A Certification Success Story
How the Heart of the Piedmont Chapter
of AACN Helped
Jan Teal (left) and Cindy Stewart (right)
of the Heart of the Piedmont Chapter
of AACN present one of the newly
certified CCRNs, Jana Hough, with
a CCRN pin.
By John H. Jeffries, RN, BSN, CCRN
Heart of the Piedmont Chapter
Although a nurse's decision to pursue
certification is traditionally viewed as an individual and personal endeavor, it
does not need to be. In fact, in North Carolina, the Heart of the Piedmont
Chapter of AACN played a central role in helping 13 of its members achieve CCRN
certification, doubling the number in the chapter in just one year.
The secret to the chapter's success can be
found in just seven easy steps:
In addition to determining whether your
nurses are qualified and interested in achieving certification, find out what
they perceive to be barriers to achieving this goal. A survey indicated that the
most common barriers to pursuing certification were the preparation costs and
testing fees, uncertainty about how to prepare and fear of failure. Realizing
that we had a large number of qualified RNs ready and eager to begin this
pursuit, we pondered how we could help overcome these barriers.
The next step was to identify available
resources. Of course, already-certified nurses are an excellent resource,
because they represent proof that certification is achievable. We were fortunate
that our leadership team included several CCRN/AACN ambassadors who had
expertise in assisting nurses to achieve certification. (Information about the
CCRN/AACN Ambassador program is available from the AACN National Office at (800)
899-2226; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Our facility had a written policy providing
nurses reimbursement for the costs if they successfully passed the CCRN
examination. If your employer does not, gather the information you need to
convincingly argue for a change in that position. For example, point out that
such support can be an effective recruitment tool in a competitive nursing job
market and how important these types of opportunities are to retaining
outstanding bedside nurses.
Ask for Help
However, the fact that more than $200 was
at risk if they failed the examination was of concern to our nurses. If we were
to truly help our nurses pursue certification, we needed money. Lacking the
means to provide this support, we did what we had not thought to do in the past.
We asked for help. Martha Barham, vice president of nursing at High Point
Regional Health System, immediately and enthusiastically responded by offering
to pay up front the certification test fees for any qualified nurse. She also
agreed to fund a 2-day, professional CCRN preparation course for any qualified
High Point RN.
If your organization cannot or is unwilling
to provide financial assistance, be creative. Perhaps you can negotiate partial
payment of test fees. Maybe there are physicians who would be willing to sponsor
an outstanding nurse in their pursuit of certification if you explain what
certification means and the benefits it might provide to the patient.
Fund-raising specifically targeted at supporting certification efforts is
another way you might be able to provide scholarship support to nurses pursuing
Organize a Review Course
The costs for providing a CCRN preparation
course can be substantial. However, with a little creativity, it is possible to
provide a review course free to your nurses. For example, ask your facility if
it will allow free use of classroom space for your event. Approach healthcare
vendors regarding sponsorship, either through a cash donation or by paying for
breaks, lunches or refreshments. Ask local physicians to donate in return for
allowing some of their nursing staff to attend.
By promoting our course outside our
immediate area, we attracted approximately 50 paying customers, which covered
the costs of our professional speaker and registration for our nurses. To
maximize attendance, we even arranged time off and helped cover scheduling. The
importance of involving and enlisting the support of nursing leaders at the unit
level cannot be overemphasized.
We felt it was important that our nurses
make a formal commitment to achieving certification. Each nurse who had
benefited by attending our review course free was encouraged to complete a "CCRN
Pledge" that they would vigorously prepare and test for the certification exam
by the end of the year. We nonjudgmentally approached those nurses who did not
feel ready to make that commitment to encourage them to set certification as a
To help boost the motivation and confidence
of those who wanted to continue, we formed small study groups, led by certified
nurses. At weekly meetings, these "CCRN coaches" offered study and test-taking
strategies and tips. We also provided each nurse with a packet that included the
CCRN Exam Blueprint, exam application, a list of helpful Web links and
system-specific CCRN study guides, as well as the practice exam on CD-ROM.
As important as supporting the efforts of
our nurses was celebrating their successes. As each nurse passed the
certification exam, we sent congratulatory e-mails, notified his or her nursing
leaders and placed congratulatory banners in their units. We also sponsored a
CCRN Recognition Dinner, at which the newly certified CCRNs shared what
achieving the CCRN certification had meant to them personally and as a
practicing caregiver. In addition, plaques containing the name of each CCRN are
displayed in their unit.
Issue the Challenge
The most important step in encouraging and
supporting certification in your area is issuing the challenge. Finding
unacceptable the fact that few of our nurses were certified, we challenged our
experienced nurses to pursue certification, our employers and healthcare
institutions to support our worthy cause, and ourselves. However, our solid core
of CCRN-certified nurses is just a beginning. Each of them has now been
challenged to serve as a certification mentor to another outstanding, qualified
Hickey Selected for AACN Certification
Thomas L. Hickey was selected to be
secretary-treasurer of the AACN Certification Corporation Board of Directors
during the board's meeting in August in Costa Mesa, Calif. Hickey, who is
serving his second two-year term as a consumer representative on the board, is
president and CEO of MediQuest, Canton, Mich.
Online Renewal Proving Popular
More than 700 CCRNs have renewed their
certification online since the system became available in April. The online CCRN
renewal by continuing education recognition points is available to active adult,
neonatal and pediatric CCRNs due to renew Feb. 1, 2003, or later.
To use this system, simply visit the AACN
Certification Corporation Web site.
Candidates selecting this online option are
required to electronically "sign" an honor statement that confirms they have
completed 432 clinical practice hours (with 144 hours accrued in the most recent
year preceding renewal) and a total of 100 CERPs (with a minimum of 25 CERPs in
Category A ) within the previous three-year certification period.
Renewal fees are payable online via credit
card. A new card and certificate will be received by mail within four to six
weeks, approximately half the time required with paper renewal applications.
For more information about this new online
renewal system, call (800) 899-2226.
Revised CCNS Exam Reflects Current
Revised CCNS examinations reflecting the
current standard and scope of practice for the clinical nurse specialist role in
critical care are now in use.
The CCNS revision process began in January
2003 with the convening of the CCNS Examination Development Committee, which
undertook a comprehensive review of all test items. Among the changes is a
pretesting process that helps to ensure that newly created items perform well.