CERTIFICATION INFORMATION FOR NPWH MEMBERS National certification verifies that you have met a certain standard in educational degree, experience, and testing. Certification is a designation earned by a person to ensure qualification to perform a job or task. Your certification is issued following testing and must be maintained within a certain period of time or the certification will lapse. As a part of a complete renewal of an individual’s certification, the individual commonly shows evidence of continued learning or earning continuing education (CE) credits. Those certified by a particular organization should check frequently to see whether they might be affected by any changes that have taken place. Certification and licensure are similar in intent—protection of the public—but they are awarded differently. Demonstration of one’s ability or knowledge that is required by law before she or he is allowed to perform a task or job is referred to as licensure (eg, the RN license). In the United States, professional licenses are issued by state agencies such as a board of nursing. The assessment process for obtaining licensure and certification is often similar, even the same; certification and licensure differ only in terms of legal status. Just as you must pass the RN license examination to practice as an RN, many states require national certification in your specialty to be authorized to practice as a nurse practitioner. The National Certification Corporation (NCC) is the only certifying body for women’s health nurse practitioners (WHNPs). Check out the NCC Web site (www.nccwebsite.org) for the most current requirements to obtain and maintain certification. The professional organization issuing the certification establishes the standards required to be eligible for initial certification and recertification. An individual must meet the requirements established by the profession to be certified. These requirements will change over time as the profession seeks to meet society’s evolving needs. The NCC is a not-for-profit organization that provides a national credentialing program for nurses and other licensed healthcare personnel. Certification is awarded to nurses in the obstetric, gynecologic, and neonatal nursing specialties, and certificates of added qualification are awarded to licensed healthcare professionals in other subspecialty areas such as electronic fetal monitoring and neonatal/pediatric transport. NCC’s certification program is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), which is the accreditation body of the National Organization for Competency Assurance (NOCA). This accreditation means that NCC’s certification program was subjected to rigorous third-party review and found to meet “the highest national voluntary standards for private certification.” NCCA uses a peer-review process to establish accreditation standards, evaluate compliance with the standards, recognize organizations/programs that demonstrate compliance, and serve as a resource on quality certification. Certification organizations that submit their programs for accreditation are evaluated based on the process and products, not the content, and are therefore applicable to all professions and industries. To maintain it accreditation as a certifying body, NCC must abide by NCCA’s established requirements for certifying practitioners in the professional role. If the NCC does not enforce the
established requirements, it will lose its accreditation and WHNPs will have no option for certification. Over the past 30 years of the NP role, the educational requirements have changed. In the early days of the role, many NPs were educated and trained in certificate programs in various venues such as schools of nursing, medical schools, and clinical sites. As the role matured, and education moved to graduate nursing schools, curriculum and clinical hours and educational content varied widely. Since 2005, with the widespread adoption of National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF) education criteria and nursing accreditation bodies evaluating NP graduate programs according to these criteria, NP education programs have become more consistent. NCC now requires that, to be eligible to sit for certification, WHNPs must graduate from a master’s, DNP, or post-graduate certificate NP program since 2005, when the curriculums and accreditation became more consistent. It is an individual’s professional responsibility to be thoroughly familiar with state licensure and national certification requirements and maintain credentials over time. NPWH strongly encourages all WHNPs to seek and maintain national certification.
Suggestions for Problems with Certification Preventing certification lapse: If you see that you cannot renew your certification within the designated time frame because you cannot earn enough CE credit or retake the examination prior to your expiration date, you can request a one-time-only 3-month extension for your core certification or subspecialty certificate of added qualification. This option is offered on the NCC Web site. Certification lapse <12 months: Reinstatement is an option to regain your certification once it has lapsed. You can reinstate up to 12 months after your original due date. After that time, you must retest and meet current examination eligibility criteria. Applications for reinstatement are on the NCC Web site. Certification lapse >12 months, new graduates, and individuals who graduated from programs in the past and chose not to seek certification until recently: If you meet current certification guidelines, you may register to take the certification examination. If you do not meet current educational requirements to sit for certification, contact your school of nursing and ask to speak with the program director of the WHNP track. 1. Ask which additional courses need to be taken in order for you to obtain a post-master’s degree in women’s health because your certification has lapsed for >12 months. Explore options for online required courses. 2. If you graduated prior to 2005 and have never taken the national certification examination: a. Ask your program director which didactic courses you need to take, as well as the number of clinical hours you will be required to obtain.
b. Ask about options to complete your clinical hours in your current place of residence with a preceptor. c. Upon completion of your course work, submit documentation of your degree— post-master’s or master’s—that is dated 2005 or later. 3. If you are a certificate-prepared nurse practitioner, ask about nationally accredited RN-toNP programs that move through the BSN and MSN curricula at an accelerated pace. If you are not certified and cannot bill under your own professional license: 1. Make an appointment with the private and public insurers that are requiring certification and ask for a waiver. 2. Find out whether you can bill “incident to” for certain services if you practice with a physician. There are certain stringent requirements that your practice must meet to bill “incident to.” Among other requirements, billing “incident to” requires that patients having an initial visit or a new problem are seen by the physician. Failure to observe the rules can result in serious charges.