AACN News—September 2005—Certification

AACN News Logo

Back to AACN News Home

Vol. 22, No. 9, SEPTEMBER 2005


Study Resources Will Help You Prepare for PCCN Exam

The PCCN certification exam for progressive care nurses is relatively new, and exam study resources are still being developed. However, a number of resources already exists to help candidates prepare.

PCCN Examination Blueprint
One of the most important study tools is the PCCN Examination Blueprint, which is included in the PCCN Exam Handbook at www.aacn.org > PCCN. This blueprint will help guide your study by providing a detailed content outline of the topics that will be tested. Because the topical areas of the blueprint are weighted, the best return on study time is to concentrate on the most heavily weighted areas, such as cardiovascular, pulmonary, caring practices and ethical behavior. Although the other clinical judgment areas are important, the number of questions related to these topics is relatively small.

Make sure you can identify signs and symptoms of the patient problems, anticipated lab values for various problems, anticipated medication therapy, anticipated procedures and nursing interventions for each of the topics on the blueprint. Like the CCRN exam, the PCCN exam includes a core of items dealing with the caring practices and ethical behavior components of the AACN Synergy Model for Patient Care. Resources related to the Synergy Model are available on the AACN Certification Corporation Web site at www.certcorp.org.

Self-Assessment Exam
An online PCCN Self Assessment Exam is also available to give you practice with items actually developed by the PCCN item writers as well as the rationale for each correct and incorrect answer. The number of items on the PCCN SAE are in the same proportion as on the PCCN exam. Once you “finish” the practice exam, you will receive a score report similar to the one you’ll receive after taking the actual exam. This will help you determine the content areas that need further study. Although you cannot take the SAE more than once, you have access to it for 90 days and can use it for study prior to answering each question. Once you select an answer, it cannot be changed. However, you can immediately review whether it was the correct selection and view the rationales for each potential response. The fee to take this 50-item online practice exam is $45.

Review Courses
PCCN Review Courses offered around the country are listed on the AACN Certification Corporation Web site at www.certcorp.org > Products and Courses > Exam Study Materials. In addition, a multimedia PCCN Review Course is scheduled to be available from AACN this fall.

CCRN Study Materials
CCRN Study Resources may also be helpful, because some of the skills, knowledge and abilities of PCCNs and CCRNs overlap. One day patients may be in the ICU and the next in progressive care. Many successful PCCNs have used some of the CCRN review material, but keep in mind that the progression of the patient’s status is different, and the PCCN exam is weighted more heavily in cardiovascular areas than the CCRN exam. Also, hemodynamic monitoring and ventilator management is not part of the PCCN Examination Blueprint.

Study Bibliography
Another source of information in the PCCN Examination Handbook is the Study Bibliography—a list of books the PCCN Item Writers used to validate the correct answers to the items presented. So, if you find during your in-depth study of the blueprint that you need more information on lab values or pharmacology related to a specific condition, you may want to refer to one of the resources listed in the Study Bibliography. All are nursing texts published within the last five years. This may be especially useful when working with a study group where you can pool your resources.

Marketplace
The Progressive Care/Telemetry area under Marketplace on the AACN Web site contains five pages of AACN resources determined to have relevance for progressive care nurses. Based on your assessment of what you need to study using the PCCN Examination Blueprint or the SAE, you may find products to help meet your specific learning needs.

For more information about the PCCN certification exam for progressive care nurses, visit the AACN Certification Corporation Web site.

Dual Certification Spans Patient Populations Work Environment Supported Nursing Excellence


By Deb Kramlich, RN, BSN, CCRN

I have been a critical care nurse for most of my 26-year nursing career. I joined AACN with my first critical care job because I knew I would need the support and continuing education that weren’t available from a small, rural-Maine facility. I saw the value of certification but seemed to hit many roadblocks, such as lack of financial resources, time for preparation and limited patient population. My time soon became consumed with my growing family and my pursuit of a bachelor’s degree, so certification took a distant place on my list of priorities.

Just over six years ago, as my children were reaching ages where I could again focus on my career, I accepted a staff nurse position in the pediatric ICU at Maine Medical Center, Portland. Because the PICU is within one of the sections of the adult special care unit, I would be caring for patients across the entire life spectrum.

Shortly after my return to Maine Medical Center, Marge Wiggins, RN, BSN, MBA, CNAA, BC, joined us as vice president for nursing. A supporter of all avenues of clinical nursing advancement, including certification, she has provided us the means to achieve personal professional goals. In conjunction with the Southern Maine Chapter of AACN, the hospital hosted an adult CCRN review course at no charge to us. The only stipulation was that we would sit for the exam.

I was elated when I passed the CCRN-Adult exam this past February. However, I felt I was short-changing half my patients. I wanted my pediatric critical care practice to be validated.

Already planning to attend the NTI in May, I decided to take the pediatric CCRN review course and sit for the CCRN-Pediatric exam administered at the conference. I’m happy to say I passed that exam, also.

I feel fortunate to work with colleagues in an environment that supports education, research, evidence-based practice and excellence in clinical nursing. A large number of my colleagues are certified and hold advanced degrees. Many more of us are currently in educational programs. I am enrolled in the Saint Joseph’s College Master of Nursing Education program.

Achieving certification has given me more confidence in my practice. The preparation for both CCRN exams was a growth process in itself. I would recommend that anyone who cares for a multi-age population consider certification for all patient populations in their practice (adult, pediatric or neonatal.) You won’t regret it, and everyone benefits!

Deb Kramlich is a clinical nurse III in the PICU-SCU at Maine Medical Center.

Try Online CMC and CSC Exam Registration

A pilot program to offer applicants for the cardiac subspecialty exams (CMC and CSC) the option of completing their registrations and payments online is scheduled to be launched in October. The link to the online exam registration pilot will be located under the “What’s New” area of the AACN Certification Corporation Web site.

AACN Certification Corporation encourages all CMC and CSC applicants to use the online option instead of paper applications. If the pilot goes smoothly, online registration for the CCRN and PCCN exams will launch in early 2006.

Reed Elected Board Secretary-Treasurer

Kevin D. Reed, RN, MSN, CNA, BC, a member of the AACN Certification Corporation Board since 2004, was elected the board’s secretary-treasurer at its meeting in August.

Reed is director of clinical operations in Neuroscience and Critical Care at Clarian Health Partners Methodist Hospital, Indianapolis, Ind.

Frequently Asked Questions


I’m in a blended clinical nurse specialist-nurse practitioner program, where I have 650 clinical hours. Would I meet the clinical eligibility requirements to take the CCNS certification exam?

Because there is overlap between the roles, it is likely that some NP clinical hours will also count toward the CNS role. For example, conducting clinical research or teaching nurses or patients are tasks done in both roles. Ultimately, the graduate program director would need to determine how many of the clinical hours in the blended program would count toward the CCNS eligibility. This would be communicated on Education Eligibility Verification
Form found in the CCNS Exam Handbook.

Would presenting an inservice or case conference to staff count toward required CCNS eligibility activities?

Yes. Conducting an inservice or case conference presentation for staff could serve as a local presentation to demonstrate expertise in clinical knowledge, skills and judgment required of a CCNS exam candidate.
Your Feedback