Career advice

New RCN scheme will enhance career prospects of advanced nurse practitioners

Ahead of the spring roll out of the RCN’s new credentialing scheme, Lynne Pearce talks to advance nurse practitioners who took part in the pilot project. 

Ahead of the spring roll out of the RCN’s new credentialing scheme, Lynne Pearce talks to advance nurse practitioners who took part in the pilot project 


The new RCN pilot scheme for advanced nurse practitioners has been a success. Picture: iStock

A new RCN scheme offering accreditation for advanced nurse practitioners has been successfully piloted by a small group of nurses. 

Credentialing, which is due to launch this spring, assesses applicants using criteria based on the four pillars of advanced nursing: clinical practice, education, leadership and research. 

It has been road-tested by a cohort of 25 nurses from a range of geographical areas, nursing disciplines and employer types, including paediatric emergency nurse consultant at Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust Jason Gray O’Connor. 

‘We have been calling for this for a long time, but it hasn’t happened,’ he says. ‘We have had no consistency in the UK with job titles and descriptions but this gives us recognition, which is the most important thing. It’s a positive step taken by the RCN.’

Recognition for employers

Having worked at an advanced level for more than a decade, Dr Gray O’Connor sees the value of credentialing for himself and his team. ‘It’s recognition for current and future employers. There will be a database of those who have it, which will be useful for recruitment. I manage a team of ANPs and I’ll be recommending it to them,’ he says. 

While he has achieved a Master’s degree and a PhD, Dr Gray O’Connor recognises there are specific challenges for those who don’t have these academic qualifications but are still carrying out advanced nursing practice. 

‘We need to help them demonstrate they have the experience and qualifications to achieve credentialing,’ he says. ‘Transitional arrangements will help those who have been doing these roles for a while.’ 

Senior clinical nurse manager for Cumbria Health On Call Davina Collins is another member of the trial group. ‘The RCN is looking for all advanced nurses to work at Master’s level. I don’t have that at the moment, so I’m an interesting case to look at,’ she says.

Transitional arrangements 

While ANPs would have previously had an undergraduate degree, today the majority of newcomers will have graduated with a Master’s. ‘You have a feeling of am I being left behind?’ says Ms Collins, who manages out-of-hours care, alongside providing clinical care at treatment centres. 

In response to these difficulties, the RCN is providing transitional arrangements until December 2020, to help applicants demonstrate they meet the criteria of experiential learning. 

‘It’s good to see that as long as we’re still accessing education appropriately and using the evidence base, we can still be recognised as working at an advanced level of practice,’ says Ms Collins.

Like Dr Gray O’Connor, she sees the advantages for the ANPs she manages. ‘It’s relevant and positive for them that I’ve been successful in credentialing,’ she says. ‘They can now think, “I can do that too”. Someone has looked at your work and thinks it’s valuable. It’s good to have that public recognition.’ 


Lynne Pearce is a freelance health writer 

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