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Certification Corner

How Should You list Your Credentials?

One of the most common questions about credentials has nothing to do with certification exams.

Instead, it's about listing those credentials after you earn them: How should you sign your name?

Should you use the single credential "NP," as advocated by ADVANCE for Nurse Practitioners and people such as Mary Knutson, NP, past president of the American College of Nurse Practitioners?

This is a great idea for all nurse practitioners, since increasing public and professional awareness of the NP title will benefit all of us.

There are select instances in which listing all academic and practice credentials is advisable, howeversuch as on your curriculum vitae or your well-earned desktop nameplate. But since this can be confusing, I can offersome advice about how to do this.

Now that I have a master's degree, how am I supposed to list my academic credentials after my name?

Your highest academic degree should be placed immediately after your surname, before the professional designation and certification credential.

Most nurse practioners have a master of science degree (MS), with some holding a master's in nursing (MN) or master of science in nursing (MSN), and a growing number also having a doctorate in nursing or philosophy (ND or PhD).

In addition, some of you may have returned to school for post-master's nurse practitioner preparation and earned a certificate of advanced study (CAS). Check with your school to make sure you are using the appropriate academic designation.

I am now a certified NP. Is there a special way to designate this?

The NP certification credential differs according to the certifying body you chose. Here are the designations of the various certifying organizations:

The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), which certifies family, adult, acute-care, geriatric and pediatric nurse practitioners, now recommends the designation of APRN, BC (advanced practice registered nurse, board certified). Here is an example: Hugo Moreno, MS, APRN, BC.

The designation of RN, CS, formerly granted to NPs by ANCC, is no longer awarded. The designation APRN, BC is now awarded to pediatric, adult, family, geriatric, mental health and acute-care NPs certified by ANCC. Here is an example: Mary Smith, MS, RN, APRN, BC.

Family and adult nurse practitioners certified by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) are granted the designation of NP-C, or nurse practitioner-certified. Here is an example: Melissa Hammond, MN, RN, NP-C.

A comment that I often hear about this designation is that NP-C clearly denotes that a person is a certified nurse practitioner and that perhaps all NPs should use this. However, NP-C is the AANP's certification designation and should only be used by those who have earned it.

NPs certified by the National Certification Corporation for Obstetric, Gynecologic and Neonatal Nursing Specialties (NCC) are granted the designation of RNC. Here is an example: Sarah Thiam, MSN, RNC.

A pediatric nurse practitioner certified by The National Certification Board of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners and Nurses, Inc. (NCBPNP/N) is granted the designation CPNP. Here is an example: Clifford Frost, MS, RN, CPNP.

What do I do if I hold more than one certification?

In general, the most recently earned credential is listed last. Here is an example of a nurse practitioner who recently passed the AANP adult nurse practitioner certification exam, but also is a certified diabetes educator (CDE): Maggie Ashley, MS, RN, CDE, NP-C.

In the state where I am licensed and practice, the board of nursing grants a specific advanced practice license designation. Where does this go?

State law may dictate that a specific mandated title be used, such as ARNP (New Hampshire, Florida and others). Since this title is not recognized state-to-state, its use as part of your formal credentials is likely not warranted.

How should I list an honorary designation?

An honorific designation such as fellow of the American Academy of Nursing (FAAN) or fellow of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (FAANP) typically goes at the end of the credentials. Here is an example: Kathleen Thomas, PhD, NP-C, FAANP.

The best advice I can give you is this: in day-to-day practice, keep it simple and use the NP designation only. For special occasions, when you need to use your full set of hard-earned, well-deserved professional credentials, show them off the right way.

Margaret Fitzgerald is a master's-prepared family nurse practitioner who is a fellow of the AANP. She is an experienced clinician and educator and the owner of Fitzgerald Health Education Associates in North Andover, Mass. Reach her at


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