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What is an advanced practice nurse (APN)? Most definitions focus on the clinical role of an APN. However, Terhaar, Taylor, & Sylvia (2016) describe various non-clinical roles for APNs, including administrator, policy maker, informaticist, analyst, and more.

In addition, many APNs occupy leadership roles. These nurses typically possess a managerial title, such as manager, director, executive director, chief, or vice president of a service line, a division, an academic program, or a specified workforce (such as all nurses or clinicians). Leadership, like clinical care, is both art and science (Pipe & Bortz, 2009). Preparation for these leadership roles may include formal education, formal or informal training, on-the-job experiences, mentoring, and so on.

These APNs are well-positioned to work both as intrapreneurs leading existing healthcare organizations, and as entrepreneurs who may start new healthcare ventures or choose to work in health-related consulting.

Obtaining Certification for Non-Clinical APN Roles

For non-clinical APN specialties, including the roles cited in this chapter, a separate license is typically not required. However, employers may prefer (or even require) APNs to obtain certification or advanced education to demonstrate subject mastery and/or practice competency. Certification is defined as “a process by which an agency or association grants recognition to an individual who has met certain predetermined qualifications specified by that agency or association” (The Center for Health Services Education & Research, 2009, para. 2). The following certification bodies offer certification exams for APNs at several levels to demonstrate knowledge of precise subject matter in a standardized set of managerial and leadership competencies:

Although the exam content for these certifying bodies differs slightly, either one is generally acceptable in practice.

In addition, numerous graduate programs offer formal education as master and doctoral-level degrees in a variety of specialty areas. These programs offer another excellent way to gain—and demonstrate—the knowledge necessary to take on an APN non-clinical role.

Finally, the Academy for Academic Leadership (AAL) is the preeminent consultancy for individual and organizational leadership development in academic health professions (Academy for Academic Leadership, n.d.). Its mission is to cultivate leadership, foster life-long learning, and improve organizational effectiveness through customized professional development and consulting services and products, mostly for academic institutions. You can read more about it here:

“If you just work on stuff that you like and you’re passionate about, you don’t have to have a master plan with how things will play out.”

–Mark Zuckerberg


While there is no single definition of leadership, the term often refers to an individual or individuals who are responsible for leading an organization (Leadership, n.d.).

The majority of non-clinical APN roles possess a leadership title and/or responsibilities. For example, Delgado and Mitchell (2016) explored ...

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