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About AACN Certification Corporation

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In 1975, AACN Certification Corporation was established as an independent 501(c)(6) corporation to promote and enhance consumer health and safety by establishing and maintaining high standards of professional practice excellence through certifying and recertifying nurses in the care of acutely and critically ill patients and their families.

Guided by a nine-member board of directors, AACN Certification Corporation develops and administers the CCRN, CCRN-K, CCRN-E, PCCN, PCCN-K, ACNPC-AG*, ACCNS-AG*, ACCNS-P* and ACCNS-N* specialty certification exams, and the CMC and CSC subspecialty certification exams. In collaboration with the American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE) Credentialing Center, we also offer the CNML exam.

* Consensus Model-based exams


AACN Certification Corporation drives patient health and safety through comprehensive credentialing of acute and critical care nurses ensuring practice consistent with standards of excellence.


All nurses caring for acutely and critically ill patients and families are certified.


As the Corporation advances its mission and vision to fulfill its purpose and inherent obligation of ensuring the health and safety of patients experiencing acute and critical illness, the Corporation is guided by a set of deeply rooted values:

  • Providing leadership to bring all stakeholders together to create and foster cultures of excellence and innovation
  • Acting with integrity and upholding ethical values and principles in all relationships and in the provision of sound, fair and defensible credentialing programs
  • Committing to excellence in credentialing programs by striving to exceed industry standards and expectations
  • Promoting leading edge, research-based credentialing programs for all nurses who care for and influence the care of acutely and critically ill patients
  • Demonstrating stewardship through fair and responsible management of resources and cost-effective business processes


AACN and AACN Certification Corporation consider the American Nurses Association (ANA) Code of Ethics for Nurses foundational for nursing practice, providing a framework for making ethical decisions and fulfilling responsibilities to the public, colleagues and the profession.

AACN Certification Corporation’s mission of public protection supports a standard of excellence where certified nurses have a responsibility to read about, understand and act in a manner congruent with the ANA Code of Ethics for Nurses.

Code of Ethics for Nurses - 2015 Approved Provisions*

  1. The nurse practices with compassion and respect for the inherent dignity, worth and unique attributes of every person.
  2. The nurse's primary commitment is to the patient, whether an individual, family, group, community or population.
  3. The nurse promotes, advocates for, and protects the rights, health and safety of the patient.
  4. The nurse has authority, accountability and responsibility for nursing practice; makes decisions; and takes action consistent with the obligation to promote health and to provide optimal care.
  5. The nurse owes the same duties to self as to others, including the responsibility to promote health and safety, preserve wholeness of character and integrity, maintain competence and continue personal and professional growth.
  6. The nurse, through individual and collective effort, establishes, maintains, and improves the ethical environment of the work setting and conditions of employment that are conducive to safe, quality health care.
  7. The nurse, in all roles and settings, advances the profession through research and scholarly inquiry, professional standards development, and the generation of both nursing and health policy.
  8. The nurse collaborates with other health professionals and the public to protect human rights, promote health diplomacy, and reduce health disparities.
  9. The profession of nursing, collectively through its professional organizations, must articulate nursing values, maintain the integrity of the profession, and integrate principles of social justice into nursing and health policy.

*©2015 By American Nurses Association. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

The AACN Synergy Model and Certification Exams

The AACN Synergy Model for Patient Care (Synergy Model) was developed to link clinical practice with patient outcomes. Integration of the Synergy Model into AACN Certification Corporation credentialing programs puts an emphasis on the patient and says to the world that patients come first.

Nurses make unique contributions to quality patient and family care, evidence-based practice and healthy work environments. AACN certification exams include both a Clinical Judgment component and a Professional Caring and Ethical Practice component, the latter of which is based on nurse characteristics of the Synergy Model, including Advocacy/Moral Agency, Caring Practices, Clinical Inquiry, Collaboration, Facilitation of Learning, Response to Diversity and Systems Thinking.

The Synergy Model — and its incorporation into AACN certification exams — is not for memorizing the various patient or nurse characteristics or their levels, but is intended to help with comprehension of the model. Exam questions cover application of the Synergy Model, not its terminology.

Read more about the AACN Synergy Model for Patient Care.