Advanced Practice RN (APRN) status, bringing specialized assessment and treatment skills in various specialties.  Below are some of the common APRN specialty programs available across the nation:

Acute Care Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (CPNP-AC)Pediatric Nursing Certification Board
Acute Care Clinical Nurse Specialist – Adult Gerontology (ACCNS-AG)American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN)
Acute Care Clinical Nurse Specialist – Neonatal (ACCNS-N)AACN
Acute Care Clinical Nurse Specialist – Pediatric (ACCNS-P)AACN
Acute Care Clinical Nurse Practitioner – Adult Gerontology (ACNPC=AG)AACN
Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Certification (ACNP-BCAmerican Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)
Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AGACNP-BC)ANCC
Certified Addiction Registered Nurse – Advanced Practice (CARN-AP)Addiction Nursing Certification Board
Adult Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist Certification (AGCNS-BC)ANCC
Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (A-GNP)American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board
Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (A-GNP)American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board
Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Certification (AGPCNP-BC)ANCC
Board Certified Advanced Diabetes Management (BC-ADM)ANCC
Certified Nephrology Nurse – Nurse Practitioner (CNN-NP)Nephrology Nursing Certification Commission
Emergency Nurse Practitioner (ENP)American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board
Advanced Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse (ACHPN)The Hospice and Palliative Credentialing Center
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists
Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse (AOCN)Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation
Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner (AOCNP)Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation
Advanced HIV/AIDS Certified Registered Nurse (AACRN)HIV/AIDS Nursing Certification Board
Certified Correctional Health Professional – Advanced (CCHP-A)National Commission on Correctional Healthcare
Dermatology Certified Nurse Practitioner (DCNP)Dermatology Nurses Association
Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)American Academy of Nurse Practitioner Certification Board
Family Nurse Practitioner – Board Certified (FNP-BC)ANCC
Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner – Certified (ONP-C)Orthopedic Nurses Certification Board
Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP-BC)ANCC
Certified Nurse Midwives (CNM)American Midwifery Certification Board
Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP-BC)National Certification Corporation
Women’s Health Care Nurse Practitioner (WHNP-BC)National Certification Corporation

What Roles Do Advanced Practice Nurses Fulfill

The role of the APRN has evolved rapidly over the last decade.  This is primarily the result of the aging of America and. the increased incidence of chronic illnesses. These factors have increased the demand for primary care providers, exceeding the supply. Registered nurses with enhanced assessment and treatment skills are readily identified as a viable solution to this societal need (IOM Report “The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health” IOM Consensus Report October 2010)

Some APRNs provide services as “physician extenders”. In this capacity, the nurse works side-by-side with a physician and engages in advanced patient care tasks under the direction and supervision of the physician.

An example of this extender role could be an Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner who may reduce, at the physician’s direction, and immobilize the fracture based on protocols. Though this “extender” role exists, the APRN has limited autonomy and there is a mutually dependent relationship between the nurse and the physician.

Most APRNs function in a more autonomous role. The nurse exercises advanced assessment and treatment skills in these roles and manages a patient panel as an independent provider. In this capacity, the APRN may order diagnostic tests, interpret test results, prescribe treatments and medications and make referrals to specialists. Though regulations vary by state, most states require APRNS to be identified with a physician sponsor who provides supervision as necessary and serves as a mentor and resource for challenging cases.

APRNS, like their physician colleagues, must carry individual liability insurance. In addition, they must meet the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and State Board of Pharmacy regulations that govern prescriptive authority.

Finally, in most settings where a hospital employs them, the hospital’s Medical Staff governs and overseers APRN practice. APRNs must apply for privileges to practice and meet criteria similar to those of their physician colleagues.  Furthermore, the APRN is subject to corrective and disciplinary action as outlined in the organization’s medical staff bylaws.

Why Should I Pursue APRN Credentials

Pursuing APRN credentials must be rooted in a passion for one’s specialty, a desire to enhance knowledge and skills, and a desire to have a more substantial impact on the health of communities. The desire for more autonomy, associated risks, and accountability for one’s actions are imperatives. The courses for study in most APRN programs are rigorous. The transition from following and carrying out provider orders as a bedside nurse to the provider who issues orders is a substantial one.

APRNs enjoy commensurate compensation for their knowledge, skill, and accountability. They may bill private and government payors for services rendered.

Depending upon their practice site, they will carry additional financial burdens associated with liability insurance, DEA, Board of Pharmacy and Medical Staff Application fees. With this being said, APRNs enjoy autonomy and personal and professional satisfaction related to directly impacting the health of individuals who seek their care as independent providers.

See Also

How to Become a Travel Nurse?

How Much Do Travel Nurses Make?

What is Travel Medical Insurance?

Travel Nursing Agencies

Nurse Practitioner Salary

What is a Registered Nurse?

How to Get Medication Aide Certification?

HRSA Grants for Nursing Education

Current Version
October 25, 2023
Updated By
Tim Bevelacqua, MN, RN
March 24, 2024
Updated By
Tim Bevelacqua, MN, RN

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