Initial CSC Certification

You have already demonstrated your knowledge, skills and abilities by achieving certification in your specialty area. Achieving subspecialty certification will further exemplify your commitment to your patients and their families.

The Certification Exam Policy Handbook will provide you with detailed testing and policy information. The CSC Exam Handbook includes exam-specific information, including the CSC application/honor statement and the CSC test plan.

Once you have reviewed all available information and are ready to sit for the CSC exam, we recommend you submit your application online.

CSC Exam Content

  • The CSC exam is a 2-hour test consisting of 90 multiple-choice items.
    • Of the 90 items, 75 are scored and 15 are used to gather statistical data on item performance for future exams.
  • The CSC exam focuses on the adult patient population. 
  • The CSC test plan includes detailed exam content, organized by body system, with a percentage breakdown for each topic area.

Initial Eligibility Requirements

  • Current, unencumbered licensure as an RN or APRN in the U.S. is required.
    • An unencumbered license is not currently being subjected to formal discipline by any board of nursing and has no provisions or conditions that limit the nurse's practice in any way. This applies to all RN or APRN licenses currently held.
  • A current clinical nursing specialty certification, to which the CSC certification will be attached, is required. The clinical nursing specialty certification must: 
    • involve direct care of adult patients, and
    • be nationally accredited by the NCCA (National Commission for Certifying Agencies) or the ABSNC (American Board of Specialty Nursing Certification), and
    • test beyond clinical judgment to include key nursing competencies of professional caring and ethical practice as outlined in the Synergy Model for Patient Care.

    Examples of acceptable clinical nursing specialty certifications include, but are not limited to, CCRN, CCRN-E, PCCN, ACNPC, ACNPC-AG, CCNS, ACCNS-AG, CMSRN, CEN, etc.

    • Candidates must meet one of the following clinical practice requirement options:
      • Option 1: Practice as an RN or APRN for 1,750 hours in direct bedside care of acutely/critically ill adult patients during the previous two years, with 875 of those hours accrued in the most recent year preceding application. Of those 1,750 hours, 875 must be in the care of acutely/critically ill adult cardiac surgery patients within the first 48 hours postoperatively.
      • Option 2: Practice as an RN or APRN for at least five years with a minimum of 2,000 hours in the care of acutely/critically ill adult patients, with 144 of those hours accrued in the most recent year preceding application. Of those 2,000 hours, 1,000 must be in the care of acutely/critically ill adult cardiac surgery patients within the first 48 hours postoperatively. 
    • Orientation hours spent shadowing/working with another nurse who has the patient assignment do not count toward clinical hours for CSC eligibility; however, orientation hours during which you are the assigned nurse providing direct bedside care to acutely/critically ill adult cardiac surgery patients may be counted.
    • Eligible clinical practice hours are those completed in a U.S.-based or Canada-based facility or in a facility determined to be comparable to the U.S. standard of acute/critical care nursing practice.
    • Nurses serving as manager, educator (in-service or academic), APRN or preceptor may apply their hours spent supervising nursing students or nurses at the bedside.
    • The name and contact information of a professional associate must be given for verification of clinical practice.
      • A professional associate is defined as a clinical supervisor or colleague (RN or physician) with whom you work.

    CSC Initial Exam Fees

    CSC Exam  
    AACN Members $120
    Nonmembers $205
    CSC Exam Retest or Renewal by Exam  
    AACN Members $110
    Nonmembers $155

    Payable in U.S. Funds. Fees are subject to change without notice.

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