The Different Types of Advanced Practice Nurses

types of advanced practice nurses

(This article originally appeared on NurseAbnormalities.com by Danielle LeVeck, DNP)

Let’s face it, nursing can be confusing. There are so many different types of nurses and advanced practice nursing roles. It was so confusing that I wasn’t even sure what my title would be until three months before I graduated. In an effort to decipher the acronyms and make it easier for you, I have tried to organize as many advanced practice nursing roles as possible below and their associated acronyms with an explanation. My apologies if I missed one, but I’m going to give it my best shot.

What Are the Different Types of Advanced Practice Nurses?

Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN)

Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) is an umbrella term and at the top of the pyramid. This term comprises of the four types of advanced practice nurses: Certified Nurse Practitioners (CNP), Certified Nurse Midwives (CNM), Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS), and Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA).

Nurse Practitioner (NP)

Nurse Practitioner (NP) is a generic term, but generally, NPs are separated by the populations they treat, and then further by specialty.

Types of Nurse Practitioners

Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP): Before taking a certification exam, or a generic acronym for a Family Nurse Practitioner is FNP.

Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (AGNP): Before taking a certification exam, or a generic acronym for an Adult Gerontology Nurse Practitioner is AGNP. To further complicate this, AGNPs can be certified in primary or acute care depending on their education.

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP): Before taking a certification exam, or a generic acronym for a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner is PNP. To further complicate this, PNPs can be certified in primary or acute care depending on their education, like AGNPs.

Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP): Before taking a certification exam, or a generic acronym for a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner is NNP.

Women’s Health Care Nurse Practitioner (WHNP): Before taking a certification exam, or a generic acronym for a Women’s Health Care Nurse Practitioner is WHNP.

Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP): Before taking a certification exam, or a generic acronym for a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner is PMHNP.

  • Across the lifespan: PMHNPs can only newly certify through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the certification awarded would be, “Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (Across the Lifespan)-Board Certified,” or PMHNP-BC.
  • Of note, the outdated certifications mental health nurse practitioners through the ANCC were divided as adult and family. Those exams are still available for renewal only.
  • If you are pursuing this certification, BoardVitals has a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Question Bank to help you prepare for the certification exam.

Emergency Nurse Practitioner (ENP): This is the newest NP certification and before taking the certification exam, or a generic acronym for an Emergency Nurse Practitioner is ENP.

Nurse Midwife (NM)

Certifying as a Nurse Midwife is fairly straightforward. There is only one certifying body called the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB). Once the certification exam is passed and awarded, the midwife will be titled, “Certified Nurse-Midwife,” or CNM.

Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)

Clinical Nurse Specialist is a generic term, but generally, CNSs are separated by the populations they treat; adult-gerontology, pediatric, and neonatal. CNSs can certify through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN). Once certified, some CNSs will simply use “CCNS,” to indicate they are “Certified Clinical Nurse Specialists.”

Adult-Gerontology Clinical Nurse Specialist (AGCNS): The AGCNS can obtain a certification through the ANCC or the AACN.

Pediatric Clinical Nurse Specialist (PCNS): The PCNS can obtain a certification through the AACN.

Neonatal Clinical Nurse Specialist (NCNS): The NCNS can obtain a certification through the AACN.

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)

Certifying as a Nurse Anesthetist can only be done through the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA). Once the exam is passed the certification awarded is a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist or CRNA.

This post concludes the acronyms for APRNs. It took me nearly four years to figure this out. I hope you learn a lot faster than I did. Best of luck to all of you on your journey to becoming an APRN.

Find out what the highest paying nursing specialties are and learn more about the CE requirements for RNs and NPs in my other blog posts.

Danielle LeVeck, DNP, Nurse AbnormalitiesDanielle LeVeck, DNP is a cardiovascular surgical intensive care unit Nurse Practitioner in the Midwest and is the writer and creator behind Nurse Abnormalities blog and brand. She can be found at @nurseabnormalities on Instagram.