Competence and Certification: Thoughts on CCNS
Exam Eligibility Changes|
Building on AACN President Kathy McCauley’s theme for the year, I would like to share some thoughts on competence and certification.
The National Council of State Boards of Nursing’s definition of nursing competence is the application of knowledge and the interpersonal, decision-making and psychomotor skills expected for the practice role, within the context of public health, safety and welfare. Certification validates knowledge for practice and is one measure of competence. The AACN Synergy Model for Patient Care provides an excellent framework to focus on nursing competence as it relates to patient and family needs. Through certification, we validate for the public that a professional has the knowledge and ability required by the practice role, as defined by the study of practice.
One example of an effort to elevate practice and promote competence is unfolding with recent changes to CCNS certification exam eligibility requirements and a move toward consistent expectations of graduate programs for clinical nurse specialists. Changes in the specific criteria outlined by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing for advanced practice nursing certification programs required the AACN Certification Corporation Board to revisit the need for standardization of clinical hours and how to assist CNSs who did not meet the required 500 hours of supervised CNS clinical experience in their graduate programs to gain the ability to sit for the exam. The criteria for taking the CCNS exam must be consistent with the recommendations of the NCSBN if the credential is to be recognized for CNS licensure or designation in states that require certification for advanced practice recognition. We are seeing a trend toward more states moving to CNS licensure or designation.
In considering patient protection, standardization of clinical hours and content requirements are reasonable. Since 1996, the “Essentials of Master’s Education for Advanced Practice Nursing” document from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing has specified 500 direct clinical practice hours for educational programs preparing both CNSs and nurse practitioners. Graduate programs accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education will be required to meet this criterion as of Jan. 1, 2005. In anticipation, most CNS programs have already increased their clinical hours to meet this requirement. This is an example of educational standards and regulatory standards converging in an effort to promote competence and drive substantive changes in education and certification practices.
The goal of AACN Certification Corporation is to serve its certificants in a way that promotes competence and public health and safety. To this end, national office staff has been working to have the CCNS exam recognized by the state boards of nursing to support licensure. For CCNSs, having the exam recognized for licensure by their state boards is important to being able to practice and a primary reason individuals sit for the exam.
For practicing CNSs who wish to sit for the CCNS exam but who do not have 500 clinical hours in their programs, there is a window of opportunity to use additional postprogram, transcripted clinical hours, such as an independent CNS program clinical course, to meet the 500-hour requirement. However, this opportunity is available only until March 1, 2006.
If you have questions about eligibility to sit for the CCNS exam, contact AACN Certification Corporation at (800) 899-2226. Answers to additional frequently asked questions are available online at
Use the Power of Positive Thinking!
When immediate Past President Dorrie Fontaine, RN, DNSc, FAAN, took office last year, she pledged to convey positive thoughts to critical care nurses taking the CCRN certification exam. All they had to do was let her know the date.
Now, AACN President Kathy McCauley, RN, PhD, BC, FAAN, and AACN Certification Corporation Chair Jan Foster, RN, MSN, PhD, CCRN, want to continue the chain of support, not only to CCRN candidates but also to candidates for the CCNS exam for clinical nurse specialists in critical care and the new PCCN exam for progressive care nurses. In fact, when AACN Certification Corporation launches its new subspecialty exams in cardiac surgery and cardiac medicine next year, McCauley and Foster will be there to send positive energy to candidates for those exams.
If you are preparing to sit for one of these certification exams, don’t hesitate to ask McCauley and Foster for their support. E-mail your exam date to
CCRN Adult Self-Assessment Exam Is Now Back Online
The revised and expanded CCRN Adult Self-Assessment Practice Exam is now available for purchase online. This 60-item practice exam is designed to provide timely and essential feedback to candidates preparing for the 150-question CCRN certification exam, as well as to serve as one measure of continued competence for current CCRNs.
Designed according to the CCRN adult exam specifications, the SAE also provides rationale for correct and incorrect answers. Scores are provided to individuals by item and by major test specification categories.
Purchasers have access to the program for up to 90 days from the date of purchase. Current CCRNs with a 70% passing score on the SAE may apply it for 15 continuing education recognition points (CERPs) during their renewal period.
For additional information or to order this product, simply visit
Volunteer Groups to Develop New Subspecialty Exams
Appointments have been announced for the Cardiac Medicine and Cardiac Surgery exam development committees. The nursing subspecialty certification exams in these two areas are scheduled to be launched next year.
Cardiac Medicine Exam Development Committee
Diane J. Appelman, RN, CCRN
Julie A. Marcum, RN, MS, MSN, CCRN, CS, APRN
Shirlien A. Metersky, RN, MS, MSN, CCRN
Amy L. Brown, RN, BS, BSN, CCRN
Allison W. Dimsdale, RN, BS, CCRN
Marci Farquhar-Snow, RN, CNS, BS, MN, CCRN, APRN, NP, ACNP-CS
Cardiac Surgery Exam Development
Connie Barden, RN, MS, MSN, CCRN
Linda A. Prinkey-Briggs, RN, MS, MSN, CCRN, APRN, ACNP-C
Patti A. McCluskey-Andre, RN, MSN, CCRN, CCNS, ACNP-C
Jessie M. Casida, RN, CNS, MS, MSN, CCRN
Jeffrey S. Williams, RN, MSN, CCRN, CCNS
Sandra L. Lovelace, RN, ADN, CCRN