Author: Mindi Daiga, Vice President of Accreditation at Pri-Med

New information and cutting-edge tools in clinical practice and quality standards enter the industry on what feels like a minute-by-minute basis. Hence, a nurse practitioner’s days of learning never truly come to an end-even well beyond graduation.

In addition to staying abreast of the latest developments and practices in the field, as a nurse practitioner, you must earn continuing education credits to maintain your certifications and licenses.

This post will outline everything you need to know about nurse practitioner continuing education, including recognizing certification board requirements, understanding state-specific requirements, and how you can find the best continuing education. Are you already familiar with your national board and state-specific requirements? If so, skip to finding the best continuing education.

Recognizing Certification Board Requirements

There are multiple national accredited certifying bodies that award nurse practitioner certifications, each focusing on a different population. Following initial certification, your recertification must be granted by the board that initially certified you. Currently, there are five nurse practitioner boards in the United States. They are:

  • The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners National Certification Board (AANPCB).
  • The American Nurses Credentialing Center Certification Program.
  • American Association of Critical-Care Nurses Certification Corporation.
  • The Pediatric Nursing Certification Board.
  • National Certification Corporation.

Each organization has different renewal cycles and requirements. It’s common for the boards to offer NPs the option to either retake the certification examination or renew credentials with a combination of clinical practice and continuing education.

Example of Renewal Cycles and Requirements

For instance, the AANPCB requires nurse practitioners to renew their certifications every five years. Listed below are a few of the requirements to give you an idea or refresher of what to expect for recertification.

  • Credit Types and Amounts: You can either take the certification exam or combine 1,000 clinical work hours with a minimum of 100 contact hours of continuing education. NPs must complete the professional hours and CE credits within the five-year certification period for the AANPCB to recognize them, as well as choose activities that pertain to their specialty area, if applicable.
    • Pharmacology Credit: At least 25 of the 100 CEs must include advanced practice pharmacology credit. Pri-Med offers free online courses that are approved for AANP credit and also offer Pharmacology credits. Additionally, we offer live conferences nationwide that are approved for AANP credit and also offer an average of between 2.8 and 3.2 Pharmacology credits per event.
    • Reciprocity: Some continuing education doesn’t offer AANP credits, but can still satisfy requirements. For example, although many Pri-Med conferences and online courses offer AANP credits, each one offers AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™ at a minimum, which is also accepted by the AANPCB for advanced practice CE hours.
  • Topics: The board does not limit NPs to any specific CE courses, but it does require they be offered by an accredited organization and must be relevant to NPs’ practice.
  • Volunteer Service and Clinical Precepting Hours: In some cases, volunteer service can be applied to the clinical practice requirement and graduate coursework may be acceptable for renewal requirements. Clinical precepting hours are also generally applied to renewals, with 10 contact hours representing 1 CEU.
  • Active Registered Nurse License: Along with documentation of completed examinations, course credits, clinical hours or other specific requirements, all boards require NPs to hold an active registered nurse license during the designated period of certification.

Differentiating Among State-Specific Requirements

Licensure requirements vary among state licensing boards, which can further dictate which CE courses NPs choose to participate in. For instance, some states require credits to cover specified topics, and each state will identify a different renewal period. To find out nursing licensure and renewal requirements, visit each state’s board of nursing website; these sites are summarized on the NCSBN site.

Your state licensing board’s requirements are separate from those established by professional associations and national boards of nursing, although some credits may satisfy requirements for both—if completed during the designated period. Keep in mind that CE hours and credits will not carry over to the next certification period, even if you complete more than the minimum required.

Finding the Best Continuing Education

Keeping your national and state requirements in mind, you want to find CE that best fits your needs. Consider these six factors when choosing CE.

Nurse Practitioner Continuing Education That Offers the Credits You Need

First you need to determine whether the CE you choose is accredited by the relevant organizations to award the type of credits you need to meet recertification and re-licensure requirements. Accreditation information and the type of credit offered for each CE activity should be clearly communicated with CE conference and online course information.

It’s important to note that while most national boards and associations will not formally endorse CE providers, they may identify approved providers that offer the advanced practice CE content hours required for certification renewal, or they will indicate the types of credit that are acceptable. For example, the AANPCB recognizes acceptable CE providers that include established medical academies and associations as well as independent companies like Pri-Med (an Approved Provider by AANP) who may offer advanced practice CE hours.

Specialty and Profession

Different CE is geared toward different specialties. Finding CE that was created for your specialty will help you more easily find education that’s relevant to your practice. For example, at Pri-Med, much of our education is designed for primary care clinicians. Our clinical team evaluates the latest research and designs online courses and in-person sessions based on what is typically seen in a primary care practice.

In addition to our primary care-focused education, we also offer conferences developed specifically for practicing cardiologists.

Free Online Courses

The saying “you get what you pay for” doesn’t necessarily apply here. Many CE providers charge for online courses, but you can find the same high-quality education online at no cost. The faculty teaching Pri-Med’s online CE courses are experts chosen based on their in-depth knowledge of a therapeutic area, their skilled ability as educators, and their capacity to provide practical strategies and translate clinical information into improved patient care and health outcomes.

Many of Pri-Med’s free online courses that are approved for AANP credit also offer AANP Pharmacology credits. In addition, the courses span a variety of primary care topics, including cardiovascular medicine, diabetes, pain management, neurology, infectious disease, immunizations, pulmonary medicine, depression, and more.

Rather than cramming courses into a short time as deadlines approach, many NPs benefit from completing CE at a relatively constant and steady pace. Aside from maintaining compliance with the rules and regulations, doing so helps you maintain a sharp perspective to drive positive patient outcomes. Free online courses help you earn credits at a constant pace between in-person conferences.

Live CE Conferences That Don’t Put a Dent in Your Wallet

Live CE conferences offer the added benefit of connecting with and learning from colleagues. Conferences can include classroom sessions, skills workshops, presentations, and an exhibit hall. At live conferences, you can learn about pharmaceutical, device, diagnostic, and technology companies between CE sessions.

Pri-Med hosts CE conferences nationwide so you can attend one near you or travel to one and make a mini vacation out of it. For instance, many nurse practitioners will be attending Pri-Med East in Boston, MA, this year. Many participants live in New England, but others are coming from across the country to learn, earn credits, and enjoy the festivity and shopping Boston has to offer in December.

Convenient Course Types – CE Podcasts

At times you have only 15 minutes to spare, and that 15 minutes might even be during your car ride into work or during exercise. Pri-Med Podcasts feature short episodes that can be listened to when you’re on the go, so they are easy to fit into your busy schedule. Each week, expert faculty discuss practice-changing research and how you can apply it to your patient care.

Pri-Med Podcast episodes offer AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™, which is accepted by the AANPCB for advanced practice CE content hours.

CE Credit Tracker

Upon completing a CE activity, you should be given a certificate or other documentation, generally provided electronically, as proof of completion. The completion certificate should include details about the CE activity, including credit information, completion date, and the name of the accredited provider. This documentation is important to keep as demonstration of fulfilling certification and licensure requirements.

Even after you complete your license renewal or recertification, it is suggested that you keep CE completion records on file for a few years. These will come in handy if your renewal applications are ever audited. Look for a CE provider that keeps track of this information for you. For instance, at Pri-Med, we keep track of your credits and certificates—even ones you earned years ago—in a personal dashboard you can access at any time.

As a leader in continuing medical education to more than 275,000 clinicians since 1995, Pri-Med has the resources to make it easier for you to keep up with the latest medical insights. Choose from our wide-ranging selection of CE conferences and online courses to start earning credits today.

More about the author: Mindi Daiga, Vice President of Accreditation, manages pmiCME’s CME/CE programs to ensure compliance with ACCME, AANP, AMA, and other regulatory organizations. Mindi has 20 years of experience in accreditation and event management.


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