The lines are certainly blurred when it comes to nurse practitioners practicing in specialty areas. Family nurse practitioners, for example, have a broad medical background, and are trained to treat patients of all ages. This foundational knowledge prepares FNPs to work in a variety of settings, even those outside of primary care. Such grey lines create professional confusion, and questions about scope of practice guidelines.
To address the confusion about nurse practitioner specialty designations and practice settings, nurse practitioner programs and organizations are pushing to create education and certification structures with clear specialty designations.
One specialty in need of such clarification is that of emergency medicine. The emergency department is the grounds where primary and acute care meet. Many patients presenting to the ED have low acuity health problems, easily falling within the scope of training of family nurse practitioners. Other patients are acutely ill, with diagnoses and treatment plans falling within the realm of acute care.
In most emergency departments, practicality wins in making the decision whether to employ family or acute care nurse practitioners. Because emergency departments treat children, the scope of practice for NPs working in the ED setting must include caring for pediatric patients. Unlike family nurse practitioners, acute care nurse practitioners cannot treat children. So, facilities hire FNPs to work in the emergency department, or NPs with a dual family/acute care certification.
Taking a step toward clarifying this confusion, the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Program (AANPCP) recently announced a plan to offer an emergency nurse practitioner certification. The exam is geared toward family nurse practitioners working in the emergency department setting. While an emergency nurse practitioner certification is not a requirement for FNPs working in the ED, the offering of such a certification seems the first step towards mandating this specialty specific certification.
How can interested family nurse practitioners obtain certification in the emergency setting? First, to be eligible, the FNP must have a current, active, license to practice as a registered nurse. Second, the FNP must hold current national certification as a family nurse practitioner. Once these two criteria are met, there are three paths the NP can take to emergency certification:
- The NP must have practiced a minimum of 2,000 direct, emergency care practice hours in the past five years as well as have evidence of 100 hours of continuing education in emergency medicine with a minimum of 30 of those hours in emergency care procedural skills within five years. Or,
- The NP must have completed an academic emergency care graduate or post-graduate nurse practitioner program. Or,
- The NP must have completed an approved emergency fellowship program.
Nurse practitioners obtaining the new emergency NP certification must renew their certification every five years.
The emergency nurse practitioner certification will be made available to FNPs in early 2017 and is a credential for nurse practitioners working in the emergency department to consider. While the certification is not currently required, is is indicative of the push towards more structured requirements for NPs practicing in specialty settings.
Will you get your emergency NP certification?
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