The Significance of National Certification

By the year 2010, the early “baby boomers” in the U.S. started to reach an older age. With the rapid growth of the aging population, the need for trained personnel to assist with their medical and daily needs also increases. A large portion of the elderly population receives care from nurse practitioners (NPs), with their duties ranging from bathing and dressing to a more complex health assessment. The national accreditation allows nurses to narrow down their scope of practice by focusing on a specific population. This essay discusses the significance of national certification and compares family (FNP) and adult-gerontology (AGNP) certifications.

NPS can be either certified or non-certified, which ultimately determines their scope of practice. American Nurses Credential center reports that only 2.6% of NPS hold a certification in the U.S. (Jones et al., 2015). Unlike a license that provides a legal right to work as a nurse, a certification is not a requirement for practice. However, in the absence of licensure examinations, many boards will use the relevant accreditation to qualify an NP (Blackwell & Neff, 2015). Certification allows specialization in the chosen area, such as pediatrics or gerontology, and acts as a differentiation mechanism between different NPs. Additionally, the certification places limitations on the specific population to which NPs can extend their services. Namely, a gerontology nurse cannot work as a pediatric nurse without gaining additional certification, although the level of restrictions varies by state (Blackwell & Neff, 2015). The benefit of certification is training practitioners for more specific and complex needs that their population might require.

The main difference between FNPs and AGNPs is the population in which they practice. FNPs can provide care to all family members, regardless of age, whereas ANGPs specifically focus on adult and aging individuals. Unlike the adult population, elders often suffer from cognitive impairment and dementia, requiring AGNP to know how to communicate with and assist such individuals. Both types of NPs have to hold a post-graduate degree, either at a master’s or doctorate level and have taken courses ranging in pathophysiology, pharmacology, and disease prevention. Furthermore, their certification allows them to provide care to patients suffering from age-related conditions.

The certification procedure for both the FNPs and the AGNPs is equivalent in terms of the application process, cost, and payment methods. Applicants need to submit study transcripts and the validation of education form that specifies the type of program and the amount of completed clinical hours. Candidates that hold a doctoral degree have to submit a gap analysis form additionally. The exams for the ANGPs and FNPs differ in content depending on the accreditation body rather than the specialty. Overall, the exam tests the applicants on patient assessment, diagnosis, planning, and evaluation (Leik, 2017). The two examinations differ in the assessed population, with the ANGPs focusing on the adult and aging populations, and FNP’s on a broader age range (Leik, 2017). Therefore, future nurses should focus on the chosen area in preparation for the exam.

Whether to pursue family or adult-gerontology nursing will largely depend on the individual’s goals and interests. Both types of practitioners are in high demand to cater to the fast-growing aging and general populations. The national certification will ensure that each practitioner receives the appropriate training to become the best-suited candidate for his or her chosen work. The similarities in the required documentation and application costs simplify the choice between the two careers. The examination will similarly only differ in the assessed population, with the ANGP exam focusing more narrowly on the aging population.


Blackwell, C. W., & Neff, D. F. (2015). Certification and education as determinants of nurse practitioner scope of practice: An investigation of the rules and regulations defining NP scope of practice in the United States. Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, 27(10), 552–557. Web.

Jones, J., Kotthoff-Burrell, E., Kass-Wolff, J., & Brownrigg, V. (2015). Nurse practitioner graduates “Speak Out” about the adequacy of their educational preparation to care for older adults: A qualitative study. Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, 27(12), 698–706. Web.

Leik, M. T. C. (2017). Family Nurse Practitioner Certification Intensive Review, Third Edition: Fast Facts and Practice Questions – Book and Free App – Highly Rated FNP Exam Review Book. Springer Publishing Company.

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NursingBird. "The Significance of National Certification." July 13, 2022.