Types of Nurse Practitioners – What Kinds of NPs are There?
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The two-year path to becoming a nurse practitioner (NP) is the same for everyone: earn an accredited master’s degree (or higher), get a state license, and pass a national certification exam. However, at the degree and certification stages, NPs can choose to specialize in a specific area to provide care to general and niche patient populations.
Most nurse practitioners start with a general certification in primary care. In addition, most nurse practitioner certifications focus on primary care for families, adults, and older adults, with nearly 88 percent of NPs holding at least one of these certifications. As proof of point, in 2021, the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) awarded 277,550 certifications for nurse practitioners in primary, acute, specialty, and psychiatric-mental health.
Other organizations offer more specialized certifications, such as the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN), which has more than 130,000 members and offers four nurse practitioner certifications for neonatal, pediatric, adult, and gerontological patients.
The good news is that NPs need not limit themselves to only one certification. NPs can earn multiple certifications from different professional organizations to serve a wide range of patient populations and increase job prospects. Eligibility requirements vary but typically include several clinical hours in a specific patient area. One can earn these hours during or after completing a master of science in nursing (MSN) degree, a doctorate of nursing practice (DNP), or a post-master’s certificate program.
The American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) is the largest professional organization for nurse practitioners. The AANP includes more than 355,000 advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) members. The AANP, as an umbrella organization, recognizes five certification boards:
- American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board (AANPCB)
- American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)
- American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN)
- Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB)
- National Certification Corporation (NCC)
Read on to learn more about the 15 certified professions available for nurse practitioners, including nine of the most common patient population areas and six specialty certifications.
Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP)
Acute care nurse practitioners (ACNPs) are specialized NPs that care for gravely ill or injured patients. ACNPs work in various settings, including hospitals, trauma centers, and emergency departments. They provide a range of services, from diagnosing and treating illnesses to providing guidance and support to families and patients of all ages.
The American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN), the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), and the American Association of Critical Care Nurses
offer certifications for ACNPs.
- ACNP-BC: Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
- ACNPC-AG: Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (Adult-Gerontology)
- CCNS: Acute/Critical Care Clinical Nurse Specialist (Adult, Pediatric & Neonatal)
Adult Nurse Practitioner (ANP)
Adult NPs provide primary care to adult patients, from young adults to seniors. They manage acute and chronic health conditions, provide preventive care services, and counsel patients on healthy lifestyle choices. In addition, adult NPs often serve as patient advocates, ensuring each individual receives the best possible care. Whether working in private practice or a hospital, adult NPs are vital in providing high-quality, compassionate care to those in need.
The American Nurses Credentialing Center offers certification for adult NPs.
- ANP-BC: Adult Nurse Practitioner
Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (AGNP)
Adult-gerontology nurse practitioners (AGNPs) are prepared to manage older adults’ primary and acute health needs, including chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. They also have expertise in geriatric pharmacology, age-related cognitive decline, and end-of-life care.
In addition, AGNPs are trained to provide support to caregivers and families. As the Baby Boomer population ages, AGNPs will play an essential role in ensuring that older adults receive the high-quality care they need.
The American Nurses Credentialing Center and the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses offer certifications for AGNPs.
- AGACNP-BC: Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner – Acute Care
- AGPCNP-PC: Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner – Primary Care
- ACCNS-AG: American Association of Critical-Care Nurses Adult – Gerontology
- GNP-BC: Gerontological Nurse Practitioner
Emergency Nurse Practitioner (ENP)
Emergency nurse practitioners (ENPs) provide care in emergency rooms for patients with minor injuries to life-threatening illnesses. ENPs triage patients, order diagnostic tests, and communicate with other healthcare team members. NPs specializing in emergency medicine must be able to think quickly and make decisions under pressure. They must also be able to handle a high volume of work and maintain their composure in chaotic situations.
The American Nurses Credentialing Center certifies ENPs.
- ENP-BC: Emergency Nurse Practitioner
Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)
Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) are the most popular certification – the AANP shows nearly 70 percent of advanced practice nurses hold this certification.
Unlike other NP specializations, FNPs are not limited to a particular population or age group. Instead, they provide comprehensive primary care services to patients of all ages, from infants to the elderly. This makes FNPs an ideal choice for patients who want to see the same provider for all their healthcare needs. In addition, FNPs are trained to manage chronic conditions and illnesses and provide preventive care services.
The American Nurses Credentialing Center certifies FNPs.
- FNP-BC: Family Nurse Practitioner
Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP)
Neonatal nurse practitioners (NNPs) care for newborn babies in their first 28 days of life. NNPs provide comprehensive care for newborns, including routine checkups, immunizations, and sick care. In addition, NNPs are often the primary care providers for premature and ill babies. They may also provide lactation support and guidance to new mothers. NNPs work in hospitals, clinics, and private practices.
The National Certification Corporation (NCC) and the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses certify NNPs.
- NNP-BC: Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
- ACCNS-N: American Association of Critical-Care Nurses – Neonatal
Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP)
Pediatric nurse practitioners (PNPs) are advanced practice registered nurses who provide comprehensive primary care to children from infancy through young adulthood. PNPs are unique in their ability to provide care for the whole child, including physical, mental, and emotional health. In addition, PNPs often serve as advocates for children within the healthcare system, working to ensure that the child’s needs are met. PNPs can specialize in various areas, including acute care, cardiology, oncology, or neonatology.
The Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB) and the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) certify PNPs.
- ACCNS-P: American Association of Critical-Care Nurses – Pediatric
- PPCNP-BC: Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
- CPNP-PC: Primary Care Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
- CPNP-AC: Acute Care Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP)
Psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNPs) provide mental health care to individuals, families, and groups. PMHNPs often specialize in particular areas of mental health, such as addiction, eating disorders, or child and adolescent psychiatry.
In addition to providing direct patient care, PMHNPs may conduct psychiatric evaluations, prescribe medication, and provide psychotherapy. They work in various settings, including hospitals, clinics, private practices, and community mental health centers. Because of the complex nature of mental illness, PMHNPs must be able to integrate biological, psychological, and social factors into their treatment approaches.
The American Nurses Credentialing Centers certifies PMHNPs.
- PMHNP-BC: Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP)
Women’s health nurse practitioners (WHNPs) provide comprehensive care for women of all ages. They offer health screenings and counseling for various issues, including reproductive health, contraception, childbirth, and menopause. WHNPs also play an essential role in managing chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. In addition to providing preventive care, WHNPs are trained to diagnose and treat acute illnesses and injuries. As a result, they are uniquely positioned to provide comprehensive care for women throughout their lifetimes.
The National Certification Corporation certifies WHNPs.
- WHNP-BC: Women’s Health Care Nurse Practitioner
Other Specialty Areas for Nurse Practitioners
While nearly 90 percent of nurse practitioners are certified in primary care, NPs can get certified to work with specific patient populations. These certifications may be optional or required by employers. NPs holding specialty certifications can showcase their commitment and knowledge to patient care in niche fields of nursing. Here are six specialty certifications for nurse practitioners.
Addiction Nurse Practitioner (ANP)
Addiction nurse practitioners (ANPs) are RNs who have gone on to complete an advanced nursing degree, such as a master of science in nursing (MSN) or a doctor of nursing practice (DNP). ANPs specialize in the prevention and treatment of substance abuse and addiction. They work with patients with substance use disorders and those at risk of developing unhealthy addictive habits.
ANPs provide individualized care based on each patient’s unique needs. They may facilitate group therapy, family counseling, and other support services. In addition, ANPs may educate patients, families, and communities about addiction and recovery.
The Addictions Nursing Certification Board (ANCB) provides certification for ANPs.
- CARN-AP: Certified Addictions Registered Nurse – Advanced Practice
HIV/AIDS Nurse Practitioner (HIV/AIDS NP)
HIV/AIDS nurse practitioners provide care and support to patients living with HIV/AIDS. They are specially trained in managing HIV/AIDS and its associated conditions. NP specializations include primary care, case management, disease prevention, and mental health.
In addition to providing direct patient care, HIV/AIDS NPs educate patients and their families about the disease, its transmission, and its treatment. They may also participate in research studies and support HIV/AIDS organizations.
The HIV/AIDS Nursing Certification Board certifies HIV/AIDS nurse practitioners.
- AACRN: Advanced HIV/AIDS Certified Registered Nurse
Holistic Nurse Practitioner (HNP)
A holistic NP is a registered nurse with an MSN, DNP, or post-master’s certificate with specialized training in natural and traditional medicines. Holistic NPs can order and interpret diagnostic tests, prescribe medications, and guide lifestyle changes that can prevent or treat illness. HNPs use a variety of modalities to treat patients, including but not limited to diet, physical activity, relaxation techniques, and supplements.
Holistic NPs take a whole-person approach to health care, which means they consider the mind, body, and spirit when treating an individual. This type of care is often used to prevent disease or as complementary care alongside traditional medicine.
The American Holistic Nurses Credentialing certifies HNPs.
- APHN-BC: Advanced Practice Holistic Nurse, Board Certified
Hospice and Palliative Care Nurse Practitioner (HPCNP)
Hospice and palliative care nurse practitioners (NPs) provide specialized medical care for patients with terminal illnesses. They work with patients and their families to manage symptoms and provide support during the end-of-life process. Hospice and palliative care NPs are skilled in pain management and symptom control and have extensive knowledge of terminal illness’s psychological and social aspects.
In addition, hospice and palliative care NPs often collaborate with other health care providers, such as chaplains and social workers, to provide comprehensive care for terminally ill patients.
The Hospice and Palliative Credentialing Center certifies HPCNPs.
- ACHPN: Advanced Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse
Oncology Nurse Practitioner (ONP)
Oncology nurse practitioners (NP) are advanced practice registered nurses who treat cancer patients. They provide comprehensive care to patients throughout the continuum of cancer care, from diagnosis and treatment to survivorship and end-of-life care. Oncology NPs are expert clinicians who can manage cancer’s complex symptoms, side effects, and treatments. In addition, they are trained in providing psychosocial support to patients and their families.
The Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation certifies ONPs.
- AOCNP: Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner
Wound Ostomy and Continence Nurse Practitioner (WOCNP)
Wound, ostomy, and continence nurse practitioners (WOCNPs) are certified healthcare professionals who provide comprehensive care for patients dealing with health issues related to the digestive tract and organs of elimination. WOCNPs use a variety of modalities to treat wounds, including dressings, negative pressure wound therapy, and growth factor therapies.
They also provide ostomy care, fitting patients’ ostomy bags, and providing education on ostomy self-care management. WOCNPs also manage incontinence through bladder retraining, pelvic floor muscle exercises, and medications.
The Wound Ostomy and Continence Nursing Certification Board (WOCNCB) certifies WOCNPs.
- CCCN-AP-Certified Continence Care Nurse – Advanced Practice
- COCN-AP -Certified Ostomy Care Nurse – Advanced Practice
- CWCN-AP -Certified Wound Care Nurse – Advanced Practice
- CWOCN-AP -Certified Wound Ostomy Continence Nurse – Advanced Practice
- CWON-AP – Certified Wound Ostomy Nurse – Advanced Practice