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Special Interest Group Update

In each issue, one of NANN’s special interest groups shares information in their area of focus.

What's in a Name? Better Known as 'How Does All of This Alphabet Soup Fit Together?'

Michele Savin, DNP APRN NNP-BC
Bobby Bellflower, DNSc NNP-BC FAANP

APRN, CCNE, LACE, NCSBN, NCC, NTF... I thought all I had to know was NANN and NANNP? What does all of this alphabet soup have to do with neonatal nurse practitioners (NNPs)?

It turns out that all of these entities play a part in creating, supporting, and certifying the documents for nurse practitioner education and practice, including that of NNPs. Let us explain.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) establishes the quality standards for graduates of any nursing school in the United States. AACN developed the content and competencies—sometimes shortened to the "essentials"— deemed critical for nurses at the baccalaureate, master, and doctoral levels.

For instance, NNPs who obtain a master's degree have an education based on the nine Essentials of Master's Education in Nursing. These include

  1. Background for Practice from Sciences and Humanities
  2. Organizational and Systems Leadership
  3. Quality and Safety
  4. Translating and Integrating Scholarship into Practice
  5. Informatics and Healthcare Technologies
  6. Health Policy and Advocacy
  7. Interprofessional Collaboration for Improving Patient and Population Health Outcomes
  8. Clinical Prevention for Population Health and Improving Health
  9. Master's-Level Nursing Practice.

At the doctoral level, there are eight essentials

  1. Scientific Underpinnings for Practice
  2. Organizational and Systems Leadership for Quality Improvement and Systems Thinking
  3. Clinical Scholarship and Analytical Methods for Evidence-Based Practice
  4. Information Systems/Technology and Patient Care Technology for the Improvement and Transformation of Health Care
  5. Health Care Policy for Advocacy in Health Care
  6. Interprofessional Collaboration for Improving Patient and Population Health Outcomes
  7. Clinical Prevention and Population Health for Improving the Nation's Health
  8. Advanced Nursing Practice.

The essentials of master's and doctoral nursing practice are being revised this year. The new document is called "The Essentials: Core Competencies for Professional Nursing Education" and addresses all levels of professional nursing. Nursing will move from three education levels to two competency-based ideals, one for the entry-to-practice nurse and one for the nurse who earns an advanced degree, albeit not specifically in an advanced practice nursing role. AACN's revision of the Essentials involved discussions with nurses around the United States; the draft is available on the AACN website.

The National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF) supports faculty throughout the United States. NONPF developed and published core competencies for nurse practitioner practice in all roles, including our neonatal specialty. The core competencies are

  1. Scientific Foundation
  2. Leadership
  3. Quality
  4. Practice Inquiry
  5. Technology and Information Literacy
  6. Policy
  7. Health Delivery System
  8. Ethics
  9. Independent Practice.

Also, organizations like NANN create and disseminate specific role-based competencies that are the foundation of specialty practice, including neonatal and NNP practice. The knowledge within our professional organization supports NNP practice. Other professional specialty organizations do the same for their colleagues.

In 2017, NANN published the latest edition of the Education Standards and Curriculum Guidelines for Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Programs. It discusses program, faculty, and curriculum guidelines along with specific NNP competencies that graduates must meet.

In 1997, a multiorganizational group called the National Task Force (NTF) on Criteria for Evaluation of Nurse Practitioner Programs met to standardize the general evaluation of NP programs. The NTF consists of educators, practitioners, support organizations, and certifying bodies dedicated to developing and publishing all NP programs' standards. The National Certification Corporation (NCC), the certification body for NNPs, Women's Health NPs, and other advanced practice roles, is an NTF member. NCC certifies NNP programs that have met all educational criteria to allow a programs' graduates to sit for the NNP board certification. The most recent standards from 2017 are now in their fifth edition. NONPF and AACN are co-facilitators of the NTF's work, which currently is the revision of the criteria for evaluating nurse practitioner programs. The sixth edition is expected to be published this year.

The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) is an autonomous accrediting agency with a purpose of certifying that nursing programs achieve the mission, goals, and outcomes they establish for themselves while meeting national accreditation standards. Colleges and schools of nursing undergo a rigorous self-study and meet with reviewers from CCNE for 2 days while evaluating every aspect of a program. Meetings are held with local stakeholders and students. Depending on the evaluation, accreditation is granted for up to 10 years. Other agencies that accredit nursing programs include Accreditation Program for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and Commission for Nursing Education Accreditation (CNEA).

You may wonder how the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) is involved in all of this. The state boards of nursing coordinate and work toward a joint, full practice authority for advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) roles. Those roles include certified nurse practitioners (CNP), certified nurse-midwives (CNM), certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNA), and clinical nurse specialists (CNS). The Consensus Model "is a guide for states to adopt uniformity in the regulation of APRN roles, licensure, accreditation, certification, and education (LACE)." There are 27 states and territories with full practice authority, 16 with practice limited by collaborative agreements, and 11 where APRN practice is restricted.

Taken together, all of these organizations contribute to the education and practice of NNPs, ensuring the highest level of competency in caring for our most vulnerable patients.

If you are considering advanced practice or want to learn more, go to: 


  1. American Association of Colleges of Nursing. (2006). The essentials of doctoral education for advanced nursing practice. 
  2. American Association of Colleges of Nursing. (2011). The essentials of master's education in nursing. 
  3. APRN Consensus Work Group & the National Council of State Boards of Nursing APRN Advisory Committee. (2008, July 8). Consensus model for APRN regulation: Licensure, accreditation, certification, & education.
  4. National Association of Neonatal Nurses (2017). Education standards and curriculum guidelines for neonatal nurse practitioner programs.
  5. National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (2016). National task force on quality nurse practitioner education. 
  6. National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties. (2017). Nurse practitioner core competencies. 

Please note: The information presented and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the National Association of Neonatal Nurses. Any clinical or technical recommendations made by the authors must be weighed against the health care provider's own judgment and the accepted guidelines published on the subject.

Check out last issue's SIG Update on child safety seat protocol