Keeping your credentials up to date is a must as a nurse practitioner. In fact, it seems as though the minute you finally receive your certification and license to practice as an NP, you must start thinking about a future renewal. Navigating the logistics of licensure and certification renewal can be confusing and must be planned in advance. Neglecting to do so could leave you with a mountain of continuing education hours to complete at the last minute. So, here’s a quick guide outlining the timelines and requirements nurse practitioners must be aware of. 

1. State Licensure

Renewal Timeframe: 2 years*

In most cases, states require that nurse practitioners renew their RN and APRN licenses every two years. The requirements for doing so vary by state, but overall are not very rigorous. In Virginia, for example, NPs need only to have completed 8 hours of continuing education and pay a nominal fee to renew an ARPN license. Some states do not ask for evidence of continuing education at all. A word of caution: states are increasingly asking for evidence of continuing education in specific areas like prescribing controlled substances. While it won’t likely take you long to complete state-mandated CE hours, you will need to look at your state’s specific guidelines.

Most states send reminders when a license it about to expire, however NPs would also be wise to track expiration dates on their calendars to make sure they’re practicing with a valid license. 

2. Certification

Renewal Timeframe: 5 years

Nurse practitioner certification is by far the most demanding credential when it comes to the renewal process. Each certifying body, for example, maintains different renewal requirements. Not to mention, the requirements may have changed since you last renewed your nurse practitioner certification, so it’s essential to keep us with the latest guidelines from the organization with which you are certified. Most often, certifying bodies require nurse practitioners to meet criteria in one or more of the following areas:

  • Practice hours 
  • Continuing education
  • Education, projects or precepting
  • Research 
  • Professional service or volunteering

Are you lacking experience in a few of these categories? This may not be an issue. Certifying organizations offer multiple tracks for renewal so NPs need not have experience in each area. Practice hours/experience and completing a specified number of continuing education hours are typically the most important components of recertification. 

3. DEA Registration

Renewal Timeframe: 3 years

Your DEA registration must be renewed every three years. Fortunately, the DEA helps nurse practitioners stay up to date with the renewal timeline by mailing out a notice about two months in advance of a renewal deadline. Make sure the mailing address the DEA has on file associated with your account is correct so you receive the appropriate reminders. Better yet, mark your calendar for renewal when you receive your initial certification as an added prompt. 

Paying a fee and completing a small amount of paperwork is all that’s required in the DEA renewal process making DEA registration one of the easier credentials to keep up with.  

4. Employer-Specific Credentials 

Renewal Timeframe: Varies

Employer requirements can be even more cumbersome to keep up with as a nurse practitioner than state and federal requirements. For example, employers may request regular training in certain subjects like HIPAA, verification of health status such as a tb skin test or annual flu vaccine, and/or certification in emergency skills such as BLS, ACLS or PALS. Maintain a list of our employer’s requirements so you are aware of impending deadlines in advance. 

Whether you’ve just started practicing as a nurse practitioner, or recently renewed your licensure and certification, it’s essential to keep renewal deadlines in mind. The best approach to seamlessly keeping up your NP credentials is to stay organized and chip away at required continuing education and practice requirements over the course of the licensure or certification period rather than in a last-minute panic. 


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