Registered nurses who pass specialized examinations are entitled to use the initials "BC" after their signatures. The initials stand for “board certified” and indicate the nurse was certified by a particular specialty or certification organization. Not all specialty certifications include the designation BC; the organization most likely to use this designation is the American Nurses Credentialing Center, or ANCC, which offers a wide array of specialty certifications. Board certification is not required for most RNs to practice but is typically required for advanced practice registered nurses.
Education, Licensure and Certification
RNs complete educational programs lasting two to four years that include associate degree, nursing diploma or bachelor’s degree programs. After graduation, the RN must pass the NCLEX-RN national examination to become licensed. At that point she is legally able to practice nursing. Specialty certification is an additional step. As of 2015, no state requires that RNs be certified, although some employers may prefer or require certification. Advanced practice nurses -- who are authorized to perform physician functions -- must have a master’s degree or doctorate. Most states require that APRNs be certified in order to practice. APRNs include nurse anesthetists, certified nurse midwives, clinical nurse specialists and nurse practitioners.
Multiple Certification Options
Specialty certifications are available from a number of professional or specialty organizations. The AANC offers more than 20 specialty credentials for three groups: nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists and specialty nurses. Nurse anesthetists can only become certified through the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists. Certified nurse midwives attain that designation by passing the American Midwifery Certification Board examination. CNMs must be registered nurses, although other types of midwives practice in the U.S. Many other organizations offer certification, but these examinations are limited to a particular specialty. For example, the Addictions Nursing Certification Board offers certifications for RNs and APRNs in addiction care and management. A few, such as the American Legal Nurse Consultant Certification Board, offer a single certification for both RNs and APRNs.
Requirements, Fees and Recertification
To become certified, the nurse must meet certain requirements for education and experience, pay an examination fee and pass an examination. Requirements vary according to the examination and the organization. For example, the AANC requires nurse practitioners to have a current RN license and hold a master’s postgraduate or doctoral degree from an accredited nurse practitioner program with a minimum of 500 supervised clinical hours. Candidates must supply a copy of their degree and transcript with their application. As of 2015, fees ranged from $270 to $395, depending on nursing association membership. RNs must meet several licensing, experience and continuing education requirements and pay similar fees to take a specialty examination. Certifications are typically good for five years, at which point the nurse must recertify.
What the Initials Mean
Although all nursing certification organizations designate certification by initials, not all use the initials BC. The AANC uses BC in all of its specialty designations, along with initials to designate the specialty. For example, an adult nurse practitioner would use the initials ANP-BC, for “adult nurse practitioner board certified.” The American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Corporation, the International Association of Forensic Nurses and the National Certification Corporation also use BC in some of their specialty designations. Other organizations may use a C after the initials of the certification, such as the Orthopaedic Nurses Certification Board, which uses ONC for “orthopaedic nurse certified.” Some organizations use C at the beginning of the designation, such as the Radiologic Nursing Certification Board, which uses CRN for “certified radiologic nurse.”