Most nurse practitioners are nationally certified which includes taking and passing a national NP certification exam. Four states, however, do not require that NPs be nationally certified. Although these nurse practitioners may be highly productive in their practices, with the current healthcare landscape and changes coming to certifying bodies, NPs practicing without a national certification may want to reconsider their status.
Lack of Certification Presents Employment Challenges
While a few states do not require nurse practitioners to hold a national certification, lack on one may present difficulties when it comes to finding a job. For starters, employers like to see that NPs are certified. This serves a a kind of “quality control” showing that not only did you, as a nurse practitioner, complete an NP program but you are also capable of passing a test showing that your education prepared you appropriately for practice.
Even if your practice experience demonstrates you are a capable NP, most employers will still require a national certification for financial purposes. Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurance companies require nurse practitioners to be certified in order to be reimbursed for services rendered to patients. You will not be paid by most insurance carriers, public and private, if you are not certified. In most employment situations, this is essential so you will not be hired unless you hold a national certification.
Even if your current employment situation allows you to practice without a certification, any change can cause problems with your practice. For example, if your small, private practice is bought out by a hospital system, without certification you could find yourself suddenly looking for a job. Or, if for some reason you need to change jobs, lack of a national certification could make this process nearly impossible. Waiting to obtain a certification until you absolutely need it will cause a significant delay in your job search. If you ever plan to relocate, the likelihood is also high that a national certification will be required in order for you to continue practicing as a nurse practitioner.
Impending Changes to Certification Exams Limit Future Opportunities
As a result of the APRN Consensus Model, a campaign to standardize advanced practice nursing certification, licensure, and education, changes are coming to the nurse practitioner certification process. These changes will be implemented starting in 2015. This means that if you have let your certification lapse or have never taken the national certification exam you could face problems with your initial or recertification process. The Pediatric Nurse Practitioner exam, for example, will no longer be offered but will be replaced by a Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner certification exam. Changes to the adult and gerontology NP exams are taking place as well. Once this transition occurs and the old exams are no longer administered, NPs who currently qualify for these certifications many find themselves ineligible for the new exams.
To make sure you are eligible for national NP certification, the best bet is to take your certification exam by December 2014 even if you live in a state where certification is not required. Not only does this give you a better job outlook but also prevents certification roadblocks in the future.
Need to Get Certified? A Look at the Process
If you have been practicing without a national nurse practitioner certification, the process of becoming certified can seen daunting, largely due to the requirement of taking the NP certification exam. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources to help you study for the test and within a few months you should be prepared for the exam. You can also consider taking a live review course to brush up on your knowledge.
To become certified, first start studying. Then, register online to take either the ANCC or AANP certification exam depending on your preference and specialty. You will also need to gather materials like transcripts and a certificate of graduation so be sure to allow plenty of time for this process.
The good news? Once you have certified, you can simply renew your NP certification every five years without having to re-test as long as you meet continuing education and practice requirements as well as keep your certification current.
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