AACN News—October 2000—Certification

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Vol. 17, No. 10, OCTOBER 2000

CCNS Exam Requirement Changes Tied to State Approvals

In an effort to assist state boards of nursing to determine the status of AACN Certification Corporation as an acceptable certifying agency, the corporation’s Board of Directors has moved to clarify the educational requirements and application review process for the CCNS credential for clinical nurse specialists (CNS) in acute and critical care.

The board is committed to achieving recognition of AACN Certification Corporation as an accepted accrediting agency for certification of acute and critical care CNSs in states that authorize this category of advanced practice registered nursing. In evaluating an accrediting agency, boards of nursing often look for specific language to assure them that certain criteria are met.

For example, they check to determine whether the national certifying body has educational requirements that are consistent with the requirements of their state’s administrative rules, as well as an application process and credential review that includes documentation that the applicant’s theoretical education and clinical practice are both in the advanced nursing practice category being certified.

Based on the states’ preference for uniform wording, the CCNS examination educational eligibility requirement statement has been changed from “a master’s degree in nursing” to “a master’s degree in nursing from an accredited program, with evidence of CNS theory and clinical concentration in the care of the patient who is acutely or critically ill.”

To further clarify the use of the word “accredited” and to promote consistency among AACN Certification Corporation’s advanced practice examinations, the application will contain the statement regarding program accreditation that is used in the acute care nurse practitioner (ACNP) exam booklet. The statement reads: “The degree must have been awarded from an institution of higher learning accredited by a nationally recognized regional accrediting body.”

The AACN Certification Corporation Board also approved initiation of a change in the CCNS examination application process to include a requirement for transcript review and approval. This change is designed to more closely reflect the corporation’s conformity with model language that requires the national certifying body to have an application process and credential review that includes verification of the applicant’s theoretical and clinical education in the advanced nursing practice category that is being certified.

If you have questions about these clarifications, contact AACN Certification Corporation at (800) 394-5995, ext. 244. 

CCRN Overcame Nerves in Pursuit of Achievement

Editor’s note: Taking a nursing certification exam can be intimidating for many, though the personal satisfaction of successfully passing an exam is rewarding. Following is an account of the experience of one newly certified CCRN as she prepared for and completed the computer-based CCRN adult exam.

By Pamela McGill, RN, ADN, CCRN

In my 17 years as an RN, I have floated to most areas. However, my specialty is critical care, where I can apply the knowledge that I have acquired to critical situations where problem solving and intuition play a key role in patient care and outcomes.

Longing to add the prestigious CCRN credential to my RN and ADN, I decided the time had come to demonstrate my knowledge.

I first had to overcome some mental obstacles. I had not only heard that the exam is difficult, but also that most CCRNs have at least a bachelor’s degree. Also, I knew of one nurse who had failed to pass the exam after three tries. Deciding to ignore these negative, self-defeating thoughts, I began building on the knowledge I knew I had.

Because I had a hunch that clinical experience alone was probably not a sufficient foundation to pass the exam. I gathered as much recommended study material as I could. I decided I should study for one more month. That one month became two, and two became three. I realized it was time to either schedule the exam or risk losing an emotional and a financial investment.

When I tried to schedule the exam at the nearest Prometric testing site, I discovered that I had procrastinated too long. No slots were available. The next closest examination center was in the next state, about a two-and-a-half hour drive. I decided to get a good night’s sleep at home and make the trip the morning of the test. Luckily, there was no traffic that time of morning. Instead of going directly to the testing center, I stopped for a terrific breakfast of high protein, high salt and normal carbohydrate—and, of course, coffee.

When I arrived at the testing site, I was understandably nervous, partly because I was not in familiar territory. People were lined up, mostly pharmacy students or employees of a local retail store. None were RNs or CCRNs.

Inside was an area with child-sized tables and chairs, and brightly colored walls and toy blocks. The sight made me smile, as I thought how simple and uncomplicated children’s lives must be.

After securing my purse and keys in a small locker in the office, I entered the testing area. Although the testing area was quiet, I chose to wear earplugs, just in case.

On the computer screen was an option to take a tutorial first, which I did. I was able to get through the estimated 25-minute tutorial in 10 minutes.

The first question was on gastrointestinal (GI) surgery. “You read, you studied, you know this material,” I told myself. The minutes on the clock begin to pass, and I reminded myself that I should take only one-and-a-half minutes per question. Time to move on.

I marked the question so I could return to it later. I was relieved that the next question was related to cardiology, with three in a row on ECG. My self-confidence was back! I returned to tackle the GI question with a “can do” attitude.

I had marked approximately 11 questions to answer last. I tried to remember passages from my study materials or use a reasonable deduction method to determine the best possible answer. Regardless, if 11 were all that I missed, I would be in good shape.

After I completed the exam, the computer made a funny noise and paused, indicating that my answers were being checked. Soon, the computer seemed to stop and my nervousness returned. Next, the words “Preliminary Score Advisory” appeared—“your preliminary responses indicate that you have passed the CCRN adult exam.”

What a thrill! I suppressed a desire to scream in celebration, instead letting out a speechless yelp. Next, it’s on to my BSN!

Minnesota Joins States Approving CCNS Certification

Minnesota has joined the list of states that have, to date, approved the CCNS exam or listed AACN Certification Corporation as an approved certification body for clinical nurse specialists in acute and critical care in the advanced practice nursing role.

AACN Certification Corporation has contacted the State Boards of Nursing in all 50 states to request recognition of CCNS certification.
Following are the other states that now recognize the CCNS certification for this purpose:

New Jersey
North Dakota

South Dakota

Note: Certification obtained through AACN Certification Corporation is a voluntary process and is intended to test only for specialized knowledge. AACN Certification Corporation is not authorized to define qualifications of any person for nursing practice. The significance of certification in any jurisdiction is dependent on the statutes in that jurisdiction, and it is the individual candidate’s responsibility to contact the appropriate state board of nursing to obtain information pertaining to licensure requirements.

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