Answers to common questions about the exam
Additional PMHS Eligibility Pathways Available!
PNCB now offers more options to meet PMHS exam eligibility, including an option for faculty and those completing certain specialty programs. The traditional eligibility pathway is still available. Explore the 3 exam pathways. 


Find the answers to common questions below. If you don't see your question here, use search at top right or email for assistance.

About This Certification

What are the benefits of earning this certification?

Benefits include:

  • Formal recognition of your expertise. This exam will validate the added knowledge, skills, and expertise of pediatric providers and clinicianswho have added knowledge, skills and expertise in the early identification, intervention and collaboration of care of children and adolescents with mental and behavioral health concerns in primary care.
  • Increased marketability. Earning this certification may positively influence employers.
  • Reassurance for consumers. Those certified may share their achievement with patients and/or their families to let them know your expertise is nationally recognized and validated, thus increasing patient confidence.
Is this exam linked to licensure? Does this certification replace basic advanced practice nursing certification linked to licensure?

No. PNCB certification in pediatric behavioral/mental health will not impact an APRN's (NP or CNS) current licensure status. PMHS specialty certification does not replace advanced practice nursing certification linked to licensure. You must maintain your primary certification (CPNP-PC, PPCNP-BC, FNP-BC, FNP-C, PMHCNS-BC, or PMHNP-BC) according to your state board regulations to be able to practice as an advanced practice nurse and to maintain PMHS certification.

Will this certification impact reimbursement in a positive way?

Third party payers do often look at the credentials of those providing the intended service, but at this point, we cannot reliably say that reimbursement of child and adolescent behavioral and mental health services will improve as a result of this specialty certification.

What is the cost of the exam?

The cost is $300. Please visit Fees & Procedures for more information, including re-test fee and the cost to move your testing window.


What are the eligibility requirements for this exam? Will I have to complete additional coursework?

Review the eligibility requirements developed by our expert panel of pediatric APRNs and approved by the PNCB Board of Directors. There are 3 paths to eligibility. 

  • Candidates must be licensed and certified in one of the APRN roles listed in the requirements. Important Update: Currently practicing APRNs who were certified and licensed prior to 1992 in the role/population foci described in Eligibility but who do not have a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing may apply for the November 2017 testing window and beyond.
  • As an "added specialty" exam which will focus on validating knowledge and skills related to the care of children and adolescents, clinical experience in the area of child and adolescent behavioral and mental health will be expected and inherent in obtaining added expertise.
  • Review complete eligibility information and details for each pathway on our PMHS eligibility webpage
My preparation for providing child and adolescent developmental, behavioral, and mental health care consists of on-the-job training, continuing education conferences and self-study. Is this exam for me?

Yes. The exam candidate typically has a self-identified interest in developmental, behavioral, and mental health problems seen in children and adolescents and has gained additional knowledge and expertise in this specialty. As an APRN, the candidate regularly evaluates, diagnoses, manages, and collaborates care for patients experiencing these concerns, or in the case of the Faculty pathway, related experience or equivalents based on teaching or projects. Formal academic preparation is one method of gaining additional knowledge but is not required.

As a nurse practitioner practicing in a primary care setting, I don't see patients with behavioral and mental health care problems every day. Is this a requirement to sit for the exam?

No. The typical exam candidate might care for patients with behavioral mental health needs anywhere from one half day per week to 3 or more days per week. There is no requirement for daily or weekly patient volume.

I don't work in a typical primary care setting, but I do provide behavioral and mental health care to children and adolescents as a regular part of my job. Is this exam for me?

It is recognized that children receive behavioral mental health care in a variety of settings, including crisis intervention in emergency departments, juvenile detention services, community clinics, schools and other private practice settings. This exam is designed to validate the knowledge and skills of APRNs who provide initial primary care intervention, ongoing collaboration and management of children and adolescents experiencing behavioral/mental health problems.

I am a Developmental Behavioral NP. Is this exam right for me?

The role delineation research study that was developed to identify critical content areas for the exam incorporated essential pediatric developmental and behavioral concepts. Following analysis of the responses to this national survey, a detailed exam content outline was developed which includes both developmental and behavioral health concepts. We encourage you to review this information to determine if this specialty exam would be appropriate for you.

Do I have to be certified by the PNCB as a CPNP-PC to be eligible?

No. Any APRN meeting the exam's eligibility requirements may apply for this APRN specialty exam.

I am a Child Psych/Mental Health APRN but do not practice in a primary care setting. Is this exam right for me?

Child psych/mental health APRNs have been certified to provide expert care to children and adolescents with mental health diagnoses, including serious and persistent mental illness. The PNCB's specialty exam will focus on the wider range of concerns commonly seen in the primary care setting, including prevention, early screening of developmental and behavioral patterns of concern, the use of brief solution-focused interventions suitable for primary care settings, collaborative management of children with mental health diagnoses, and the integration of mental health care within the primary care health care home. Child psych APRNs may choose to take this exam to demonstrate a wider focus that includes primary mental health care of children and adolescents.

How do I document PMHS clinical practice hours?

You will attest to the clinical hours in the application and upload documentation.

Do PMHS clinical practice hours (required for May 2018 testing and beyond) need to be with a preceptor?

No, this clinical experience is not required to be with a preceptor.

As a faculty member, am I only eligible for the academic faculty pathway?

No. the faculty pathway is a new/different option to meet eligibility criteria. If you also meet the criteria for another PMHS eligibility pathway, you can decide which to choose.

Is there a PMHS pathway open for acute care pediatric nurse practitioners (PNPs)?

Not at this time. In spring 2022, CPNP-ACs were invited to participate in PNCB's PMHS Job Task Analysis Extension Study. Findings demonstrated that practice patterns of acute care PNPs were varied with respect to the performance of specific PMHS tasks; the evidence overall suggests that as a population, the practice of acute care PNPs providing care to children with DBMH conditions is different than that of primary care PNPs.

Preparing for the Exam

What is the best way to prepare for the exam?

Review the content outline and more on our Exam Resources page, to see what types of items will be on the exam, and compare this to your preparation and experience. This content outline has been prepared from research that described the practice characteristics of CPNPs and other APRNs across the country as they provide specialty behavioral / mental health care to children and adolescents. Exam candidates should assess their knowledge and expertise for each exam content area.

Can I see which questions I did not answer correctly?

No, because certification exams are secure, and important efforts are made to ensure that security, some of which you noticed at the testing center. This security is a requirement for exam accreditation. While we understand that people want to learn from their mistakes, releasing questions (with or without answers) exposes exam questions that are still in use on exams. Once those questions are shared outside of the secure exam environment, the security and integrity of the exam is compromised. However, if you are unsuccessful on the exam, your report will offer information about strengths and weaknesses in topic areas that may be helpful to considering future study needs.  

Will I need to know generic and brand name medications to answer items on the exam?

Exam-takers should know common, generic drug names applicable to the role of the certification exam being taken. Many brand names, while still discussed commonly in practice, are no longer available in brand name form. PNCB strives to only include brand names of medications that are fully available. When medication names are needed or cited in an examination question, PNCB will typically list both generic and brand names when appropriate.  All brand and generic names referenced are correct and available to the best of our knowledge at the time of the publication of the examination form.  Each question included in PNCB examinations is reviewed multiple times, with different subject matter expert groups, who assess and validate content (including medication names) for accuracy. This process precedes, and is in addition to, rigorous, routine statistical analysis on every scored item.

Will I see pictures or graphics on my exam?

Yes, you may see pictures (images) or graphics on your exam, although they may not be a part of every exam form in use at any given time.  Images and graphics are used when they will be helpful in presenting information for the test-taker, such as tables to provide patient data (e.g., vital signs, laboratory results, growth charts) or a radiographic image, such as for questions in the CPNP-PC or CPNP-AC exams. The use of images and graphics are based on the recommendations of our volunteer item writers and exam committees. Tip! PNCB Practice Tests are written with the same style and structure used for writing actual certification exam questions. This means they are a good representation of what candidates will encounter; you will find images and tables in our practice tests.

Do questions containing lab values have reference ranges?

There may be a rare exception, but largely, no—reference ranges are not typically provided in exam questions. When a question contains laboratory values, PNCB, and the volunteer item writers and exam committee members have confirmed that normal or abnormal results would be apparent to a knowledgeable, prepared exam candidate.

National guidelines change periodically; how will I know what to study?

Study the most recent guidelines relevant to your credentialing exam. PNCB maintains awareness of when new or updated guidelines are published by national organizations (e.g., CDC, AAP) and recognizes that practice guidelines are subject to change more frequently than some other foundational information. Therefore, questions on any exam represent core principles about the topic. PNCB regularly reviews our exam questions to identify and review content potentially affected by updates in guidelines.

Do I need to memorize vaccine schedules?

No, candidates are not expected to memorize vaccine schedules as PNCB and its committees of volunteer item writers recognize how often immunization schedules change. However, candidates are expected to have knowledge about core principles about immunology, safe vaccine use, or well-known vaccines for certain age groups. 

Will there be questions about COVID on the exam?

For any infectious disease, questions are only included on the exam if supported within current textbook references approved for the exam or a national consensus guideline.

Should I know every medication name in brand and generic form?

Exam-takers should know common, generic medication names applicable to pediatric practice. Many brand-name medications, while still commonly discussed in practice, are no longer available under proprietary patent so are only produced under the generic formulation. When medication names are needed or cited in an examination question, PNCB may provide both the generic and brand names when appropriate. All brand and generic names referenced are correct and available to the best of our knowledge at the time of the publication of the examination form. 

Can you tell me more about the scoring process?

Every question on a PNCB exam that counts towards a candidate’s score undergoes rigorous review before it is used on an exam as a scored question. After being written by a volunteer item writer, questions are reviewed, edited, and approved by the Exam Committee and other panels of volunteers, and then placed on an exam as an unscored question. Statistics on all unscored questions are reviewed before advancing as a scored question.  Learn more about the rigorous test development process here.


What recertification requirements will this credential entail?

Visit the PMHS Recertification page for full details.

Name Changes

What if my name has changed since I graduated?

Documentation of name change is needed if the name on the exam application and/or exam eligibility notification is different than the first and last names on your two forms of acceptable identification. You must submit documentation of your name change no later than 5 business days of your scheduled testing date to PNCB or you will forfeit all exam fees paid. You must complete this form and submit by email to or by fax to 301-330-1504. It is your responsibility to confirm that PNCB receives this documentation and changes your name.

Lapel Pins & Duplicate Wall Certificates

How can I order a lapel pin or replacement wall certificate?

Order a new certificate here. Lapel pins are coming soon to the PNCB gear store

Faces of Certification

PNCB-certified nursing professionals work in a variety of roles and settings throughout the US and beyond. Share your photo today!

Tyneisha Orr, CPNP-PC Swope Health Central Pediatrics Kansas City, MO
Amairani Jimenez, CPN Tripler Army Medical Center Honolulu, Hawaii
Gia Nguyen, CPNP-AC St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Arlington, VA
View more Faces of Certification