As a Certified NP, How Do I List My Credentials?

Margaret A. Fitzgerald, DNP, FNP-BC, NP-C, FAANP, CSP, FAAN, DCC, FNAP

As a newly or soon-to-be graduated nurse practitioner, the challenges of NP certification, licensure, and practice are ahead. In preparing for this role, you have earned new professional credentials. Now for the challenging part: how do you sign your name? Should you omit your academic credentials, drop the RN, and just add NP, as many advocate? This would be a great idea for all NPs, regardless of area of certification, specialization, and practice. Indeed, increasing public and professional awareness of the NP title will benefit all of us. However, there are times—such as in your CV, when making that well-earned desktop nameplate, or when listing all your designations—when using that “alphabet-soup” list that now follows your name—is warranted. Here is some advice on how to sign your name and list your credentials and certifications.

Q: Now that I have an advanced degree, how do I list my academic credentials?

A: Your highest academic degree should be placed immediately after your surname, before professional designation and certification credential. Most NPs have a Master of Science (MS), with some earning a Master of Nursing (MN). Relatively few NPs earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), and a growing number are earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), or Doctor of Nursing Science (DNSc). In addition, some NPs who have returned to school for post-master’s or post-doctoral NP preparation have earned a certificate of advanced study (CAS). Check with your school to make sure you are using the appropriate academic designation.

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

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

American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)
The credential for ANCC-certified NPs is NP-BC preceded by a letter indicating the particular specialty:

  • Family Nurse Practitioner: FNP-BC
  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner: AGPCNP-BC
  • Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner: AGACNP-BC
  • Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner: PMHNP-BC

Here is an example of an ANCC-certified Family NP who holds a MS:

  • John Hammond, MS, FNP-BC

American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Program (AANPCP)
Family, Adult-Gerontology Primary Care, and Emergency NPs certified by the AANPCP are granted the designation of NP-C, or Nurse Practitioner-Certified. Here is an example of an AANPCP-certified NP who holds a Doctor of Nursing Practice:

  • Melissa Levasseur, DNP, NP-C

A comment that I often hear made about this designation is that NP-C clearly denotes that a person is a certified NP and that perhaps all NPs should use this. However, NP-C is the AANP’s certification designation and should be used only by those who have earned it. Currently available initial certifications from AANPCP include:

  • Family Nurse Practitioner: FNP-C
  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner: AGNP-C
  • Emergency Nurse Practitioner: ENP-C

National Certification Corporation (NCC)
Those who are certified by the NCC include women’s health NPs and neonatal NPs. They are granted the designations WHNP-BC and NNP-BC, respectively. Here is an example:

  • Sarah Thiam, DNP, WHNP-BC

Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB)
A pediatric NP in primary care who is certified by the PNCB is granted the designation CPNP, with the modifier PC (primary care) or AC (acute care). Here are examples:

  • Clifford Frost, MS, CPNP-PC
  • Kara Ashley, DNP, CPNP-AC

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

A: In general, the most recently earned credential is listed last. Here is an example of an NP who has recently passed the AANP family NP certification exam but is also a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE).

  • Sandra Garth, PhD, CDE, NP-C

Q: What about adding RN or APRN to my credentials?

A: This is certainly an option, particularly with the adoption of the Consensus Model for APRN Regulation. In that case, the designation RN or APRN (advanced practice registered nurse) should be placed immediately before the NP certification title. Here is an example of an NP who is AANP certified and practicing in a state where the Consensus Model has been adopted and has assigned the designation APRN to NPs, certified nurse midwives (CNMs), certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs), and certified nurse specialists (CNSs):

  • Iris Buck, MS, APRN, NP-C

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

A: State law can dictate that a specific mandated title be used—such as advanced registered nurse practitioner (ARNP), which is used in select states, and advanced practice nurse (APN), which is used in certain states. Since these titles are not recognized nationally, using them as

part of your formal credentials, such as on business cards and letterhead, is likely not warranted. This issue is further confused by the APRN designation being used to refer to NPs, CRNAs, CNMs, and CNSs.

Q: Do I need to check with my employer about how to list my credentials?

A: Some institutions have requirements regarding how to sign your name or represent yourself to other healthcare providers and to the public.

Q: How should I list an honorific designation?

A: An honorific designation such as Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing (FAAN) or Fellow of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (FAANP) typically goes at the end of the credentials. Here is an example:

  • Kathleen Thomas, PhD, AGNP-C, FAANP

For the day-to-day, keep it simple and use the NP designation unless your state or employer mandates otherwise. For those special occasions when you need to use your full set of hard-earned, well-deserved professional credentials (eg, your CV, author bylines, professional engagement listings, or speaking promotions), show these off the right way