BSN in 10 law features grandfather clause

By | 2021-05-07T14:44:44-04:00 January 24th, 2018|Tags: |42 Comments

Editor’s note: Author, Jennifer Mensik, does not endorse, recommend or favor any program, product or service advertised or referenced on this website, or that appear on any linkages to or from this website.

After the passage of the BSN in 10 law in New York last month, I wrote a blog that prompted many comments from nurses who are concerned they are no longer valued or able to work.

But the new law has a grandfather clause that applies to many nurses. Understanding what such a clause allows may help calm some fears.

Grandfathering is not a new concept to the nursing profession. For instance, the practice has been used as education requirements for nurse practitioners have changed over the past 30 years. So, what is grandfathering? How does it apply in law changes and to you?

How the clause affects BSN in 10

The grandfather clause is a statutory provision exempting persons or other entities already engaged in an activity from rules or legislation affecting that activity.  When this clause is added to a piece of legislation that becomes a law, it allows the current status of something pre-existing to remain unchanged regardless of whether changes are made in the future.

In the New York BSN in 10 law, it specifically states in Section 4 a-c to whom the grandfather clause does not apply. Those individuals include:

a — any student entering a generic baccalaureate program preparing registered professional nurses after the effective date of this act;

b — any student currently enrolled in, or having an application pending in, a program preparing registered nurses as of the effective date of this act;

c — any person already licensed as a registered professional nurse or any unlicensed graduate professional nurse who is eligible to take the National Council Licensure Examination as of the effective date of this act.

Regardless of your educational background, if any of these apply to you, then you aren’t legally required to get your BSN in 10.

How grandfathering has been used before

In 1989, only 90% of NP programs were either master’s degree programs or post-master’s degree programs. Into the early 1990s, many state boards of nursing still allowed ADN-prepared RNs, who graduated from certificate granting nurse practitioner education, to be nurse practitioners.

There are still ADN-prepared NPs in practice today because they were grandfathered in as educational requirements changed to a minimum of a master’s degree and national certification. For instance, NPs in Arizona were required to have a national certificate or re-certification as an APRN if their certification was issued after July 1, 2004.

There isn’t always a grandfather clause in legislative changes affecting your license. More and more state boards are requiring continuing education credits. When these laws are enacted, usually no one is exempt.

It is important to follow and watch legislation in your state. Your RN license and right to practice, regardless of your education, is granted in state legislation.

Your state board of nursing’s (which could be called something different in your state) main purpose is actually to protect the public and regulate nursing practice. They are granted this ability to do this by your state legislators. State legislators also are the ones to change and update your scope of practice in addition to your minimum educational requirements, so get familiar with your representatives at the state level.

I’ve heard some nurses say that nurses don’t belong in politics. We live in a democracy, therefore to uphold our democracy, each person must be involved. And as nurses, we are nurses in all that we do, including as voters. Every aspect of our democracy requires us to participate and to let our voices be heard.

The ANA Code of Ethics states in provision 7, “The nurse, in all roles and settings, advances the profession through research and scholarly inquiry, professional standards development, and the generation of both nursing and health policy.”

Nursing education is a complex topic. But as our profession advances and we are called on to take care of sicker individuals, our education and ability must match our patient needs. There are many ways to do this, with legislative changes — and grandfathering of current nurses.

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About the Author:

Jennifer Mensik, PhD, RN, FAAN
Jennifer Mensik, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, is division director of care management at Oregon Health and Science University and instructor for Arizona State University College of Nursing and Health Innovation DNP program. She also is treasurer for the American Nurses Association. Formerly, Mensik was vice president of CE programming for published by OnCourse Learning. A second-edition book she authored, "The Nurse Manager's Guide to Innovative Staffing," won third place in the leadership category for the American Journal of Nursing Book of the Year Awards 2017. Author, Jennifer Mensik, does not endorse, recommend or favor any program, product or service advertised or referenced on this website, or that appear on any linkages to or from this website.


  1. Avatar
    Kathleen Kilmartin January 25, 2018 at 7:18 pm - Reply

    Jennifer please clarify the Grandfather clause – thank you

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    Rodney Spencer January 26, 2018 at 3:34 pm - Reply

    Thanks for sharing this update Jennifer. Parsing the “legalese” into straightforward content is a huge benefit to the nursing community, especially for controversial topics like BSN in 10!

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      Jim Parch RN January 28, 2018 at 5:01 pm - Reply

      This has little or nothing to do with nursing as a profession and everything to do with nursing as a function within healthcare. The every changing responsibilities and gradual delegation of analysis and implementation from doctors to mid-level (which is new) to nurses requires a thorough and more complete understanding of care requirements AND more independent thinking and action.

      As with any business functions, as they mature, are normalized within an organization based on existing groups. The nursing staff will always be a relatively fixed function and allowing more latitude will occur only based on that function’s ability to safely absorb it. That capability, more or less, is based on knowledge and education. Even now a nurse evaluates the patient, orders ABGs and calls the doctor with the results and asks for the order. In the future, the nurse writes the order. More knowledge, more responsibility, lower cost.

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      Miriam Metz January 29, 2018 at 4:32 am - Reply

      I graduated nursing school in the early 1980s.We were old at that time that we would soon be needing a BSN to become a nurse. That was over 30 years ago. I’m glad I will be grandfathered in,because at my age….I am not going back for a BSN.
      If everyone wants o be a leader, who is going to be the bedside nurse? Paper pushing nurses are not going to take care of patients. What’s next? A Master’s degree for entry into practice for LPNs? A higher degree does not make a better bedside nurse. A BSN program is not geared towards beside nursing.

      • Avatar
        Amie January 29, 2018 at 5:24 pm - Reply

        Actually a BSN is exactly geared toward bedside nursing. Hospitals in my area won’t even hire without a BSN as they are all magnet and BSN is required. LPN’s are falling by the wayside and left to practice in Nursing Homes. Those employed by hospitals that are “Grandfathered” are severely restricted in what they can do (No IV push, No hanging blood, etc.). I have a BSN and would never want to “push paper” or be a “leader”. I love hands on care and the technology that comes along with it. If I were ever to obtain a higher degree it would be for a NP. I can’t imagine teaching or being an administrator.

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        Marcee Cushanick BSN, RN January 29, 2018 at 9:31 pm - Reply

        I have to disagree. I started as an ADN and went back for my BSN 7 yrs later and am now finishing my MSN. There is a responsibility we owe our patients on how to find the most recent data and implement that care at the bedside. Leaders need to be in place to do that. Managers are focused on different agendas …. you will not find the qualities in an ADN that a BSN has. I lacked the abilities to research, implement, and advocate with evidence based practice guidelines when I was and I witness this fact every day

        • Avatar
          Sandy April 2, 2019 at 12:25 am - Reply

          I have to disagree with your perspective. I know many ASN‘s who are far better equipped than BSN‘s to not only work at the bedside in regard to direct patient care, but also to function capably in management and leadership roles. Ive found in 25 years of nursing that certain qualities have more to do with the individual nurse, than the letters behind.his or her name.

      • Avatar
        John January 30, 2018 at 11:12 pm - Reply

        Actually today’s BSN programs are geared toward practice at the bedside. Tertiary and Academic Magnet hospitals largely require a BSN as the entry level credential. It is also quite common in the large Academic Medical Center where I work to find Masters prepared nurses who choose practice at the bedside particularly in specialties like NICU, and Critical Care. Clinical ladders in many institutions provide a career path including increased compensation for these nurses. Folks still practicing with lesser credentials don’t need to feel bad or disrespected. Most institutions still grandfather legacy RNs in their employ. It would be stupid not because experience counts for a lot too. Its not about the where we have been as a professions. its where we are going. I have been working as a nurse for 41 years (LVN to BSN in the late 70s) and the rate of change has been amazing.

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    Vareen O’Keefe-Domaleski Ed.D RN January 28, 2018 at 5:58 pm - Reply

    This continues to be disappointing.
    The original position paper was published in 1965?!
    This is not a judgement on ADN colleagues, but continues to undermine our almighty struggle to advance nursing’s status as a full profession. As a diploma grad with a great deal of clinical skill, I can attest to the fact that the baccalaureate degrees opened my mind in ways that I never anticipated. Nursing must bite the bullet and join our other healthcare colleagues by requiring the BSN as entry level. Lets get ourselves away from a “less than” position.

    • Avatar
      Christine Gernant January 29, 2018 at 6:29 pm - Reply

      Thank you for your insightful comments. As a diploma grad myself, I can appreciate what you have obtained without forsaking your nursing roots. I am over 60 and will be finishing my BSN this year. For those who are resistant, know that it will expand how you think about clinical issues. It gives you a wider frame and new approaches, such as Evidence Based Practices.
      And if you do an online program, when you go to the discussion boards, you will be surprised how much just the give and take helps you with new ways of thinking. Definitely worth it.

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    Karen Wilson January 28, 2018 at 6:23 pm - Reply

    Confused and need question answered and clarified.

    1) Regardless of your educational background, if any of these apply to you, then you aren’t legally required to get your BSN in 10.

    Any of these is referring to the following:

    In the New York BSN in 10 law, it specifically states in Section 4 a-c to whom the grandfather clause does not apply. Those individuals include:
    a — any student entering a generic baccalaureate program preparing registered professional nurses after the effective date of this act;
    b — any student currently enrolled in, or having an application pending in, a program preparing registered nurses as of the effective date of this act;
    c — any person already licensed as a registered professional nurse or any unlicensed graduate professional nurse who is eligible to take the National Council Licensure Examination as of the effective date of this act.

    Is this correct?

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    Mary January 28, 2018 at 8:39 pm - Reply

    Just clarifying:
    This new law. As an RN (Assoc Degree level) with 11 years experience in an ICU environment…
    1. I am required to pass another NCLEX?
    2. Or, there is no need to take the test at all?

    Also, if not forced to get my BSN, would I be denied job postings with BSN requirement?

    • Avatar
      Heather Cygan January 29, 2018 at 5:25 pm - Reply

      Hi Mary,
      If you have an active New York State RN license you are grandfathered in under this law. As long as you keep your NYS license active you will be grandfathered. You will continue to take the NCLEX on your regular scheduled time to keep your license current.

      Regarding job postings: If the job description includes a BSN requirement, it is up to each individual hospital or hiring manager to make that call. The law doesn’t not prohibit you from applying for new RN jobs within NYS when you are grandfathered in.


      • Avatar
        Mary January 31, 2018 at 3:16 am - Reply

        Thank you Heather!

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    Claire P. Santos MS, RN January 28, 2018 at 8:46 pm - Reply

    Sorry to tell you that ADN’s of my era were supposed to be “grandfathered” in regarding the new BSN standard. It never happened and now experienced ADN’s are out of work or ineligible for promotion or specialty change in many parts of the country. Many of us got degrees in other disciplines to enhance ourselves, but are locked out of nurse positions for the crime of not studying the same thing over & over again. This type of legislation is embarrassing and shows only that the profession has failed to manage itself, which is true in my opinion.

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    Mary January 28, 2018 at 8:51 pm - Reply

    I graduated in 2000 from accredited school with my ADN, do I qualify under the grandfather clause that’s in effect of BSN.

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      Heather Cygan January 29, 2018 at 5:04 pm - Reply

      You qualify if you are already licensed as a registered professional nurse or any unlicensed graduate professional nurse who is eligible to take the National Council Licensure Examination as of the effective date of this act. So if you have an active license and you keep it active in New York State, you will be grandfathered.

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    Dorothy Bennett January 28, 2018 at 11:05 pm - Reply

    I have been an RN (Associate degree) for 23 years and understand that I will be grandfathered in. I wonder, though, about the status of those nurses within any given facility. Will tiers develop? Will BSN RN ‘s receive better pay?

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    Bev January 29, 2018 at 1:31 am - Reply

    The issue here is not what you have as a degree or letters behind your name. It’s whether as a nurse you are able to do your job to maintain pt safety. If you are able to pass a state board exam and do your job that is what the public and the nursing regulation body should be concerned with.

    If you as a person want a higher degree that’s great, but as a 30 year veteran the letters don’t make a nurse and the poor education that they are getting in a college without clinical is making them a danger to the pt when they get their assignment and are unable to organize themselves to take care of 8 or more patients at one time because they don’t do this in the college setting, so employers are now left to do residences like Dr’.s. have to.

    The problems with this are, the hospitals are unable to afford this and neither are the insurance companies. So I ask everyone what are we doing as a profession to stop the crazy behaviors of governing bodies that know nothing of the everyday workings of a nurse and a hospital or they wouldn’t be doing such a crazy move. Shame on all of us for getting rid of a program that gave a student nurse hands on with a nurse so they could learn their craft and be able to do their job when they passed their state board.

    • Avatar
      Amie January 29, 2018 at 5:40 pm - Reply

      “Poor education that they are getting in a college without clinical is making them a danger to the pt when they get their assignment and are unable to organize themselves to take care of 8 or more patients at one time because they don’t do this in the college setting”? Let me venture a guess, you are from a diploma program? I only say this because you seem to have no grasp on what actually occurs at college. It isn’t all class and no clinical. As a graduate from a BSN program at a private university We not only had class time, but Lab and clinical (@ a top local nationally ranked hospital here in Massachusetts). Clinical consisted of 8 hour days on top of weekly classes. I would be irate if I paid a lot of money to sit in a classroom and be lectured to without hands on clinical to back it up.

  10. Avatar
    Tara January 29, 2018 at 1:46 am - Reply

    So this only applies to NY as of now?

    • Avatar
      Heather Cygan January 29, 2018 at 4:57 pm - Reply

      Yes, this only applies to New York State.

  11. Avatar
    Ruth Oestreich January 29, 2018 at 3:38 am - Reply

    I have been an Associate Degree RN for 33 years. I have always worked full time active in a hospital setting. ICU or Cardiac care.
    From what I have seen and now work with all BSN nurses. I am much more qualified to take care of the most ill patients on the unit. They always come to me and ask questions.
    To say that BSN nurses are more qualified is very demeaning to me.
    And when it comes to being the charge nurse. They are so unorganized and have no clue what to do. Once again they always ask for my advice. Oh yes I used to work chsrgexsll the time until this past year. Now management has in their head that only the BSN nurses can be charge. Unless of course there is no one working that day that has been trained. Then I’m good enough.
    I’m glad I can retire soon because it makes me feel very devalued.
    And just to let you know back in my day the NClex was 2 days and only offered in July and February I happened to finish my 2 year degree in November
    1984. I took my state boards in Feb 1985. And guess what. Most of the people taking the exam were people who failed in July. All BSN educated. The passing rate for AD nurses far out weighed the BSN nurses

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    Lauren January 29, 2018 at 4:56 am - Reply

    Thanks for the article. It’s Been decades that nursing has been fighting for BSN to be the minimal requirement. I’m happy to hear about this law and only hope it’s not decades for all states to follow suit.
    It reminds me how nursing finally got a national exam in the 80’s and we could travel without having to sit boards in that state too!
    Nurses you should not be threatened by this.
    You are vavlued and expierence counts but we need to also be a profession. Not different than lawyers and dr. Then we can have more back up for salaries and independence. Let’s face it we have more responsibilities today in evidence base nursing than we did 30 years ago
    Let’s unite and celebrate !

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    C. P. Adorio January 29, 2018 at 11:25 am - Reply

    I am very surprised that after graduating and from nursing college 40 years ago and actively practicing nursing, the US is just now starting to seriously consider requiring the minimum BSN degree to practice nursing. Many allied health professions have had masters and doctorate requirements since then. Many so called “third world” countries require a minimum BSN. Finally the US nursing educators are catching up.

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    Linda January 29, 2018 at 1:57 pm - Reply

    Seeing as I will be 60 this year I didn’t think this would apply to me. I am ready for retirement from a wonderful profession that I hope more men and women find rewarding. We don’t all need to be doctors, nurse practitioners or physician assistance. Be happy and healthy.

  15. Avatar
    Tina January 29, 2018 at 2:03 pm - Reply

    After reading your post you really did not take the time to breakdown what exactly “BSN in 10 really means.” Are you saying that all ADN RN’s have to have a BSN within 10 years or they will be unable to work, or are you saying that if you are a ADN RN and you have had your degree for at least 10 years or more, then you will be grandfathered in and not have to actually go to a traditional or online BSN program or course of study? The reason why I am asking for clarification is because there will be many nurses who read this blog scratching their heads trying to understand what your blog is really trying to say. It would be of the most importance to break the details down in laymen terms so that people are not misinformed or misguided by the newly passed legislation that effects many. Thanks in advance!

    • Avatar
      Heather Cygan January 29, 2018 at 5:15 pm - Reply

      Hi Tina,
      If you have a current, active license in New York State and you continue to maintain that license and work in the state, you are grandfathered in.

  16. Avatar
    Angela Mims, RN BSN CCM January 30, 2018 at 3:07 pm - Reply

    Nurses must be united, by having a unified voice in Healthcare, to meet the needs of the patient. As nurses, we have the opportunity to provide improved clinical outcomes, be innovative in affecting change in the healthcare system, and improve better patient outcomes.

    Nurses influence laws and best practices that improve the overall hospital experience. The Healthcare system is evolving. We need to change, too — not argue over credentials. Regardless whether a nurse completed an ADN program or BSN program we took the same State Boards. Nurses (ADN and BSN) are patient advocates, and impact the care and welfare of the patient, their families and the hospital systems where we work. Let’s remember the reason we became nurses in the first place and be the voice of change for the good of all-not fighting over titles and degrees.

  17. Avatar
    Kathy Neuhoff January 30, 2018 at 3:15 pm - Reply

    We welcome all ADNs to come and work in Montana. I am an RN with a 4 year BA in Molecular Cellular Developmental Biology, followed by a 3 year ADN degree. I had many years of research under my belt before becoming an RN.

    Some of my best and most capable colleagues are ADNs. Some of the worst are BSNs. I do not see any correlation between an ADN and BSN as to the quality of nursing. Magnet status is purely a marketing tool.

    Should a nurse want to continue there career and advance to research or management, then yes a BSN is important.Otherwise ADNs provide wonderful and capable care and we welcome you to work here in Montana.

  18. Avatar
    cindy zimmerly January 30, 2018 at 4:17 pm - Reply

    So do the ADN’s have to take a test to be grandfathered in? What does the “10” mean

    • Avatar
      Sallie Jimenez February 2, 2018 at 9:46 pm - Reply


      No ADNs do not have to take a test to be grandfathered in. The “10” refers to the amount of years those individuals subject to this act will have to earn their BSNs.

      Thank you,
      Sallie Jimenez

  19. Avatar
    Betsy February 20, 2018 at 7:05 pm - Reply

    I earned my BSN in 1990. I went straight from high school to a 4 year Undergraduate Program. I am 53 years old today with an active RN. I practiced in NY State for many years then relocated down South. I have long wished and dreamed that one day this legislation will come to fruition. Nursing is a veritable Profession. It is in equal standing to professionals like an Architect, Engineer, and many others. Corporations like Boeing, NASA, or Facebook and or Microsoft will only interview candidates at minimum with an Undergraduate Degree. Not probably hire for certain positions unless they also have in addition a Master’s Degree plus other required certification. We as nurses are long been tagged as Doctor’ s handmaiden or maid. I fully respect it’s token Tradition and practice. As such, I Hail New York State’s BSN in 10 Law. It is long overdue.

  20. Avatar
    Cbrown February 24, 2018 at 7:36 am - Reply

    I graduated from a lpn program before the law was passed but I haven’t taken my nclex exam yet am I grandfathered in ?

  21. Avatar
    Debra Aman September 9, 2018 at 9:25 pm - Reply

    I am an LPN in a nursing home. There are RN supervisors who refuse to do the work that I do when we are short on staffing. They refuse to get their hands dirty. It’s beneath them. Who is going to take care of the residents in nursing homes as the LPNs currently do?
    And if the nursing shortage is so great, why are laws being passed that make it even harder to get a nursing degree for people such as myself from a low income background?
    I don’t see anywhere in this new law that says LPNs are grandfathered in. I was looking at another ten years in my profession before retiring at age 70. I have no interest in becoming an RN.

  22. Avatar
    Dail Martin December 23, 2018 at 8:32 pm - Reply

    I am an NP and have been for 37 years. BSN in 1971 Univ of Maine, MSN 1976 Boston University and on to NP certificate program Univ. of Colorado 1982. I and many other NPs in Maine 27 years ago were grandfathered by the Maine State Board of Nursing for certification and exempt from taking a written test for certification. My credentials were accepted in 2009 by CMS and I received an NPI number. I changed jobs 4 years ago and had to un enroll from CMS. New employer tried to re-enroll me by CMS refused my grandfathering for certification. This has impacted me to the point I can not see urgent care, Medicare or Medicaid or group insurance patients. I tied to sit for the board exams for both boards a few months ago and was told I was not eligible and had to take my NP program all over again. I honestly do not know what they think I have been doing for the past 37 years. I am extremely experienced. Grandfathering should be respected and accepted, but it is not. I am not rendered useless and I am not able to get employment. I would like to fight this issue, but not sure how at this point. Can anyone out there help me.

    • Avatar
      Trudy Olins September 5, 2021 at 12:31 am - Reply

      Hi Dale,
      I am in the same situation. I have a BSN and graduated in 1972 for San Diego State. In 1980 I went to the Harbor UCLA Woman’s Health Care NP program and was certified. In 1996 I was certified as a CNM in another certificate program. I worked for a large county hospital and I was moved to where they needed me. I left OB/GYN in the late 90s and worked for surgeons as their NP. I did plastics, breast, general surgery and urology. I retired from that position in 2017 but took a position with a private physician in urology 2 days a week. I loved that job and miss my patients as I am forced to leave as the practice is being taken over by a new company that says I must be nationally certified and have a masters degree and I have to get CMS medicare reimbursement privileges. I let my certification lapse nationally as I was no longer doing OB. I tried to get recertification and was willing to take the exam but I have to have a masters and an FNP degree. I called many schools and they say I have to do the whole program over. I have been an NP for 40 years why are we reinventing the wheel. I believe we should fight this as the masters NPs will soon have the same dilemma when they make a doctorate mandatory. I too am now unemployed. I didn’t do it for the money but because it is one of my passions and I do it well. Its senseless to go back to school at my age for 2 years and spend possible $100,000 to do it. I am happy to work with you.

    • Avatar
      Trudy Olins September 5, 2021 at 12:40 am - Reply

      I am in the same situation. Do you want to work together to try to resolve this.

  23. Avatar
    Patricia Collins July 16, 2019 at 6:20 am - Reply

    I am a LPN in Ga, I want to know, if I can get grandfathered in as a RN? I graduated in 1991, I was 35 at that time. I am 64 y/o now.

    • Heather Cygan
      Heather Cygan July 18, 2019 at 12:26 pm - Reply

      Hi Patricia, The grandfathering in only pertains to nurses who work in NY state. Since you work in GA this law does not pertain to you. The BSN in 10 Law is only a NY state law.

  24. Avatar
    Lilly Nikolic November 26, 2019 at 1:48 pm - Reply

    I have been a nurse for 30 years. 3 years ago I signed the contract with the same hospital that I have worked for 20 yrs that would get my BSN in 5 years. I attempted twice. Not able to do it. How can I get grandfathered in to this position? I am very concerned about my job.

  25. Avatar
    Trudy Olins August 1, 2021 at 6:50 pm - Reply

    I am a certificate NP and CNM with a BSN in nursing. I have been an NP since 1980 as I went to a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner Program. I worked 39 years for the county of Los Angeles. I retired from that position and took a part-time job in a private urology office.

    In the 39 years, my role had evolved and I no longer saw OB/GYN patients and worked primarily seeing surgical and urology patients, so I let my certification lapse. My mistake. Now I need it to get medicare reimbursement. I would be happy to take a recertification exam but cannot as I do not have a master’s degree. So, I am forced to leave the patients I love taking care of.

    The doctor I work with is upset his organization will not keep me on as he says I can run circles around most NPs. So I am forced to take a retirement from this position because it is not financially feasible and the 2 years it would take is not practical. Certificate NPs should not have been thrown under the bus. There should have been an avenue available for them to get certification from a national organization without a master’s degree. My state recognizes me, but Medicare does not. There is no grandfather clause there to protect us.

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