AACN News—January 2004—Certification

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Vol. 21, No. 1, JANUARY 2004


New Certification Specialties Emerge From Study of Practice

Following a comprehensive, two-year study of acute and critical care nursing practice, AACN Certification Corporation has decided to pursue development of new certification examinations, most immediately in progressive care nursing. The first exam is scheduled in conjunction with AACN’s National Teaching Institute and Critical Care Exposition in May in Orlando, Fla., where the once-a-year, paper-and-pencil version of the CCRN and CCNS exams will also be administered.

In addition, AACN Certification Corporation plans to introduce certification in cardiovascular surgical and in medical cardiology nursing in 2005 as a subspecialty of critical care and will pursue development of certification exams for entry-level critical care nurses and nurse practitioners in critical care in the future.

The decisions to develop these new certification exams were made after a Practice Analysis Task Force finalized its work in October. The study explored the activities of nurses who care for acutely and critically ill patients in a variety of settings, from entry level through advanced practice roles. As a result, the task force was able not only to identify overlaps and distinctions in different roles, but also to note differences in education, judgment and practice within the progression of roles.

CCRN Exam Revisions
At the same time, slight adjustments will be made to the content of the CCRN exam for adult, pediatric and neonatal nurses. Based on the findings, the CCRN exam will continue to have a clinical judgment focus of 80%, with all clinical judgment items to be age specific. The core section encompassing components of the AACN Synergy Model for Patient Care will continue to represent 20% of the exam.
The components of the Synergy Model with respect to patient characteristics consider resiliency, vulnerability, stability, complexity, resource availability, participation in care, participation in decision making and predictability. Derived from patient needs, the continuums of nurse characteristics in the Synergy Model are clinical judgment, advocacy and moral agency, caring practice, collaboration, systems thinking, response to diversity, clinical inquiry or innovator-evaluator, and facilitator of learning or patient or family educator.

Progressive Care Exam
The study validated the position taken earlier by the AACN Progressive Care Task Force and Advisory Panel in defining the progressive care environment, the patient populations served, and the core competencies, basic knowledge and skills needed by progressive care nurses. An AACN fact sheet related to progressive care is available online.
The Practice Analysis Task Force also found that progressive care nurses devote the same amount of time as CCRNs to the nurse characteristics identified in the Synergy Model. As a result, the new progressive care exam will incorporate the Synergy Model components at the same percentage of content distribution.

Cardiovascular Surgical and Medical Cardiology Exams
By 2006, AACN Certification Corporation plans to offer certification in these two subspecialty areas.

NP Exam
The study also revealed significant differences between the practice of clinical nurse specialists and nurse practitioners, especially in the sphere of influence content dimension. The most significant finding related to the following percentages of time each role spends on Synergy Model activities:

Entry Level Exam
With respect to novice critical care nurses, the study found that clinical judgment is their primary focus. However, they also perform some activities related to the Synergy Model components.
AACN Certification Corporation worked closely with its testing service, PES, on the analysis and test specifications. PES surveyed approximately 4,000 nurses‚ including approximately 2,000 adult, pediatric
and neonatal CCRNs and 500 noncertified nurses who have less than one year of experience caring for acutely or critically ill patients. In addition, the survey included all currently certified CCNSs and 500 other advanced practice nurses in critical care settings and 100 progressive care nurses.
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Paper-and-Pencil Versions of CCRN, CCNS and New Progressive Care Exams Offered
Take Certification Exams at NTI 2004


Once again, a paper-and-pencil version of the CCRN and CCNS certification exams will be offered in conjunction with AACN’s annual National Teaching Institute and Critical Care Exposition in Orlando, Fla. But this year, the new certification exam for progressive care nurses will also be offered.

AACN Certification Corporation decided to develop the progressive care exam after a comprehensive study of practice was completed. (See related story, beginning on page 1.) Both Exam Writers and an Exam Development committees have been appointed to finalize the exam blueprint.

The adult, pediatric and neonatal versions of the CCRN and CCNS exams will be available.

Offered by AACN Certification Corporation and Applied Measurement Professionals, Inc., the exams will be administered on Monday, May 17, from 2 to 6 p.m. Preregistration by March 22 is required.

NTI 2004 is scheduled for May 15 through 20. For more information or to register for the NTI, call (800) 899-2226.

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