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Public Health Portfolio

ANCC's public health certification criteria are moving from an exam to a portfolio format.

The American Nurse Credentialing Center (ANCC) has moved to a portfolio program for credentialing advanced public health nurses.

The last applications for the Advanced Public Health Nursing certification through exam were accepted December 31, 2013. Eligible applicants may test until July 31, 2014. Moving forward, nurses with a graduate degree may now achieve this certification through portfolio.

The portfolio application and actual portfolio is submitted electronically but applicants may log on and off multiple times before finalizing their work.

Advanced public health nursing will now join the emergency nurse practitioner and advanced forensics nursing programs in offering certification by portfolio.

ANCC's director of certification services Marianne Horahan, MBA, MPH, RN, CPHQ, said the organization expects to develop a portfolio program for faith community nursing and advanced genetic nursing within the next year.

"Certification through examination requires a larger pool of candidates than does a portfolio program," she explained.

"It is important to note, however, that the candidate pool for certification through portfolio must also have a viable population to ensure sufficient engagement of content experts in assessment development as well as ongoing psychometric monitoring.

"Generally speaking, the pool of candidates can be smaller for a portfolio assessment than for an examination program, as long as accreditation standards are met regarding engagement during development and ongoing psychometric monitoring of the program."

Portfolio Requirements

Portfolios will be peer-reviewed by experts in the specialty and must document:

  • Education by means of degree-conferred transcripts;
  • Professional development activities and CEs earned in the past three years;
  • Performance evaluations by a supervisor or peer; and
  • A self-evaluation of performance;
  • Evidence in an exemplar (clinical narrative of nursing practice) of the nurse's record/accomplishments in:
    - Professional and Ethical Nursing Practice
    - Quality and Safety
    - Teamwork and Collaboration.

Test-phobic nurses may rejoice at this development but Horahan said the applicant's portfolio should be an equally thorough representation of an aspiring advanced public health nurse's understanding and application of professional nursing practice. The clinical narrative may not exceed 8,000 characters - approximately 1,250 words.

"The expectation is that nurses incorporate information and real-life examples that describe their accomplishments in three domains: professional and ethical nursing practice, quality and safety, and teamwork and collaboration. Appraisers evaluate sources of evidence related to these domains against pre-established screening criteria," she said.

The domains are weighed as follows:

 I. Professional Development


II. Professional and Ethical Nursing Practice


III. Teamwork and Collaboration


IV. Quality and Safety






Clearly, professional and ethical nursing practice comprise the bulk of the portfolio. Advanced public health nurses are expected to demonstrate a mastery of ecological perspectives as related to environmental, social, biological and behavioral determinants of health, culturally responsive care, systems thinking, partnering with communities, epidemiology (surveillance, investigation) principles, population-level interventions and outcomes, leveraging policy and comprehensively evaluating public health services.

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Under the umbrella of professional and ethical practice, Horahan said candidates are expected to incorporate ethical standards of practice (e.g., client confidentiality, human subject protection, risk-benefit analysis) in interactions with organizations, communities, and individuals. Especially in the current healthcare environment where reimbursements are closely monitored and prevention grants are more plentiful, it's important for nurses to note efficient management of financial resources.

Horahan said there haven't been any monumental changes to the professional development requirements but portfolio candidates may write for publication and participate in community and professional groups as well as undergo continuing education. This carries over into the quality and safety realm. Like every nursing specialty, advanced public health nurses need to describe their participation in public health processes that are research based, quality improvement oriented, and evidenced based. A portfolio should also provide evidence of how the nurse uses the results of quality improvement research to improve policies, reduce error risk, and support a culture of enhancing safe practice.

Assistive Resources

While Horahan declined to share specific examples of successful portfolios so as to avoid unfair advantage to any future applicants, the organization has prepared some documents to help candidates compose their application package.

Extensive details on advanced public health nursing certification can be found at:

Portfolio preparation tips are located at:

Eligibility, application instructions and fees can be accessed at:

ANCC is optimistic about this change. When the portfolio was introduced to the other specialties, organizations like the Emergency Nurses Association and International Association of Forensic Nursing, who helped develop the portfolio shared resounding appreciation on the part of their members. Horahan hopes the portfolio will enable nurses to better reflect the unique nature of their advanced public health nursing practice.

"Public health nursing encompasses a wide range of clinical practices and settings," Horahan said. As such, nurses gain the opportunity to articulate and be recognized for their unique nursing practice and experience regardless of the work environment.

Robin Hocevar is on staff at ADVANCE. Contact

Articles Archives

Good luck getting certified by portfolio. They charge you $470 and at the end of it all, tell you that you aren't qualified. That's what they did with me, despite having a doctorate in public health. Instead, the National Board of Public Health Examiners (NBPHE) offers the Certified in Public Health (CPH) credential. The cost for the exam is only $385, but it is highly relevant and recognized by other public health professionals.

Terry October 02, 2014


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