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Steps to Becoming an APN in California

california nursing

Get your Graduate Degree in California
Earn your National Certification in California
Apply for your Certificate in California
Renewing your Certificate in California

 

The California Board of Registered Nursing (916-574-7697 or BRN.Licensing@dca.ca.gov) recognizes and certifies six different classifications of advanced practice nursing (APN):

  • Clinical nurse specialist (CNS)
  • Nurse anesthetist (NA)
  • Nurse-midwife (NMW)
  • Nurse practitioner (NP)
  • Psychiatric/mental health nurse (PMH)
  • Public health nurse (PHN)

You must hold an active California RN license prior to receiving certification to work as an APN in the state.

California Job Statistics

  • 2011 base salary for NPs in CA: $97,567
  • NPs employed in California: 29,266
  • California Employment Development Department predicts 109,100 job openings for RNs by 2014
  • January 2002, Governor announces Nurse Workforce Initiative to create incentive regarding nursing shortage in California
  • If you received RN training in another country, you must complete the Breakdown of Educational Program for International Nursing Programs (included within the Application for Licensure by Endorsement)
  • If your California RN license has been expired for 8 years or more, you may choose one of the following options:
  • If you have an active RN license in another state, U.S. territory, or Canada, use the Application for Reinstatement of Lapsed License (8-Year Renewal)
  • If you do not hold a current RN license in another state, U.S. territory, or Canada, you must retake the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) and apply as an 8-Year Retake.

The following steps detail the process to becoming an APN in California.


 

Step 1. Get Your Graduate Degree

The California Board of Registered Nursing requires a master’s degree at minimum in the specialty area of advanced practice nursing you wish to work. (The one exception to this requirement is made for public health nurses, who need a bachelor’s degree at minimum).

Qualified Graduate Programs

The school you attend must be accredited by the National League of Nursing (NLN) or any other accreditation agency recognized by the United States Department of Education (USDE).

In California, approval of advanced practice graduate nursing programs is the result of schools voluntarily submitting to program evaluation by the California Board of Registered Nursing. The Board will evaluate and approve all programs that comply with the state’s statutes and regulations.

A list of in-state programs currently approved by the Board can be found here.

Ways to Qualify for APN Status

Most APN classifications have more than one way to meet the requirements for certification in California.

Nurse Practitioner- you can meet California’s qualifications in one of three ways:

  • Graduate from a California nurse practitioner graduate program that meets Board standards as described in the California Code of Regulations, Section 1484
  • Become nationally certified by an organization whose standards are equivalent to the state’s nurse practitioner program standards (details available at the link above)
  •  Graduate from a nurse practitioner program that does not meet Board     standards (additional documentation required – see Step 3. below)

     Nurse-Midwife – you can meet California’s qualifications in one of three ways:

  • Graduate from a California nurse-midwifery program that is Board-approved as described in Title 16, Article 6, Section 1462
  • Graduate from a nurse-midwifery program that meets the state’s standards, but is not yet Board-approved (additional documentation required – see Step 3. below)
  • Become nationally certified by an organization whose standards are equivalent to California’s (details available at the link above)

Clinical nurse specialist – you can meet California’s qualifications in one of three ways:

  • Graduate from a master’s degree program within a clinical field of nursing that meets the state’s standards as detailed in California Business and Professions Code Section 2838.2
  • Become nationally certified by an organization whose standards are equivalent to California’s
  • Graduate from a master’s program in nursing and show completion of additional course work in advanced nursing, including clinical practice, clinical leadership, consultation, education, and research (additional documentation required – see Step 3. below)

Psychiatric/mental health nurse- you must complete a graduate psychiatric/mental health academic program, along with one of the following:

  • Two years of supervised clinical experience in providing psychiatric/mental health counseling services
  • Become nationally certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) as a Clinical Specialist in Psychiatric/Mental Health Nursing

Nurse anesthetist – you must complete an accredited nurse anesthetist program and become nationally certified by the Council on Certification of Nurse Anesthetists

Public health nurse- you may meet California’s qualifications in one of three ways:

  • Complete a bachelor’s degree program in nursing from a school accredited by the NLN that includes coursework in public health nursing
  • Complete a bachelor’s degree program in nursing from a school not accredited by the NLN that includes coursework in public health nursing (additional documentation required – see Step 3. below)
  • Complete a bachelor’s degree program in a field other than nursing and complete a specialized public health nursing program associated with a school of nursing accredited by NLN

Prescriptive Authority (NP and NMW)

As a nurse-midwife or nurse practitioner, you may apply for prescriptive authority once certified for advanced practice by the California Board of Registered Nursing. This will require coursework in advanced pharmacology as well as 520 hours of physician-supervised experience furnishing patients with drugs and medical devices.


 

Step 2. Earn Your National Certification

The California Board of Registered Nursing recognizes six different APN classifications in which applicants can become nationally certified:

  • Nurse practitioner (NP)
  • Nurse-midwife (NMW)
  • Nurse anesthetist (NA)
  • Clinical nurse specialist (CNS)
  • Public health nurse (PHN)
  • Psychiatric/mental health nurse (PMH)

Obtaining national certification is elective for all classifications other than Nurse Anesthetist (NA). Still, many applicants choose to pursue national certification since it satisfies the Board’s requirements for becoming state-certified in respective APN classifications.

Each independent national certification agency maintains its own requirements for earning certification. Passing competency-based examination is a condition of certification maintained by all national certification agencies.

Certification Programs

The California Board of Registered Nursing recognizes the National certification programs offered by these agencies:


 

Step 3. Apply for Your Certificate

You must disclose your social security number on your California APN certification application. If you fail to do so, your application will not be processed. If you do not have a social security number, contact the California Board of Registered Nursing at 916-574-7697 before proceeding with the state’s APN certification process.

Nurse Practitioner

To apply for Nurse Practitioner certification in California, use the Application for Nurse Practitioner Certification. The documentation you will be required to remit will depend on the method you used to meet qualifications as detailed in the application packet. Be prepared to remit the following:

  • Verification of the Completion of Nurse Practitioner Program Form (included in your application packet)
  • Official transcripts sent directly from your NP program to the Board
  • Verification of Nurse Practitioner Certification Form (included in your application packet)
  • Verification of Clinical Competency as a Nurse Practitioner Form (included in your application packet). Two copies must be submitted- one by a supervising nurse practitioner and one by a physician (used if you graduate from an NP program that does not meet Board standards)
  • Verification of Clinical Experience Form (included in your application packet), which is to be filled out and submitted by a nurse practitioner or physician (used if you graduate from an NP program that does not meet Board standards)
  • Curriculum and course descriptions (used if you graduate from an NP program that does not meet Board standards)
  • Application fee of $75
  • One recent 2” x 2” passport type photograph

Mail the applicable documentation to Advanced Practice Unit – NP Certification,

Board of Registered Nursing, P.O. Box 944210, Sacramento, CA 94244-2100.

Nurse-Midwife

To apply for Nurse-Midwife certification in California, use the Application for Nurse-Midwife Certification. The documentation you will be required to remit will depend on the method you used to meet qualifications as detailed in the application packet. Be prepared to remit the following:

  • Verification of the Completion of Nurse-Midwifery Program form (included in your application packet), which is to be completed by a representative of your graduate program and mailed directly to the Board
  • Official transcripts sent directly from your Nurse-Midwifery program to the Board
  • Verification of Nurse-Midwifery Clinical Recency Form (included in your application packet), which is to be used if your nurse-midwifery program ended over a year ago
  • Verification of the Content of the Nurse-Midwifery Academic Program Form (included in your application packet), which is to be used if you graduated from a program not approved by the Board
  • Copies of any other nurse-midwife certificates you hold in other states or countries
  • Verification of Nurse-Midwife Certification by a National Organization Association Form (included in your application packet), which is to be used if you are nationally certified
  • Application fee of $75
  • One recent 2” x 2” passport type photograph

Mail the applicable documentation to Advanced Practice Unit – NM Certification,

Board of Registered Nursing, P. O. Box 944210, Sacramento, CA 94244-2100

Clinical Nurse Specialist

To apply for Clinical Nurse Specialist certification in California, use the Application for Clinical Nurse Specialist. The documentation you will be required to remit will depend on the method you used to meet qualifications as detailed in the application packet. Be prepared to remit the following:

  • Application fee of $75
  • One recent 2” x 2” passport type photograph
  • Verification of the Completion of a Master’s Degree in a Clinical Field of Nursing or Clinical Field Related to Nursing Form (included in your application packet)
  • Official transcripts sent directly from your nursing program to the Board
  • Verification of Clinical Nurse Specialist Clinical Experience Form submitted by a valid verifier (included in your application packet)
  • Verification of Required Advanced Nursing Component Areas to Meet the Requirements for Clinical Nurse Specialist Certification Form (included in your application packet)
  • Curriculum and course descriptions for the completed master’s level course work in advanced nursing
  • Verification of Clinical Nurse Specialist Certification by a National Organization/Association, which is to be submitted by the certifying agency

Mail applicable documents to Advanced Practice Unit – CNS Certification, Board of Registered Nursing, P. O. Box 944210, Sacramento, CA 94244-2100

Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse

 To apply for psychiatric/mental health nurse certification in California, use the Application for the Listing as a Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse. The documentation you will be required to remit will depend on the method you used to meet qualifications as detailed in the application packet. Be prepared to remit the following:

  • Verification of the Completion of a Psychiatric/Mental Health Academic

Program Form (included in your application packet), which is to be sent directly from your program to the Board

  • Official transcripts mailed directly from your program to the Board
  • Course descriptions if the nursing specialty for your master’s degree is not clearly specified
  • Verification of Supervision of Clinical Experience Form (included in your application packet)
  • Verification of Psychiatric/Mental Health Certification Form (included in your application packet), which must be sent to the Board directly from American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)
  • No fee is required for processing of this application
  • One recent 2” x 2” passport type photograph

Mail the applicable documentation to Board of Registered Nursing, Licensing Unit – Advanced Practice (P/MH Listing), P.O. Box 944210, Sacramento, CA 94244-2100.

 Nurse Anesthetist

 To apply for Nurse Anesthetist certification in California, use the Application for Nurse Anesthetist Certification. Include the following documents:

  • Application fee of $75
  • One recent 2” x 2” passport type photograph
  • Verification of Nurse Anesthetist Certification by a National Organization/Association Form (included in your application packet), which is to be sent directly to the Board form the Council on Certification/Recertification of Nurse Anesthetists
  • Verification of the Completion of a Nurse Anesthesia Academic Program Form (included in your application packet), which is to be sent to the Board directly from your nursing program
  • Official transcripts mailed directly from your program to the Board

Mail all documents to Advanced Practice Unit – NA Certification, Board of Registered Nursing, P. O. Box 944210, Sacramento, CA 94244-2100.

Public Health Nurse

To apply for certification as a Public Health Nurse, complete the Application for California Public Health Nurse Certificate. Send the following items to the Board:

  • Application fee of $75
  • One recent 2” x 2” passport type photograph
  • Copy of your current California RN license
  • Verification section of application completed by your school of nursing if you are a graduate of an out-of-state program
  • Official transcripts submitted from your accredited or non-accredited nursing school

Mail the above documents to Board of Registered Nursing- PHN Certification, P. O. Box 944210, Sacramento, CA 94244-2100.

It may take the Board four to six weeks to process your application. You will receive a letter in the mail confirming certification once it has been accepted.

Prescriptive Authority for NPs and NMs

Once you have received certification as an NP or NM, you may wish to apply for prescriptive authority.

  • NPs must use the Nurse Practitioner Furnishing Number Application. Mail it along with the following documents to the Board:
    • Fee of $50
    • Verification of Physician Supervised Furnishing Experience Form (included in your application packet), which is to be completed by the supervising physician
    • Advanced Pharmacology Course Verification Form, which is to be completed by the academic program or continuing education (CE) provider
    • If you completed experience outside of California, send:
      • A copy of the procedures and the collaborative agreement by the supervising physician that allowed the nurse practitioner to use prescriptive authority in the state where you completed experience
      • A copy of that State’s regulations regarding NP prescriptive authority
  • NMs must use the Nurse-Midwife Furnishing Number Application. Mail it and the following documentation to the Board:
    • Fee of $50
    • Verification of Physician Supervised Furnishing Experience Form (included in your application packet), which is to be completed by your supervising physician and sent directly to the Board
    • Advanced Pharmacology Course Verification for Furnishing Form (included in your application packet), which is to be completed by your academic program or continuing education (CE) provider and sent directly to the Board
    • If your advanced pharmacology course was completed more than four years ago, send the Verification of Recent Furnishing Experience form (included in your application packet), which must be completed by the agency administrator or physician where you obtained prescription furnishing experience

Mail all documentation to Board of Registered Nursing, P. O. Box 944210, Sacramento, CA 94244-2100

Criminal History Background Check

All applicants for APN certification must submit fingerprints for a criminal history background check.  If you are a California resident, this must be done through LiveScan. Locations can be found here.


 

Step 4. Renewing Your Certificate

The California Board of Registered Nursing will send you an RN license renewal form by mail about three months before it expires. If you misplace it, it can be downloaded here. You may also renew your RN license online.

At the time of each RN license renewal, you will be fingerprinted and submit to a criminal history background check. Instructions will be sent along with the renewal form.

Nurse Practitioner, Public Health Nurse, and Psychiatric Mental/Health Nurse certificates are automatically renewed when your RN license renews. No additional fees are required to renew certificates for these APN classifications.

Nurse Anesthetist, Clinical Nurse Specialist, and Nurse Midwife certificates are to be renewed every two years before the last day of the month that follows your birth month. The cost to renew each of these is $75.

If you are a Nurse Practitioner or Nurse Midwife with prescriptive authority, a fee of $30 applies to renewing your drug and controlled substance furnishing authorization.

Documents and fees should be sent to Board of Registered Nursing, P. O. Box 944210, Sacramento, CA 94244-2100.

Continuing Education (CE)

You are required to fulfill California’s continuing education requirement to maintain your RN license (currently, 30 hours of CE from an approved provider every two years).

The state of California does not require additional continuing education for APN certificate renewal. However, if you are nationally certified, you will be required to complete the agency’s CE requirements to keep certification active. Contact your certification agency for details on CE requirements:

If you are nationally certified, you must have the certification agency send proof of active certification to the Board each biannual renewal cycle.

Expired Certificate Renewal Application

If your RN license has been expired for more than 8 years, your APN certificate most likely has expired as well. If you have an active RN license in another state, U.S. territory, or Canada, submit the Application for Reinstatement of Lapsed License (8-Year Renewal). If you do not hold a current RN license, you must retake the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN).

If your license/certificate has been expired for less than 8 years, you may change its status from inactive to active online or by submitting the Inactive to Active License Form.

Advanced Practice Nurse Associations in California

Upon becoming a California-certified APN, consider joining one of these professional organizations:

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