Nurse Practitioner Subspecialty Certification Guide: 7 Options for NPs

March 29, 2022 , Updated on May 9, 2022 · 5 Min Read

This article breaks down seven types of certifications that nurse practitioners can pursue to augment their population focus.

mini logo
NurseJournal.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?

Nurse Practitioner Subspecialty Certification Guide: 7 Options for NPs
Credit: Halfpoint Images | Moment | Getty Images

All nurse practitioners select a population specialty for their board certifications, but there are also NP subspecialty certifications. These additional nurse practitioner certifications can advance a nursing career by demonstrating commitment to and expertise in a particular subspecialty.

This guide describes nurse practitioner certification options and how to earn them. Keep reading for details on preparing for even more career successes – a new job, promotion, or raise – through subspecialty certifications.

7 Types of Nurse Practitioner Subspecialty Certifications and Requirements

How does NP subspecialty certification differ from regular NP board certification? Nurses need board certification in a specialty such as family practice, adult-gerontology, or neonatal care to become a licensed NP.

Subspecialty NP certification, on the other hand, is optional. Unlike specialty board certification, most NP subspecialty certifications require experience in a particular type of nursing.

There are similarities. Both types of nurse practitioner certifications are established and managed by certifying boards, require passing a national board certification examination, and must be regularly renewed through continuing education and other requirements.

The following list includes 7 popular types of nurse practitioner subspecialty certifications.

Featured Online CertificatePrograms

1. Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner Certification

Orthopedic nurse practitioners (ONPs) are advanced practice nurses who assess, diagnose, and manage patients with a wide variety of musculoskeletal conditions.

To become an orthopedic nurse practitioner, a nurse must be certified through the Orthopaedic Nurses Certification Board. To be eligible to apply for the certification (ONP-C), applicants need three years of registered nurse or nurse practitioner experience.

Aspiring orthopedic nurse practitioners also need a minimum of 2,000 clinical hours caring for patients with musculoskeletal conditions. Most applicants are family nurse practitioners, pediatric nurse practitioners, or geriatric nurse practitioners.

Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner Certification (ONCB)


Certifying Organization: Orthopaedic Nurses Certification Board

Requirements

  • At least three years of experience as an RN or APRN
  • At least 2,000 hours of advanced practice nursing work experience within the past three years
  • Must currently work as an NP with patients with musculoskeletal conditions
  • Valid and unencumbered nursing license and NP certification
  • Must pass the subspecialty certification examination

Renewal Cycle: Five years

Cost

  • $345 for National Association of Orthopaedic Nurses (NAON), American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), Nurses Organization of Veterans Affairs (NOVA), or Canadian Orthopaedic Nurses Association (CONA) members
  • $460 for nonmembers

Exam Content Outline

  • Degenerative disorders
  • Orthopedic trauma
  • Sports injuries
  • Inflammatory disorders
  • Metabolic bone disorders
  • Congenital/pediatric
  • Musculoskeletal tumors
  • Neuromuscular

2. Emergency Care Nurse Practitioner Certification

Emergency care nurse practitioners (ECNPs) provide care to patients in emergencies, in hospital emergency departments, stand-alone emergency care centers, in ambulances or other emergency transportation, or in military or disaster settings.

For AANPCB certification, applicants need at least 2,000 hours of experience in direct, emergency care clinical practice as a family nurse practitioner (FNP) in the past five years. They also need continuing or equivalent education proven by graduation or certification from an approved program or fellowship.

Emergency Nurse Practitioner Certification (AANPCB)


Certifying Organization: American Academy of Nurse Practitioners National Certification Board

Requirements

Meet the requirements listed in one or more of the first four bullet points:

  • At least 2,000 direct, emergency care clinical practice hours as a FNP in the past 5 years; 100 hours of continuing education in emergency care; 30 hours of continuing education in emergency care procedural skills within those five years
  • Completion of a graduate/post-graduate emergency care NP program from an accredited nursing program, or completion of a dual FNP/ENP graduate/post-graduate certificate program from an accredited nursing program
  • Completion of an approved emergency fellowship program. The average emergency fellowship program lasts 12 months.

Other Eligibility Requirements:

  • Current and unencumbered nursing license and NP certification
  • Must pass the subspecialty certification examination

Renewal Cycle: Five years

Cost

  • $240 for AANP members
  • $315 for nonmembers

Exam Content Outline

There are five domains:

  • Medical screening
  • Medical decision-making and differential diagnosis
  • Patient management
  • Patient disposition
  • Professional, legal, and ethical practices

Specific Exam Topics:

  • Conditions
  • Thoracic and respiratory disorders
  • Cardiovascular disorders
  • Dermatologic soft tissue disorders
  • Abdominal and gastrointestinal disorders
  • Musculoskeletal disorders
  • Renal and genitourinary disorders
  • Nervous system disorders
  • Head, ear, eye, nose, throat disorders
  • Traumatic disorders
  • Psychobehavioral and other disorders

3. Hospice and Palliative Care Nurse Practitioner

Hospice and palliative care nurses treat patients near the end of their lives. Most work for hospice or long-term care providers, treating patients in their homes, in hospice, or other residential care. For this NP certification, learners must be a board-certified nurse practitioner and have a current nursing license.

The Hospice and Palliative Credentialing Center offers the ACHPN certification for nurse practitioners. Certification requires completing a 175-question exam and at least 500 hours in the past year (or 1,000 hours in the past two years) of working as a palliative care nurse practitioner.

Hospice and Palliative Care Nurse Practitioner Certification (HPCC)


Certifying Organization: Hospice and Palliative Credentialing Center

Requirements

  • At least 500 hours in the past year or 1,000 hours in the past two years of working as a hospice or palliative care nurse practitioner
  • Official academic transcript that includes completion of courses in advanced physical assessment, advanced pathophysiology, and advanced pharmacology
  • Current and unencumbered nursing license and NP certification
  • Must pass the subspecialty certification examination

Renewal Cycle: Four years

Cost

  • $320 for HPNA members
  • $465 for nonmembers

Exam Content Outline

  • Nursing process for caring for adult patients and families
  • Assessment
  • Diagnosis and planning
  • Intervention and evaluation
  • Scientific knowledge
  • Disease process
  • Diagnostic tests and procedures
  • Prognosis
  • Responses to illness, loss, grief, and bereavement
  • Education and communication
  • Professionalism
  • Ethics
  • Scope, standard, and guidelines
  • Self-care and collegial support
  • Leadership and self-development
  • Systems issues
  • Resource access, utilization, and continuum of care
  • Quality improvement

4. Oncology Nurse Practitioner Certification

Oncology nurse practitioners specialize in treating patients with cancer. They provide this care in a variety of inpatient and outpatient settings, including hospitals, independent offices, and residential care. This nurse practitioner certification requires board certification as an NP and a current and unencumbered nursing license.

The Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation offers an oncology nurse practitioner certification. Graduates of oncology programs are eligible for this certification. Also eligible are those without a formal oncology background, but who have fulfilled specific clinical experience and continuing education requirements.

Oncology Nurse Practitioner Certification (ONCC)


Certifying Organization: Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation

Requirements

You must meet the criteria in one of these two sets of requirements:

Pathway 1

  • At least 500 hours supervised clinical practice as an adult oncology nurse practitioner within the past five years
  • One graduate level oncology course or 30 hours oncology continuing education within the past five years
  • Graduate degree from an accredited nurse practitioner program with a concentration in oncology
  • Current and unencumbered nursing license and NP certification
  • Must pass the subspecialty certification examination

Pathway 2

  • At least 1,000 hours practice as an adult oncology nurse practitioner obtained within or following the graduate program within the past five years
  • One graduate level oncology course or 30 hours oncology continuing education within the past five years
  • Graduate degree from an accredited nurse practitioner program
  • Current and unencumbered nursing license and NP certification
  • Must pass the subspecialty certification examination

Renewal Cycle: Four years

Cost

  • $296 for Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) or Association of Pediatric Hematology Oncology Nurses (APHON) members
  • $416 for nonmembers

Exam Content Outline

  • Screening, prevention, early detection, and genetic risk
  • Diagnosis, staging, and treatment planning
  • Cancer treatment
  • Side effects and symptom management
  • Oncologic emergencies
  • Survivorship
  • End-of-life care
  • Psychosocial issues
  • Coordination of care
  • Professional practice
  • Roles of the advanced practice nurse

5. Dermatology Nurse Practitioner Certification

Dermatology nurse practitioners (DCNPs) focus on the assessment, diagnosis, and management of skin diseases and disorders. They often work at hospitals and clinics, treating a variety of conditions from acne to skin cancer alongside other nursing and physician specialists.

The Dermatology Nurses Association certifies dermatology nurse practitioners. To be eligible, learners must complete a minimum of 3,000 clinical hours of dermatology practice, some of which can come from a dermatology graduate program.

Some dermatology nurse practitioners further specialize in aesthetics. These providers focus on cosmetic procedures such as botox, dermal fillers, sclerotherapy, chemical peels, microdermabrasion, mesotherapy, and laser hair removal. Aesthetics nurse practitioners often work in a dermatology office or in a medical spa.

Dermatology Nurse Practitioner Certification (DNA)


Certifying Organization: Dermatology Nurses Association

Requirements

  • Minimum of 3,000 hours of recent NP practice with current practice in dermatology; this can include hours obtained from a formal dermatology nurse practitioner program, post-graduate fellowship, or residency program
  • Current and unencumbered nursing license and NP certification
  • Must pass the subspecialty certification examination

Renewal Cycle: Three years

Cost: $400

Exam Content Outline

  • Assess and diagnose acute and chronic conditions that occur across the life span in dermatology
  • Prescribe interventions, including evidence-based treatment, therapies, and procedures
  • Teach patients, significant others, community, and colleagues about prevention and management of dermatological conditions.
  • Consult for and with peers and other healthcare professionals regarding specific cases
  • Analyze research data in order to implement effective evidence-based data

6. Nephrology Practitioner Certification

Nephrology nurse practitioners specialize in treating patients with kidney conditions. Most work in hospitals or independent offices.

For this subspecialty certification learners need at least 60 hours of continuing education and at least 2,000 hours of experience as an NP providing nephrology care within the two years before they apply. Aspiring nephrology practitioners also need a current and unencumbered nursing license and board certification as an NP.

Nephrology Nurse Practitioner Certification (NNCC)


Certifying Organization: Nephrology Nursing Certification Commission

Requirements

  • 60 contact hours of approved continuing education in nephrology within the last two years
  • At least 2,000 hours of experience and two years experience as an NP practicing nephrology within the last two years
  • Current and unencumbered nursing license and NP certification
  • Must pass the subspecialty certification examination

Renewal Cycle: Five years

Cost: $375

Exam Content Outline

Domain knowledge:

  • Acute kidney Injury
  • Chronic kidney disease (CKD) stages 1 and 2 and general nephrology
  • CKD stage 3
  • CKD stages 4 and 5
  • Kidney Replacement Therapies (KRT)

Nurse practitioner capabilities:

  • Assessment and diagnosis of pathologic processes and complications that occur in kidney disease
  • Prescription of interventions, therapies, and procedures, including evidence-based treatments consistent with comprehensive care needs
  • Pharmacology
  • Evaluation, selection, or design of strategies and resources to educate client, family, health professionals, and the public
  • Facilitation of an interdisciplinary process with other members of healthcare teams
  • Institution of holistic care plan development that reflects an individual's values and beliefs

7. Cardiology Nurse Practitioner Certification

The CVNP-BC subspecialty certification is open to nurse practitioners with any level of experience, though the ABCM recommends at least two years of experience as a cardiac nurse. Learners must have a current nursing license and board certification as an NP. The course, which covers only adult-cardiology, takes up to four hours and includes 175 questions.

Cardiology Nurse Practitioner Certification (ABCM)


Certifying Organization: American Board of Cardiovascular Medicine

Requirements

  • Recommended but not required: At least two years experience as a cardiac nurse
  • Current and unencumbered nursing license and NP certification
  • Must pass the subspecialty certification examination

Renewal Cycle: Five years

Cost: $429.95


Page Last Reviewed April 14, 2022

NurseJournal.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Are you ready to earn your online nursing degree?

Whether you’re looking to get your pre-licensure degree or taking the next step in your career, the education you need could be more affordable than you think. Find the right nursing program for you.

Popular Resources

Resources and articles written by professionals and other nurses like you.