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Nursing's Alphabet Soup - Nursing Acronyms Explained

A nurse looking at a chart with a series of nursing acronyms layered on top of her including PNP and CPON.

The acronyms nurses use to indicate their level of education, professional designations and certifications can sometimes be more confusing than informative. It can be challenging for nurses, too, to determine how to display the credentials they've worked so hard to obtain.

Writing for American Nurse Today, the American Nurses Association's official journal, Betty Smith-Campbell said your highest degree – such as a BSN or MSN – should come first, in capital letters and separated from other credentials by a comma. If additional degrees are all in nursing, only the highest degree should be listed. So a nurse named Jane Doe would list J. Doe, BSN, but not J. Doe, BSN, ASN.

Next come any nursing licenses you have earned, commonly an RN. If you have a more advanced license that supersedes the RN, such as the Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN), should be listed instead. So, nurse Jane Doe would list J. Doe, BSN, RN - or J. Doe, BSN, APRN.

Finally come the nursing credentials you have earned, such as Certified Nurses Educator (CNE). Nurse Jane Doe's credentials then would read J. Doe, BSN, APRN, CNE.

Whether you're a nurse deciding how to list your credentials or are just curious to understand the qualifications behind the acronyms, this list can help you decipher the alphabet soup of nursing.

Nursing Degrees

  • ADN - Associate Degree in Nursing
  • BSN - Bachelor's of Science in nursing
  • MSN - Master's of Science in Nursing
  • DNP - Doctor of Nursing Practice

Professional Nursing Credentials

  • APRN - Advanced Practice Registered Nurse
  • LPN - Licensed Practical Nurse
  • LVN - Licensed Vocational Nurse
  • NP - Nurse Practitioner
  • RN - Registered Nurse
  • ACNP - Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • CNS - Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • ANP - Adult Nurse Practitioner
  • FNP - Family Nurse Practitioner
  • GNP - Gerontological Nurse Practitioner
  • PNP - Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • TCRN - Trauma Certified Registered Nurse

Nursing Certifications

  • CNE - Certified Nurse Educator
  • CNA - Certified Nursing Assistant
  • CNL - Clinical Nurse Leader
  • CNO - Chief Nursing Officer
  • CRN-A - Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist
  • NA - Nursing Assistant
  • AACRN - Advanced HIV/AIDS Certified Registered Nurse
  • ACRN - HIV/AIDS Certified Registered Nurse
  • ALNC - Advanced Legal Nurse Consultant
  • CBCN - Certified Breast Cancer Care Nurse
  • CDN - Certified Dialysis Nurse
  • CHPCA - Certified Hospice and Palliative Care Administrator
  • CRN - Certified Radiologic Nurses
  • OCN - Oncology Certified Nurse

*Source - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov and https://www.registerednursing.org/nursing-abbreviations-terms.

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