Glossary of Common Terms understands that to become a family nurse practitioner (FNP), a student must navigate a complex process of education and training, certification (if required by one’s state of residence), and licensure. Some aspects of this process, such as preceptors, on-campus intensives, and different accrediting bodies, can be confusing for students who are unfamiliar with these terms and organizations. As a result, has created this glossary to help clarify these and other aspects of the path an RN must take to become an FNP.

Accreditation Board for Specialty Nursing Certification (ABSNC): An accrediting body for nursing certification programs. Formerly known as the American Board of Nursing Specialties (ABNS) Accreditation Council, the ABSNC accredits both the ANCC and the AANPCP. Visit the ABSNC website.

Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN): A national accrediting organization that has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. The ACEN provides accreditation to nursing education programs ranging from associate and bachelor’s degrees to master’s degrees in nursing, post-master’s certificates, and clinical doctorate degrees. The ACEN imposes strict standards on the programs it accredits, and mandates a candidacy process that includes an evaluation and submission of curriculum details, proof of state board approval, and evidence of faculty credentials. The ACEN used to be known as the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC), but changed its name in May, 2013. Visit the ACEN website.

Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME): The official accrediting body of nurse midwifery and midwifery programs in America. Originally a division of the ACNM, the ACME remains affiliated with yet operates independently from the ACNM. Individuals who successfully complete a nurse midwifery or midwifery program that has been accredited by the ACME may qualify to take the certification exam administered by the American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB). Visit the ACME website.

American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN): A national organization that works to establish standards for high quality nursing education at the baccalaureate, graduate, and post-graduate levels. The AACN works with nursing programs and schools to implement its education standards. The AACN is also the parent institution for the Commission for Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), which accredits nursing programs. Visit the AACN website.

American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP): The largest national membership organization for nurse practitioners (NPs) across all specialties. Membership with the AANP includes access to continuing education resources, professional/career-related services, and information on current developments in health care and advanced nursing. Visit the AANP website.

American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board (AANPCB): One of two organizations that provide certification for nurse practitioners (the other organization is the ANCC). Certification through the AANPCB requires fulfilling certain educational and clinical prerequisites and passing a rigorous exam. Visit the AANPCP website.

American College of Nurse Midwives (ACNM): The only national professional association for certified nurse midwives and certified midwives in America. Founded in 1929, the ACNM works to maintain and improve the standards for nurse midwifery and midwifery education, and provides membership benefits such as continuing education resources, networking opportunities, and scholarships to CNMs, CMs, and nurse midwifery and midwifery students. Visit the ACNM website.

American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB): The national certifying organization for certified nurse midwives (CNMs) and certified midwives (CMs). The AMCB offers CNM and CM examinations to individuals who have completed a nurse midwifery or midwifery program that has been accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education (ACME). Visit the AMCB website.

American Nurses Association (ANA): A national professional membership organization that represents the interests of nurses at all professional levels. Membership with the ANA provides access to professional resources, continuing education classes, and a network of other nurses. The ANA also works to promote the interests of nursing in policy. Visit the ANA website.

American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC): One of two organizations that provide nurse practitioner certifications (the other organization is the AANP). Certification through the ANCC requires that candidates fulfill certain academic and clinical hours requirements, and take a specialized exam in their field of advanced practice nursing. Visit the ANCC website.

Asynchronous Instruction: An online instruction method that does not require students to meet for lectures and discussions in real-time, and which instead provides pre-recorded lectures and course materials that students can complete on their own time. Online classes that use asynchronous instruction provide students with the most flexibility as they are not required to log in at specific times to attend lectures. However, since classes do not meet regularly, programs that primarily use this type of instruction require discipline from students to keep up with course materials. Please note that courses that use asynchronous instruction still require students to complete assignments and/or take exams by prearranged deadlines.

Campus Visit / On-Campus Intensive (OCI): Mandatory, pre-arranged events that online students must attend on campus at their university. The duration of these visits can range from the majority of a day to several days, and are typically comprised of in-person lectures, discussions, and/or activities with program faculty and fellow students.

Commission for Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE): An autonomous branch of the AACN, the CCNE provides accreditation to qualifying baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs. This accrediting organization is recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education, and imposes stringent educational standards on the nursing programs it accredits. Nursing programs that wish to receive CCNE accreditation must undergo an evaluation and submit their curriculum details, proof of approval from their state’s board of nursing, and evidence of qualified faculty and adequate student resources. Visit the CCNE website.

National Certification Corporation (NCC): A national, non-profit organization that provides certification to women’s health nurse practitioners (WHNPs). The NCC administers certification exams, not only for WHNPs, but also for inpatient obstetric nurses, neonatal nurse practitioners, and neonatal intensive care nurses. The NCC was founded in 1975 and is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies. Visit the NCC website.

National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA): An organization that accredits nursing certification programs. Visit the NCCA website.

National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN): The organization that provides the NCLEX-RN exam, which registered nurses must take and pass in order to receive licensure to practice in their state of residence. Visit the NCSBN website.

Preceptor: A competent nursing professional who serves as a mentor and supervisor to students during the fulfillment of their clinical hours requirements. Some nursing programs help students find preceptors, while other programs require that students find their own clinical site and preceptor.

Synchronous Instruction: A method of online instruction that requires students to meet with their course instructor and classmates for real-time lectures and discussions. Online classes that use synchronous instruction are designed to more closely mirror the format of traditional on-campus classes and may be desirable for students who want the flexibility of an online program while still interacting with instructors and classmates. Classes with synchronous instruction typically require the use of a webcam so that students can interact with their peers and faculty. Courses that use primarily synchronous instruction still require students to complete class assignments and study for exams independently on their own time.