Which APRN Certification Exam Should I Take?

APRN Certification Exam

With the transitions occurring in the advanced practice nursing arena (APRN), its hard to know which certification exam to take, what’s on the exam, and what will be different a year from now. The APRN Certification requirements are changing, and you need to know what is changing to what, when, and how will it effect your initial certification, and re-certification down the road.

There are resources like the American Nurses Credentialing Center that offer a range of exams and provide a listing of what exams are available, and what exams being retired.  The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners is another option that offers a defined set of exams.

Because of the unification mandated by the “APRN Consensus Model” you can choose whichever approved certification option you want. . . and again the two main options are the American Nurses Credentialing Center and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.

Our sense is once the dust settles (and who know how long that will take), a vast majority of APRN’s will gravitate toward one or the other certification center.  Like VHS vs Betamax, or more recently plasma TV’s vs LED TV’s, one will fad away.  And there will be consequences (who knows how small or large) for those who picked the wrong side, so don’t flip a coin.

There will be changes, for example, the “adult” specialty will now always include geriatrics (which makes sense for our progressively aging population), in the past, gerontology was separate so starting NOW All adult-only exams change to adult-gerontology exams. 

There are now four distinct certifications for:

  1. Adult-Gerontology Primary Care NP
  2. Adult-Gerontology Acute Care NP
  3. Pediatric Primary Care NP
  4. Pediatric Acute Care NP

All CNS exams will cover from wellness to the acute care setting.

There will also be exams for the following specialties:

  • Family Nurse Practitioner
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (Primary Care)
  • Pediatric Clinical Nurse Specialist (wellness through acute care)
  • Family Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (across the lifespan)

The following exams have stopped, or will be stopped over the next year:

  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner exam
  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner exam
  • Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist (wellness -> acute care) exam available mid-2014

There is also variability in the actual demographics of the APRN Certification exam question break-downs:

And don’t be superficial and choose the AANPCP 3 hour test just because its shorter, or the ANCC test because you have more time per question.  You will need to ask your NP clinical colleagues their opinions and experiences, and then do some soul searching.  Think about re-certification and ease of the process, and think about the viability of the company you choose.  They both consist of well-intention-ed nurses, but one or the other may not be around in a few years, and if you choose them, what is your back up plan.