There are more than 234,000 nurse practitioners (NPs) licensed in the US and all of them have “prescriptive authority” as part of their professional practice. The ability to prescribe medications, devices, and services independent of physicians is one reason why pharmacology is a required component of the certification renewal process. Certification renewal is required every five years, and the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) sets the requirements that demonstrate “continued competence” in one’s area of specialty, including prescriptive authority. Here is what you need to know to maintain current ANCC pharmacology credentials.
Prescribing Authority is Comprehensive, but Not Consistent
NPs have the authority to prescribe medications, including controlled substances, medical devices, and services, medical equipment and supplies. Laws governing the prescriptive authority of NPs and all Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN) varies by state. Those variations affect every part of the prescribing authority. For example, in some states, NPs can write prescriptions from the time they are licensed while in others the prescribing authority must be applied for separately. Other variations by state include:
- Education requirements
- The amount of supervision necessary before independent prescribing authority is granted
- The specific controlled substances that can be prescribed
- The extent and length of time collaboration with physicians is required for APRNs to prescribe
Work is underway to address those wide variations. The APRN Consensus Model, an initiative launched by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, is seeking to implement uniform prescribing authority regulations across all states. You can read more about the “Campaign for Consensus” and view an interactive map that shows the status of the campaign in each state, as well as licensing and regulatory requirements.
What are the Pharmacology Requirements?
All candidates for APRN renewal must complete 75 continuing education (CE) hours and one or more of the eight ANCC renewal categories within one’s specialty. As of January 1, 2014, all APRNs must also complete 25 CE hours of pharmacotherapeutics as part of the 75 CE hours. The specifics of the renewal requirements for nurse practitioners, (and ANCC Certified Clinical Nurse Specialists), according to the ANCC are as follows:
1. 25 of the 75 required CE hours must be in pharmacotherapeutics. Important note: If you double Category 1, there is NO requirement to double the number of pharmacotherapeutic hours.
2. These 25 pharmacotherapeutic hours do not need to be formally ANCC accredited/approved, provided the certified nurse meets the requirements for Category 1 contact hours. (That requirement is: at least 51% of the total number of contact hours must be in your certification role and specialty and at least 50% must be formally ANCC accredited/approved.)
3. If an educational program includes pharmacy content, please refer to the equivalency table below to determine the number of pharmacotherapeutic hours that could be counted towards re-certification.
- 1 contact hour = 60 minutes
- 1 contact hour = 0.1 CEU
- 1 CEU = 10 contact hours
- 1 academic semester credit = 15 contact hours
- 1 academic quarter credit = 12.5 contact hours
- 1 CME = 60 minutes or 1 contact hour
4. The educational presentation or conference agenda may be submitted as evidence to validate the contact hour calculation. A narrative note describing pharmacology content within the agenda may also be necessary to validate content. Keep for your records and submit only if audited.
5. The same hours submitted to renew certification may be submitted to a State Board of Nursing for re-licensure.
6. Pharmacotherapeutic content does not need to be presented by a nurse for the hours to be eligible for certification renewal, however, the presenter must have content expertise in pharmacology.
The Right Courses Will Prepare You
The pharmacology requirements may be rigorous, but the right prep courses will prepare you for the renewal certification exam. When you search for prep courses, make sure they help you learn the pharmacology of common medications, prepare you to select the proper pharmacotherapeutics based on a clinical presentation, and give you insights on incorporating evidence-based changes into practice.
You will also need to make sure that the courses you choose meet the ANCC Pharmacotherapeutics requirement for Nurse Practitioners and Clinical Nurse Specialists, otherwise, you have wasted valuable time and money.
Pursuing your certification renewal may be a rigorous process, but finding the right support and the most comprehensive courses shouldn’t be. Make sure you find a company with years of experience and a track record that speaks for itself.