Family nurse practitioners do many of the same things and have almost as much clinical freedom in many states as family doctors. For currently licensed and registered nurses who want more interesting or more challenging work (not to mention bigger paychecks), certification as an FNP is a career move that can open a great many doors.
What Qualifications Do I Need?
To be certified as an FNP, you'll need an approved master's degree at minimum, plus at least 500 hours of supervised clinical work in family medicine. You'll also need to pass one of the national accreditation exams, which are given by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) and the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).
Which Credential is Preferred -- AANP or ANCC?
Both are equally recognized by entities like hospitals, Medicare, state boards of nursing and corporations. AANP and ANCC have a reciprocity agreement, meaning that if you hold one organization's credential you can apply to be granted the other's as well. If you're a new grad and need some guidance in making the choice, consider asking NPs and educators in your field whether one of the certifications is preferred.
How Do I Apply for Certification?
Detailed instructions and application forms are available on the ANCC and AANP websites. In general, you'll be expected to provide a copy of your current RN license; official transcripts and other information from your degree program; and documentation of your clinical experience, including the name of your preceptor. Make sure you fully understand what constitutes a "complete" application, and for AANP in particular, fill in all spaces on the application form with the actual information requested -- i.e., don't write "see resume".
What Are the Exams Like?
Both ANCC and AANP exams are computer-based multiple choice tests. The ANCC exam has 175 questions; the AANP exam has 150. Each question should take about 1 minute to answer, and each question is worth 1 point. AANP doesn't identify the sources for its exam questions, but those on the ANCC come mostly from major textbooks and other authoritative sources. Expect at least half of the ANCC exam to focus on assessing, diagnosing and managing illness. Composition of the AANP exam is not published. Expect to see diseases presented in classic textbook format, with no asymptomatic or borderline cases included.
What Score Do I Need to Pass the Exam?
On the ANCC exam, you must score at least 350 points out of a possible 500. To pass the AANP exam, you need a score of at least 500 out of 800.
What Happens if I Fail?
For ANCC, you'll receive a permission-to-retest application form in the mail. For AANP, you'll need to obtain 15 contact hours of continuing education specific to your "area of weakness."
- American Academy of Nurse Practitioners: Certification
- Springer Publishing Company; Family nurse practitioner certification: intensive review; Maria T.Codina Leik; June 2008
- American Nurses Credentialing Center: Family Nurse Practitioner
- American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Program; Frequently Asked Questions
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images
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