Who knew that signing your name professionally could be so complicated?! Surely, the process isn’t this complex for other professions? Right, wrong, or just plain annoying, there is a lot that goes into signing your name properly as a nurse practitioner. You may have multiple academic degrees to mention, special certifications, or even a state requirement to represent your NP credentials a certain way. So, how exactly do you sign your name as a nurse practitioner?
There are five main credentials nurse practitioners may need or want to represent in their professional signatures. To unravel the confusion behind the NP signature, it’s helpful to look at each in deciding the appropriate way to sign your name. Here are the credentials you need to consider as well as how each should be represented.
The degree designation behind your name refers to your educational background. As a nurse practitioner you likely have a master’s (MSN) or doctorate (DNP) degree. Start the “alphabet soup” behind your name by listing your highest degree first then continuing in descending order. The choice to follow your highest degree by another, such as BSN, is personal. Many nurse practitioners choose to drop the BSN designation behind their name as it is assumed based on their nurse practitioner status.
If you have additional degrees such as a post-master’s degree or a degree in another field, you may choose to list it as well. For example, an NP turned entrepreneur my go by Amy Smith, MBA, MSN.
Here are a few more examples listing degree in descending order:
- Michelle Adams, DNP, MSN, FNP-C
- Brian Ling, MS, RN
Licensure follows your degree when signing your name professionally. Licensure includes titles that have been earned by completing an education program and completing a licensure exam. As a nurse practitioner, the license you will most likely consider including in your signature is RN. This is optional and may be omitted if you wish.
Here is an example:
- Michelle Adams, DNP, RN, FNP-C
3. State Designation
Just like states have different laws regarding nurse practitioner scope of practice, many also have guidelines as to how NPs practicing in the state are to sign their names. Some states may require that nurse practitioners go by the title ARNP (Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner). Others designate nurse practitioners as APN’s (Advanced Practice Nurses). States may have certain requirements NPs must meet before using a particular title. For example, NPs graduating from certificate programs of the past may not be allowed to use these titles.
State-specific designations are not universally recognized. So, while they may be necessary to include on prescriptions or document on medical records, for example, they are not required in a formal setting such as when authoring a paper.
Here are a few examples using a state designation:
- Michelle Adams, DNP, MSN, APRN, FNP-C
- Brian Ling, MS, RN, APN
4. National Certification
Most nurse practitioners are certified through the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) or the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). NPs certified through the ANCC should use the designation NP-BC, standing for board certified, while also indicating their specialty. For example, a family nurse practitioner would place FNP-BC behind their name.
Nurse practitioners certified through the AANP use the designation NP-C, standing for certified, while also indicating their specialty. For example, an adult-gerontology nurse practitioner would place AGNP-C behind their name.
If you are certified by more than one certifying body, you may list both credentials with the most recently obtained listed last. For example, an NP certified through the ANCC and AANP respectively would sign his/her name Kyle Andrews, DNP, AGNP-BC, FNP-C. If both certifications are of the same specialty, the name would appear as Kyle Andrews, DNP, AGNP-BC, NP-C.
Here are a few more examples:
- Michelle Adams, DNP, MSN, APRN, ACNP-BC
- Brian Ling, MSN, FNP-C
5. Honors and Awards
Nurse practitioners receiving special awards or honors may choose to list them as part of their credentials. These should come last in the list when writing your name. Examples of such honors include being designated as a Fellow of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (FAANP).
Here is an example:
- Michelle Adams, DNP, MSN, APRN, ACNP-C, FAANP
- Brian Ling, MSN, FNP-C, FAANP
Let’s Get Practical
Using each and every possible credential makes writing your name professionally a bit cumbersome. You are, of course, entitled to list your hard earned credentials each time you sign your name, but in most cases this isn’t practical or necessary. The way you should sign your name as a nurse practitioner depends on the circumstances.
Here are a few quick guidelines:
- For everyday use, keep your signature plain and simple. Use only the NP-C or NP-BC designation depending on your certifying body. Or, to make your signature a bit more robust, include your highest degree followed by your certification designation.
- It’s OK to omit your licensure. RN and/or LPN can be included in your credentials if you wish but aren’t compulsory.
- Be careful how you sign your name on the job. If your state requires you to use a particular designation you must use it when writing prescriptions or documenting in patient medical records. Your state’s nurse practice act will outline the credentials you are to use.
- Some situations warrant listing each and every credential. These situations might include an academic setting, writing for a professional publication, speaking at an industry event, or serving as an expert. Using all your credentials can help establish credibility.
Looks like I may have to update my business cards! Have you been signing your name correctly?
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