The Nurse Practitioner's Guide to Recertification

Melissa DeCapua, DNP, PMHNP-BC
Wednesday April 19, 2017
Is your nurse practitioner (NP) certification expiring soon? If you’re like most other NPs, the recertification process can feel overwhelming and anxiety-ridden. At least that’s how I felt a few months ago when I received the e-mail from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) alerting me that I had 1 year (and counting!) until my psychiatry credential expired.

I feverishly jumped on my computer. “How does a nurse practitioner recertify,” I typed into the search engine. This spiraled into a long afternoon of investigation, checklists, printouts, and calendar reminders. As is often the case with the Internet abyss, I learned way more than I needed; therefore, to save the rest of my fellow nurse practitioners the trouble, I decided to write this simple guide to the recertification process. So, never fear! You’ll know what to do in no time.

Know Thy Board

In the United States, 4 different national boards award and maintain nurse practitioner certifications. You must seek recertification through the board that initially certified you following graduation from NP school. These organizations differ in the specialties they certify and in their renewal cycles, costs, and requirements. They include:
  1. American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)
  2. Pediatric Nursing Certi cation Board (PNCB)
  3. National Certi cation Corporation (NCC)
  4. American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Program (AANPCP)

Online Table 1 includes which specialties each board certifies and its corresponding renewal cycle. The table also notes which specialties are retired, which means they can only be renewed by meeting professional development and practice-hour requirements. Retesting is not an option. 

Board Specialties Renewal Cycle
American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) Acute care (retired)
Adult (retired)
Adult-gerontology acute care
Adult-gerontology primary care
Adult psychiatric-mental health (retired)
Gerontological (retired)
Pediatric primary care
Psychiatric-mental health
School (retired)
5 years
Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB) Pediatric primary care
Pediatric acute care
7 years
National Certification Corporation (NCC) Neonatal
Women’s health
3 years
American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Program (AANPCP) Adult (retired)
Gerontological (retired)
Adult-gerontology primary care
5 years

Adult, gerontological, adult-gerontology primary care, emergency, and family NPs can earn their certification through either the ANCC or AANPCP.  Remember, you must stick with the same board throughout your entire career. If you cannot remember which board you used, check your credential. Those nurse practitioners with ANP-BC, FNP-BC, AGPCNP-BC, or AGACNP-BC credentials were certified through the ANCC, and those with NP-C credentials were certified through the AANPCP.


The requirements for recertification vary by board. Typically, you have the option to combine professional development (ie, continuing medical education) with practice hours (ie, clinical work). All boards require NPs to provide proof of an active registered nurse (RN) license.

When reviewing your requirements, pay attention to the details, and get started early. In the words of author Olin Miller, “If you want to make an easy job seem mighty hard, just keep putting off doing it.” Online Table 2 summarizes the high-level requirements for each board.

Board Requirements
American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) A nurse practitioner may choose to renew by combining professional development with either 1000 practice hours in your specialty or by retaking the certification exam.
Regardless of which route you take, you must complete 75 hours of continuing education (25 of which are related to pharmacology) and one or more of these categories:
●      Category 1: Continuing education hours (an additional 75 hours)
●      Category 2: Academic credits (5 semesters of academic courses)
●      Category 3: Presentations (1 or more presentations totaling 5 hours)
●      Category 4: Publication or research (1 article published in peer-reviewed journal, a PhD thesis, or a doctor of nursing practice final project)
●      Category 5: Preceptor hours (120 hours as a preceptor for a nurse practitioner, physician assistant, pharmacy, or medical student)
●      Category 6: Professional service (2 or more years of volunteer service)
Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB) Document at least 15 hours of continuing education each year leading up to recertification. At least 15 hours every 7 years must be related to pediatric pharmacology.
Complete required online modules called “PNCB Pediatric Updates” every 7 years. You must choose 2 primary care or acute care modules (depending on your specialty) and 2 modules of your choice. These are accessed by logging onto the PNBC website.
National Certification Corporation (NCC) Complete a “specialty assessment” through the NCC website. This can be accessed by logging into your NCC account, navigating to the green Continuing Competency Specialty Assessment section, and selecting “Take the assessment.”

Create and finish a personalized education plan, which defines the amount of continuing education you need to earn to recertify. This varies by individual but is usually between 10 and 50 hours.
American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Program (AANPCP) A nurse practitioner can choose to either retake the certification exam or document 1000 hours of clinical practice and earn 100 hours of continuing education (with 25 of these related to pharmacology).


The cost of recertification encompasses the fee to the board, the price of continuing education, and for some, the cost of the exam. Fees vary by board and can change, so you should check each website for the most updated information; however, typically these fees are less than $400. Often, boards offer discounts for members of the American Nurses Association and the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.

Why You Should Care

Recertification demonstrates that you’ve stayed up-to-date on the most recent medical best practices. Remember, you are providing patient care in the middle of the Information Age, which means the amount of knowledge you need to know in order to do your job well doubles every 3 years. By 2020, it will double every 73 days.1

Melissa DeCapua is a psychiatric nurse practitioner with a clinical background in psychosomatic medicine. She now works as a design researcher in the technology industry, guiding product development by combining her clinical expertise and creative thinking. She is a strong advocate for empowering nurses, and she ercely believes that nurses should play a pivotal role in shaping modern health care. For more about Dr. DeCapua, visit her website at www. and follow her on Twitter @melissadecapua. 

  1. Densen P. Challenges and opportunities facing medical education. Trans Am Clin Climatol Assoc. 2011;122:48-58. 

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