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12 Relaxation Techniques and Tips for When You Need to Relieve Stress

by South University
November 7, 2018
A photo of South University nursing students practicing patient care.

No one is immune to stress, no matter how well you take care of yourself or how much you plan ahead. Stress can be related to work, school, relationships, and the world around you. It’s bound to happen. So, what do you do when things go wrong and the stress is building? What relaxation techniques do you use that actually work? Here are some trusted methods you can use to relieve stress and calm the mind.

  1. Take a break
    Stop what you’re doing. Step away and shift your focus. Look out the window. Drink a cup of tea. Do something that’s creative or that requires focus—like doodling, knitting, or Sudoku—to take your mind off what’s worrying you.

  2. Breathe deep
  3. Breathe in slowly through nose. Feel your lungs expand and notice as your belly rises. Pause at the end of your inhale. Then slowly release your breath, trying to make your exhale slower than your inhale. Repeat this deep breathing three or four times. As you do so, your heart rate will slow, your parasympathetic nervous system will help you to relax, and your mind will begin to calm.

    Consider trying guided meditations that focus on your breathe with apps like Calm or Headspace. In addition to 10-minute and longer meditations, you’ll also find short 30-seconds, 1-minute, or 3-minute meditation options that fit even your busiest days.

  4. Listen to calming music or nature sounds
    Play slow quiet music to help you relax. Choose songs with little to no vocals and no loud instruments. Alternatively, you can try nature sounds—like that of an ocean, a creek, or birds in a field. Whether you’re working around the house or the office, these soothing sounds can slow your mind and boost your mood.

  5. Create a gratitude journal
    Write down 10 things you’re grateful for. Reread your list and think about each item. In doing so, you move your attention away from your stressors to the objects of your gratitude. Keep this list handy and add to it weekly. When you need to relieve your stress, revisit your list to remind yourself of all the good things in your life.

  6. Sing
    Need to reduce stress and anxiety? Like exercising, minus all that sweat, singing your favorite song has the power to produce endorphins that improve your mood and reduce cortisol, a hormone commonly associated with stress, to release tension. So, in your car, in the shower, or in your home, turn it up and belt it out. Maybe don’t try this one in a crowded office though.

  7. Go screen-free
    The constant influx of email. Your love-hate relationship with social media. The never-ending news cycle. Sometimes, it gets to be too much. Give yourself permission to disconnect. Turn off your phone. Read a book, go for a stroll, spend time with your family. Whatever it is, do something that makes you happy.

  8. Declutter
    That clutter at your desk or your kitchen table or even in your car could be contributing to your stress levels. Stop putting off the work of decluttering. Cleaning up and throwing things away can feel good in the moment and seeing a clear space in the future will help you continue to feel relaxed. Be sure to set up an organization system that helps you keep your space clutter-free. This may include reminders or scheduling time each week to sort and organize.

  9. Start small
    If you’re feeling stressed about your to-do list, pick one thing to focus on. Break that item down into small, manageable tasks. Set a realistic goal for which of those small tasks you plan to accomplish in the next hour, two hours, or day. Recognize and acknowledge your small wins as you complete each task.

  10. Be with friends and family
    Talking about how you feel with close friends or family can help you to process your emotions and find the clarity to deal with what’s going on. Your loved ones can also join you in brainstorming how to solve a problem and help you to see something from a new perspective. Spending time with loved ones can also help to distract you from your stressors and give you renewed energy to tackle any complex issues in your life.

  11. Laugh
    Find videos of your favorite comedian or maybe some adorable animals doing funny things. How about an episode of your favorite comedy show? Laughing is another great way to get your feel-good endorphins flowing and to lower your stress hormones.

  12. Move
    Stretch. Dance around the room even if it feels silly. Work out. Dig in your garden. Take your dog for a walk. Do what works for you; just get your energy flowing and your mind off the things that stress you out. (Get bonus points for going outside or spending time with a pet, as both have been shown to help relieve stress.)

  13. Ask for help
    Sometimes we feel stress because we’ve bitten off more than we can chew. If you need help, ask for it. Ask your boss, your instructor, or your family. Most people are willing to help if only they know how and when you need support.

Stress Happens

One important thing to remember is to never stress about being stressed. Stress happens and worrying about your stress levels never helps. The best course of action is to find a way to reduce anxiety and alleviate stress. Over time, you’ll learn what relaxation techniques work for you.

If you’re interested in helping other people cope with stress and other complex issues in their lives, you may want to consider a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology program or Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program at South University.

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It’s a Wrap! Here’s What Happens After Taking Your Nurse Practitioner Exams.

by South University
November 6, 2018
A photo of South University nursing students practicing patient care.

After hours of planning, studying, and test-taking, when you finish your nurse practitioner certification exam, it will be time for the moment of truth. When your test is complete, your results instantly appear on the screen and you’ll know right away whether you have passed. Once you pass, take a moment to celebrate your accomplishment and hard work!

Your certification will be good for 5 years. (Details on how to maintain and renew certification is available on the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) and American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) sites.)

Of course, after taking your test, there are still a few more things left to do before you are officially ready to practice.

What You Receive After Passing Your NP Exam

After passing the ANCC exam: You will receive a copy of your results before you leave the testing center. Within 2 months, you’ll receive a certificate and pin to celebrate your achievement. ANCC does not automatically send verification of certification to your state board of nursing or employer, so you will need to request this be sent to the proper location(s).

After passing the AANP exam: If all required documentation is on a file, a printable wallet card will be available for download online within 48 hours and an official score report and certificate will be mailed to you within 2-3 weeks.

If You Do Not Pass on Your First Try

If you do not pass on your first attempt, contact your university or Career Services team to see whether they have access to or recommendations for additional review materials to prepare for retesting.

For the AANP:

You will first need to wait to receive your exam results in the mail. These results will show your strengths and weaknesses, and you must complete a minimum of 15 hours of continuing education in your weakest areas. You can typically obtain these through:

  • Attending a review course
  • Shadowing in a doctor’s office
  • Completing modules provided by the AANP

After completing these hours, you may apply to retake the exam. Two testing attempts are allowed per calendar year.

For the ANCC:

If you do not pass the ANCC, your score report will include diagnostic information for each content area of the test and you may retest after 60 days. You can test up to 3 times in any 12-month period. Wait 5 days after your first test to apply for a retest online.

What to Do After Passing Your NP Exam

  1. Notify your university
    If you’ve been working with your Career Services team or university to prepare for the boards, let them know that you passed. At South University, Career Services can help to guide you through the next stages of becoming a licensed and employed nurse practitioner.

  2. Complete steps required by your state Board of Nursing
    Confirm what you need to do to receive your state license. Most Board of Nursing (BON) websites provide a checklist for this process. This process may include:

    • Requesting official transcripts be sent to the BON
    • Filling out your state’s BON application
    • Requesting that your University or Program Director complete additional forms
    • Initiating fingerprints and a background check

    Additional processes and applications may be required by your state.

  3. Send official transcript copies to your house
    Although this is not required, we suggest you keep some official transcripts at your house for any additional paperwork that may be needed in your state or for future positions. If you request copies, do not open them upon arrival—doing so ruins the validity of the transcript.

  4. Apply for your NPI number
    A national provider identifier (NPI) is a unique ten-digit number required by HIPAA and The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for covered US healthcare providers. It helps to track and transmit standard HIPAA electronic transactions, such as electronic claims and claim status inquiries. Not having a NPI number can hinder you when applying for jobs and may hurt your chances at a position.

  5. Consider malpractice insurance
    Look into purchasing your own malpractice insurance. Some employers will provide you with this insurance, while others require you find this on your own.

  6. Apply or register for prescriptive authority (if required)
    Some states require you to complete an additional application for prescriptive authority. A few states also require this application to be completed by the university program director. (South University students, please send this to your Career Services Advisor.)

  7. Apply for a DEA number
    A DEA number is an identifying number that the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) assigns to health care providers that allows you to distribute and prescribe controlled substances. This cost can be hefty (over $700), but employers often want you to have this prior to hiring you.

  8. Apply to become a Medicare/Medicaid provider
    This ensures that you can provide care to those covered by Medicare/Medicaid. Visit The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services website to get started.

Want to know more about becoming a nurse practitioner? Learn about our graduate and post graduate nursing programs or start at the beginning of our blog series on the nursing boards to see how you can get ready for your exams.

*South University does not guarantee third-party certification/licensure. Outside agencies control the requirements for taking and passing certification/licensing exams and are subject to change without notice to South University.

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Top NP Certification Review Courses & Study Materials

by South University
November 5, 2018
A photo of South University nursing students practicing patient care.

Looking for study materials for the NP certification exams*? You’ll have lots to choose from, so look for materials or classes that fit your learning style and budget. Some resources focus specifically on AANP or ANCC exams, while others cover both. Many even have various types of passing guarantees.

Whatever you choose, we suggest taking the test within a few months of finishing your NP program and following a regular study schedule in the months before the exam. Below are some of our favorites options to help you prepare!

APEA (Advanced Practice Education Associates)

  • Predictor exams:Take exams that can help to reveal your strengths and weaknesses and show you a rationale for all missed questions. These exams include 150 multiple-choice questions and are randomly generated from over 1,000 possible questions.
  • MyQBank: Access 3800+ NP practice questions across the areas of Assessment, Pharmacology, and Management.
  • Books: Purchase various resources and study guides, including bundled kits.
  • Online courses: Watch video of live courses and multimedia presentations, presented in 20-minute segments. Practice questions and evaluations are also included.
  • Live review: In addition to live instruction, each NP review course provides a 280-page manual, two sets of 100 practice questions, and supplemental online learning.

(Select APEA content is available at no charge to South University FNP and AGPCNP students, with access to video content continuing after graduation).

Maria Leik

  • Books: Including hundreds of practice questions, Leik’s review books synthesize the complex knowledge needed for your exam into a concise, well-organized format, helping you to study more efficiently.
  • Live review courses online or in-person:
  • Courses cover key content as well as test-taking techniques like pneumonic devices for both exams. They also can help to refine your critical thinking and clinical decision-making skills. Each course includes a textbook and sample exams.

Barkley & Associates

  • Live courses:Review important topics plus test-taking and study strategies. Courses include online videos, a course manual, and a diagnostic readiness test.
  • Home study: Receive the course manual, a 100-item diagnostic readiness test, and the complete audio CD recordings from a live review course.
  • Practice exams: See a rationale for each of the 100 questions, learning why one answer is correct and the others are incorrect. The score report will identify areas for improvement, and a 45-minute review session will immediately follow the exam.

Fitzgerald Health Education Associates, Inc.

  • Books: Find NP Certification review books for all tracks and exams, with questions, quick-look tables, and essential information needed to succeed in the NP boards and practice.
  • NP certification prep tests: Take online tests that provide detailed rationales for every question and that help to identify knowledge gaps.
  • Online or in-person NP review courses: All courses include a practice exam, printed reference/workbook with hundreds of clinical high-resolution color images, and extensive online resources. The live event is a 2-day seminar, while the online option is an on-demand video presentation course, with webinar Q&A sessions.


  • Practice Exams: ExamEdge offers realistic online tests that simulate either the AANP or ANCC NP certification exam in look, navigation, number of questions, and content type. The practice exam’s default time limit also matches the actual exam.

    With ExamEdge, you can pause and later resume a test in the same place, with the same amount of time remaining. In addition to timed testing, you can take practice tests with no time limit or run them in explanation mode, where you study by checking the answers to each question as you go. Exam results will include a prediction of your score on the real exam as well as explanations for each question. You will have permanent access to that review page and those explanations. Tests can be accessed on any device and are available in various bundles and at prices as low as $20.


  • Question Bank: Gain access to 1400+ practice questions with explanations for both correct and incorrect responses. The question banks for ANCC and AANP are each aligned to their exam’s content outline. You can use the timed test option to simulate the real test, customize practice tests by subject, and get progress analytics and reports. Start with a free trial of select questions and then pay based on how long you’re using the question bank.

FNP Mastery

  • App: Available on IOS and Android phones and from any web browser, FNP Mastery features 880+ practice questions, quizzes, must-know terminology, mnemonics, study strategies, and exam tips. Easily track your progress and tag questions that you want to revisit. The content is available by subscription with the option for a 14-day free trial.

AGNP: Adult-Gero Exam Prep
On iTunes | On Google Play

  • App: This mobile app includes 680+ exam-style practice questions with rationales, detailed exam information, and review content from Maria Leik’s exam prep book. Study by topic or build your own quizzes. You can explore limited content at no cost before purchasing the full version.

South University offers a complimentary Nursing Licensure Review Course to our nurse practitioner program graduates who have started an exam application and are looking for additional study material. The course includes iHuman Case Studies, the APEA MyQBank questions, and access to an instructor. Contact your Career Services Advisor for details.

A photo of South University students studying.

Want to know what happens after taking your nursing boards?

Stay tuned for the final post in our NP Certification Boards blog series!

*South University does not guarantee third-party certification/licensure. Outside agencies control the requirements for taking and passing certification/licensing exams and are subject to change without notice to South University.

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Your Guide to Applying to the NP Certification Exams

by South University
November 2, 2018
A photo of South University nursing students practicing patient care.

If you're nearing the end of your nurse practitioner graduate or post graduate program, your nurse practitioner (NP) certification is almost surely on your mind. As you likely know, there are two organizations through which you can complete an NP certification exam: the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) exam and the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).*

Not familiar with the ANCC or AANP exams? Check out our recent blog 5 Things to Do Before Applying for Your NP Exams.

In fact, if you haven’t read that blog, go give it a look to make sure you’ve completed everything you need to do before starting your NP exam application. If you’re ready to go, read on for details on the AANP and ANCC application processes.

Important Information for All AANP and ANCC Exam Applicants

For both AANP and ANCC exams, you can start your application before finishing your program, but you will not receive approval to sit for an exam until you complete all required coursework and clinical practice hours in your program.

To avoid wasting time or money, check with the advisors at your university to see when they recommend you begin your application for your nursing boards. Once you start your application, watch the deadlines and work ahead to complete everything on time.

The AANP and ANCC Application Process

  1. Complete Your Application

    First, create a free account on the AANP or ANCC site. This will let you check your application status throughout the process. As you complete your application for your certification exam, keep your transcripts on hand. Several questions ask about specific classes taken, the credits they were worth, and when you completed them.

  2. Submit Nursing School Transcripts

    If you apply before graduating, send your unofficial transcripts first. After you graduate, request that your final official transcript be sent to AANP or ANCC using the address provided by the organization. Sending your final transcript is essential. Your exam scores will not be released until an official final transcript is received showing your program completion date and degree or certificate received.

    (South University students: You can request your final official transcripts in the Campus Common after entering graduate status. Your Career Services Advisor will email you when you’ve entered graduate status. To check your status, contact your Academic Counselor or Career Services Advisor.)

  3. Pay Your Exam Fee

    By joining the AANP or ANCC, you can receive a discounted fee on your exam. If you join as a student, you’ll pay less than you would if you join after graduating. A student membership fee plus the discounted exam fee is usually still less than the nonmember exam fee.

  4. Work with Your University on Additional Documents

    For the AANP: Once you submit your application, unofficial transcripts, and exam fee, you’ll receive an email saying that your official transcripts and a letter from the program director are needed. Connect with your program team or career services about sending these documents.

    (South University students: If you have submitted all of your clinical hours and met all program requirements, we will send the required letter to the AANP within 2-4 weeks after you graduate.)

    For the ANCC: Download the Verification of Education form, sometimes called the Validation Form. You’ll complete the Candidate Information Section and then your program director will complete the rest of the form. Ask your career services or program team about the best process for ensuring that your program director completes this form.

    (South University students: Please send your completed form to your Career Services advisor. We encourage you to do this within a few weeks of finishing your last class.)

What to Expect Next

A photo of a South University student speaking with an advisor.

After the AANP and ANCC receives all application materials (including your application, exam fee, required documents from your school, and transcripts showing that you met program requirements for clinical hours and coursework), you should receive approval to sit for the boards. For the AANP, this may take up to 6 weeks. The ANNC process may take a little longer.

Upon receiving authorization to test, you’ll have up to 4 months to schedule your AANP exam and up to 3 months to schedule your ANCC exam, giving you plenty of time to devote to studying before taking your boards.

When it comes to studying, know that you’ll have many options and tools available. In our next post on the NP boards, we’ll cover some of the top resources for studying for your nurse practitioner certification exams.

* South University does not guarantee third-party certification/licensure. Outside agencies control the requirements for taking and passing certification/licensing exams and are subject to change without notice to South University.

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Preparing for Your NP Boards: 5 Things to Do Before Applying for Your NP Exams

by South University
November 1, 2018
A photo of two South University nursing students studying a piece of medical equipment.

After earning a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree, the next steps to becoming a nurse practitioner (NP) are passing your certification exams and achieving licensure*. As you approach and plan for your MSN graduation, here are five things you need to do to prepare for your nurse practitioner boards.

Connect with Your Career Services Team

Check with your Career Services team to see how they can assist you in launching your nurse practitioner career. Ideally, they should provide assistance before and after you graduate and talk with you one-on-one to discuss your individual needs. At South University, our Career Services team can answer student questions about exam study materials, provide information about the NP certification exams and application processes, and explain what to expect when applying to your state board of nursing.

When approaching graduation, each South University student is also assigned a Career Services Advisor, who acts as a resource throughout each step of planning for and completing the boards. South University students and graduates can find contact information for their Career Services Advisor in the My Contacts area of the Campus Common.

A photo of a South University student studying.

Start Your Research and Planning

Your Career Services team can give you helpful information to get you started, but you should also create a roadmap for yourself that helps you understand and keep track of exactly what you have to do to earn NP licensure in your state.

Because every state has different processes and regulations, you’ll need to review your state’s Board of Nursing requirements and practice laws to see what’s required for your boards and licensure. Other NPs in your state may be able to offer advice and information as well.

Select a Certification Exam: AANP vs ANCC

To become a nurse practitioner, you either must take an AANP exam (American Association of Nurse Practitioners) or an ANCC exam (American Nurses Credentialing Center). Both are nationally recognized, computer-based exams that tell you immediately upon completion if you have passed (with more detailed results sent later in the mail). Below is a quick overview of each, with more information available on the sites linked in the table.

Exam TypeAANP ExamANCC Exam
Certifications OfferedAdult, Family, and Gerontology certifications Adult, Family, Acute Care, Geriatric, Pediatric, Adult Psychiatric-Mental Health and Family Psychiatric-Mental Health certifications
FocusHeavier clinical focus than ANCCMore focus on administrative topics like healthcare policy, ethics, and research methodology than AANP
Test FormatMultiple choice questions with one right answer Various question types, such as “select all that apply” and “drag and drop in the order of importance”. You can also draw, highlight, and cross off things on the exam while thinking through questions
Nursing Exam Test Length150 questions (135 count toward your score) and 3 hours in length200 questions (175 count toward your score) and 4 hours in length


When comparing cost, the AANP exam fee is less than the ANCC exam fee. Both AANP and ANCC members can qualify for discounts on exam fees. To reduce the cost of your NP exam, we recommend joining the affiliated organization as a student, as student membership rates are lower than non-student rates. These organizations can also provide networking and other career benefits.

Decide on a Timeline

You also need to decide when to apply for and take the exam, and your university should be able to offer recommendations.

For the AANP, South University recommends that our students start the application process either after finishing classes or no earlier than 2 months before graduating to ensure that official transcripts and letters from the Program Director can be delivered in a timely manner.

For the ANCC, we recommend that our students wait until after graduating or 2 weeks before to start their applications. Applying close to or after graduation also gives you additional time to study after you complete your program.

Once your application materials are accepted, you’ll have 3 months to sign up for your ANCC exam day, time, and location and 4 months to do so for the AANP exam. We recommend taking the exam within 2 to 3 months of graduating while your knowledge and study skills are fresh.

Complete All Nursing Program & School Requirements

As you wrap up your last class, make sure that you have submitted everything required to graduate. Confirm that all assignments are turned in and that all clinical logs have been appropriately documented and submitted. (These are important for getting your authorization to test.) Check that your contact information is current and includes an email address that you will continue using after graduation, so that your advisors can contact you throughout the process of preparing for your NP boards.

At South University, you’ll also need to complete documents such as the Application for Graduation, Employment Status Form, and Career Services Agreement. The Career Services Agreement form allows our team to assist you in preparing for your boards, acquiring your state license, searching for jobs, and getting any additional credentialing. These documents are all available in your Campus Common.

Up Next: Studying and Applying for your Nurse Practitioner Exam

Whew! You’ve gotten everything in order, done your research, talked with career services, decided on a licensing exam, and even created a timeline! If you’re ready for the next steps, we’ve got you covered. Bookmark the South University blog and come back soon for articles on the best study materials for NP boards and a guide to the ANCC/AANP exam application process.

*South University does not guarantee third-party certification/licensure. Outside agencies control the requirements for taking and passing certification/licensing exams and are subject to change without notice to South University.

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