Ask an Expert: Which Additional Certifications Should NPs Pursue?

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Certifications allow nurse practitioners to demonstrate their expertise in a variety of clinical settings. While all nurse practitioners are certified in their population-focus (i.e., medical specialty), some earn additional certifications to expand their knowledge base and increase their job opportunities. This article discusses certifications that nurse practitioners can pursue to augment their population-focus, including orthopedics, emergency medicine, palliative care, oncology, and dermatology.

Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner

Orthopedic nurse practitioners (ONPs) are advanced practice nurses who assess, diagnose, and manage patients with a wide variety of musculoskeletal conditions. Currently, Duke University offers a special orthopedic nurse practitioner program that requires applicants to complete an additional three courses on musculoskeletal conditions.

Because ONPs are highly specialized, they and often earn higher than average salaries. To become an orthopedic nurse practitioner, you must be certified through the Orthopaedic Nurses Certification Board. To be eligible to apply for the certification (ONP-C), you must have been a nurse practitioner for at least three years with a minimum of 2,000 clinical hours training patients with musculoskeletal conditions. Most applicants are either family nurse practitioners, pediatric nurse practitioners, or geriatric nurse practitioners.

Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner (ONP)
Certifying OrganizationOrthopaedic Nurses Certification Board
Requirements

Three full years of experience practicing a nurse practitioner

A master’s degree or doctor of nursing practice degree from an accredited university

Have completed a minimum of 2,000 hours as a nurse practitioner treating musculoskeletal conditions; practice hours from orthopedic fellowships or postgraduate residency problems count toward these hours

Current unrestricted license as a registered nurse and nurse practitioner
Renewal CycleEvery five years
Cost

$340 National Association of Orthopaedic Nurses (NAON) members, online application

$365 NAON members, paper application

$455 non-members, online application

$480 non-members, paper application
Exam Questions150
Study Resources Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Case Studies for Advanced Practice Nurses by Karen Myrick, DNP, FNP, ANP
Organization’s Guide
30-minute overview video
Content Outline
Musculoskeletal Conditions


Degenerative Disorders

Orthopaedic Trauma

Sports Injuries

Inflammatory Disorders

Metabolic Bone Disorders

Pediatric/Congenital

Musculoskeletal Tumors

Neuromuscular

Emergency Care Nurse Practitioner

Emergency nurse practitioners specialize in the treatment of acute, life-threatening conditions, and they often find themselves working in emergency rooms or urgent care centers. Vanderbilt University offers a unique emergency nurse practitioner program that prepares graduates as dual family nurse practitioners and geriatric acute care nurse practitioners. This program includes an additional four courses focused on treating children, adults, and seniors with critical illnesses, injuries, or acute trauma.

You can become certified as an emergency nurse practitioner through either the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board (AANPCB), the details of which are both listed below. For certification through the ANCC, you must complete a portfolio review, whereas for certification through the AANPCB, you must complete an exam.

Emergency Nurse Practitioner (ANCC)
Certifying Organization American Nurses Credentialing Center
Requirements

Master’s or doctor of nursing practice degree in nursing

Current nurse practitioner state licensure

National certification as a nurse practitioner

Completed a minimum of 2,000 hours of advanced practice in the specialty area of emergency care in the past three years; up to to 50 percent of these practice hours may be from an emergency care fellowship or residency program

Completed 30 hours of continuing education in advanced emergency care in the past three years   
Renewal CycleEvery five years
Cost

$525 for non-members of the ANCC

$150 for ANCC members

$470 for members of the American Academy of Emergency Nurse Practitioners

$470 for members of the Emergency Nurses Association     
ExamNo exam required; rather, applicants undergo a portfolio review which requires a peer-evaluation and self-evaluation, as well as the submission of a professional development record, resume, and academic transcript
Organization’s Guide More information can be found in the Certification Through Portfolio Application Requirements Handbook and the Portfolio Preparation Tips
Portfolio Content Outline

Professional development

Professional and ethical nursing practice

Teamwork and collaboration

Patient safety and quality

Supervisor evaluation

Self-evaluation   
Emergency Nurse Practitioner (AANPCB)
Certifying Organization American Academy of Nurse Practitioners National Certification Board
Requirements

Master’s or doctor of nursing practice degree in nursing

Current nurse practitioner state licensure

National certification as a nurse practitioner

One of the following:

100 continuing education credits; 2,000 emergency practice hours

Graduate or postgraduate degree in emergency medicine

Fellowship or residency program in emergency care         
Renewal CycleEvery five years
Cost

$315 for non-members of AANP

$240 for AANP members     
Exam150
Sample Questions Emergency Nurse Practitioner Candidate Handbook (pg. 27)
Organization’s Guide Emergency Nurse Practitioner Candidate Handbook
Content Outline

Conditions

Thoracic and respiratory disorders

Cardiovascular disorders

Dermatologic soft tissue disorders

Abdominal & gastrointestinal disorders

Musculoskeletal disorders

Renal and genitourinary disorders

Nervous system disorders

Head, ear, eye, nose, throat disorders

Traumatic disorders

Psychobehavioral & other disorders   

Medical screening

Medical decision making and differential diagnosis

Patient management

Patient disposition

Professional legal, and ethical practice

More detailed information can be found in the Emergency Nurse Practitioner Candidate Handbook (pg. 23)

Hospice and Palliative Care Nurse Practitioner

Palliative care nurse practitioners specialize in the treatment of those with serious illness. Care is usually focused on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of the illness. Ultimately, the goal of this treatment is to improve the quality of life for both the patient and his or her family.

Drexel University’s College of Nursing and Health Professions offers a certificate in advanced study in holistic hospice and palliative care. This includes 12 credit hours of coursework that focuses on end-of-life care, evidence-based complementary and integrative therapy approaches, and medical treatments aimed at alleviating pain and suffering.

The Hospice and Palliative Credentialing Center offers the ACHPN certification for nurse practitioners. This requires the completion of a 175-question exam and at least 500 hours in the past year (or 1,000 hours in the past two years) of working as a palliative care nurse practitioner.

Hospice and Palliative Care Nurse Practitioner
Certifying OrganizationHospice and Palliative Credentialing Center
Requirements

Current, active registered nurse license

Master’s or doctor of nursing practice degree from an accredited nurse practitioner school

At least 500 hours in the past year or 1,000 hours in the past two years of working as a hospice or palliative care nurse practitioner

Official academic transcript that includes completion of courses in advanced physical assessment, advanced pathophysiology, and advanced pharmacology   
Renewal CycleEvery four years
Cost

$345 for members of the Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association (HPNA)

$465 for non-members of the HPNA   
Exam Questions175
Sample Questions Advanced Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse Candidate Handbook (pg. 14)
Study Resources Clinical Pocket Guide to Advanced Practice Palliative Nursing by Constance Dahlin,‎ Patrick Coyne, and‎ Betty Ferrell
Organization’s Guide Advanced Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse Candidate Handbook
Content Outline

Nursing process for caring for adult patients and families

Assessment

Diagnosis and planning

Intervention and evaluation   

Scientific knowledge

Disease process

Diagnostic tests and procedures

Prognosis

Responses to illness, loss, grief, and bereavement   

Education and communication

Professionalism

Ethics

Scope, standard, and guidelines

Self-care and collegial support

Leadership and self-development     

Systems issues

Resource access, utilization, and continuum of care

Quality improvement        

A detailed content outline can be found starting on page 11 of the Advanced Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse Candidate Handbook.  

Oncology

Oncology nurse practitioners focus on patients with cancer, including screening, prevention, early detection, and genetic risk as well as diagnosis, staging, and treatment planning. These nurse practitioners typically work in large hospital systems or at a cancer treatment center. The Columbia University School of Nursing offers an oncology nurse practitioner subspecialty that includes specialized coursework and oncology clinical placement. Students in this program must choose between an adult or pediatric oncology track.

The Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation offers an oncology nurse practitioner certification. Graduates of oncology programs are eligible for this certification as well as those without a formal oncology background but who have fulfilled specific clinical experience and continuing education requirements.

Oncology Nurse Practitioner
Certifying Organization Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation
Requirements
Pathway 1


Graduate degree from accredited nurse practitioner program with concentration in oncology

Current license as a registered nurse and nurse practitioner

500 hours supervised clinical practice as an adult oncology nurse practitioner within the past five years

One graduate level oncology course or 30 hours oncology continuing education within the past five years

Pathway 2


Graduate degree from accredited nurse practitioner program

Current license as a registered nurse and nurse practitioner

1,000 hours practice as an adult oncology nurse practitioner obtained within and/or following the graduate program within the past five years

One graduate level oncology course or 30 hours oncology continuing education within the past five years   
Renewal CycleEvery four years
Cost

$296 for a member of the Oncology Nursing Society or the Association of Pediatric Hematology Oncology Nurses

$225 for a member of these organizations who is above the age of 65

$416 for a non-member of the organizations

$315 for a non-member who is above the age of 65   
Exam Questions165
Sample QuestionsA practice test can be completed on the website
Study Resources Advanced Oncology Nursing Certification Review and Resource Manual by B.H. Gobel, S. Triest-Robertson, and W.H. Vogel
Organization’s Guide Oncology Nursing Certification Test Candidate Handbook
Content Outline

Screening, prevention, early detection, and genetic risk

Diagnosis, staging, and treatment planning

Cancer treatment

Side effects and symptom management

Oncologic emergencies

Survivorship

End-of-life care

Psychosocial issues

Coordination of care

Professional practice

Roles of the advanced practice nurse

More detailed information can be found in the Test Content Outline

Dermatology

Dermatology nurse practitioners (DCNPs) focus on the assessment, diagnosis, and management of skin diseases and disorders. They typically work at hospitals and clinics treating a variety of conditions from acne to skin cancer alongside other nursing and physician specialists. The Dermatology Nurses Association certifies dermatology nurse practitioners. To be eligible, you must complete a minimum of 3,000 clinical hours of dermatology practice, some of which can come from a dermatology graduate program.

Some dermatology nurse practitioners further specialize in aesthetics. These providers specialize in cosmetic procedures such as botox, dermal fillers, sclerotherapy, chemical peels, microdermabrasion, mesotherapy, and laser hair removal. Aesthetics nurse practitioners often work in a dermatology office or in a medical spa.

Dermatology Nurse Practitioner
Certifying OrganizationDermatology Nurses Association
Requirements

Master’s or doctor of nursing practice degree in nursing

Current nurse practitioner state licensure

National certification as a nurse practitioner

Minimum of 3,000 hours of recent NP practice with current practice in dermatology; this can include hours obtained from a formal dermatology nurse practitioner program, post-graduate fellowship, or residency program   
Renewal CycleEvery three years
Cost

$300 for a member of any nurse practitioner organization

$300 for those who have already obtained their dermatology nurse certification

$400 for non-members   
Exam Questions175 questions
Study Resources Dermatology: Illustrated Study Guide and Comprehensive Board Review by Sima Jain
Organization’s Guide Dermatology Nurse Practitioner Certification Brochure
Content Outline
The exam measures a DCNP’s ability to:


Assess and diagnose acute and chronic conditions that occur across the life span in dermatology

Prescribe interventions, including evidence-based treatment, therapies, and procedures

Teach patients, significant others, community, and colleagues about prevention and management of dermatological conditions.

Consult for and with peers and other health care professionals regarding specific cases

Analyze research data in order to implement effective evidence-based data   
Dr. Melissa DeCapua, DNP, PMHNP-BC

Dr. Melissa DeCapua, DNP, PMHNP-BC

Author

Melissa DeCapua is a board-certified psychiatric nurse practitioner who graduated from Vanderbilt University. She has a background in child and adolescent psychiatry as well as psychosomatic medicine. Uniquely, she also possesses a bachelor’s degree in studio arts, which she uses to enhance patient care, promote the nursing profession, and solve complex problems. Melissa currently works as the Healthcare Strategist at a Seattle-based health information technology company where she guides product development by combining her clinical background and creative thinking. She is a strong advocate for empowering nurses, and she fiercely believes that nurses should play a pivotal role in shaping modern health care. For more about Melissa, check out her blog www.melissadecapua.com and follow her on Twitter @melissadecapua.

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