CMC and CSC Frequently Asked Questions

What are AACN's cardiac subspecialty certifications and how are they displayed?

CMC is the designation for Cardiac Medicine Certification; CSC is the designation for Cardiac Surgery Certification. These three-letter credentials may only be displayed with a clinical nursing specialty certification attached with a dash, such as CCRN-CMC or CCNS-CSC. If a nurse were to obtain both subspecialty credentials they could be attached to the same clinical nursing specialty certification, such as CCRN-CMC-CSC.

Who is the target audience for the Cardiac Medicine (CMC) exam?

The CMC exam is designed for certified nurses currently practicing in areas such as CCU, combined ICU/CCU, medical ICU, telemetry, progressive care, heart failure clinics/home care, interventional cardiology, cardiac catheterization labs and/or electrophysiology units.

Who is the target audience for the Cardiac Surgery (CSC) exam?

The CSC exam is designed for certified nurses currently working in areas such as cardiovascular surgery, cardiothoracic surgery or postanesthesia care units, caring for cardiac surgery patients in the first 48 hours postoperatively. 

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What are the eligibility requirements for the CMC and CSC exams?

Eligibility requirements for the two subspecialty certification exams are:

  • Current unencumbered RN or APRN license in the U.S.
  • Current nationally-accredited (NCCA or ABSNC) clinical nursing specialty certification.
  • 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 and/or 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 and/or critically ill adult cardiac patients for CMC, or critically ill adult cardiac surgery patients within the first 48 hours postoperatively for CSC.
       
    • 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 and/or 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 and/or critically ill adult cardiac patients for CMC, or acutely and/or critically ill adult cardiac surgery patients within the first 48 hours postoperatively for CSC.
  • Eligible clinical practice hours are those completed in a U.S.- or Canada-based facility or in a facility determined to be comparable to the U.S. standard of acute/critical care nursing practice, as evidenced by Magnet Status or Joint Commission International accreditation.

Are there Pediatric and Neonatal versions of the CMC and CSC exams?

No, the CMC and CSC exams focus on the adult patient population.

What kind of nursing specialty certification is necessary to be eligible to take a subspecialty exam?

Candidates for the subspecialty exams must hold a current clinical nursing specialty certification, to which the CMC or CSC credential will be attached. 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 outlines in the Synergy Model for Patient Care.

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

What content do the CMC and CSC exams cover?

Since all eligible candidates must hold a clinical nursing specialty certification, the 90-item subspecialty exams concentrate solely on the Synergy Model component of Clinical Judgment. Although components such as patient teaching and collaboration are very important in providing patient care, eligibility for the CMC and CSC subspecialty credentials assumes that the nursing licensure exam and the clinical nursing specialty certification exam tested these elements.

Refer to the CMC and CSC Test Plans for more specific information about exam content.

If I do not pass the CMC or CSC exam on the first attempt, what can I do?

Referring to your CMC or CSC exam score report and the exam test plan, identify the topic areas in which you have the most room for improvement. For additional information, refer to the Prepare to Take Your Exam page.

Candidates may sit for the CMC and/or CSC exam up to four times in a 12-month period. A discounted retest fee is available to candidates who do not pass the exam and is available until the exam is passed.

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What are the renewal requirements for CMC and CSC certification?

Renewal requirements include:

  • Current unencumbered RN or APRN license in the U.S.
  • Current nationally-accredited (NCCA or ABNS) clinical nursing specialty certification.
  • 25 Category A Clinical Judgment CERPs in the 3-year certification period:
    • For CMC, CERPs must pertain to cardiology (any item on the CMC Test Plan).
    • For CSC, CERPs must pertain to cardiac surgery (any item on the CSC Test Plan).
  • 432 hours of direct bedside care during the 3-year certification period with 144 of those hours accrued in the 12-month period preceding the scheduled renewal date:
    • For CMC, hours must be in the care of acutely and/or critically ill adult cardiac patients.
    • For CSC, hours must be in the care of adult cardiac surgery patients within the first 48 hours postoperatively.

What are the rules for expiration of the specialty certification that will be tied to my CMC or CSC?

In order to be eligible for the CMC or CSC subspecialty exam, the clinical nursing specialty certification to which it will be tied must be current for 90 days after the scheduled CMC or CSC renewal date. This applies to both AACN and non-AACN specialty certifications.

Can my CMC or CSC certification be tied to another eligible clinical nursing specialty certification if the credential to which it was initially tied expires?

If the specialty certification (e.g., CCRN, CCRN-E, PCCN, ACNPC, ACNPC-AG, CCNS, ACCNS-AG) tied to your subspecialty certification (CMC and/or CSC) expires, your CMC and/or CSC will automatically be placed on Inactive status. To request that your CMC and/or CSC be tied to a different clinical nursing specialty certification, contact AACN. Documentation of specialty certification must be submitted for non-AACN credentials.

Are the CMC and CSC certification exams accredited?

All AACN Certification Corporation exams are accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). AACN’s APRN certification exams are recognized as meeting the national criteria for APRN licensure by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) and by individual state boards of nursing.

What does “board certified” mean? Are AACN certifications considered board certifications? 

Board certified is a term primarily used by physician organizations. Only 3 of the 34 national nursing certifying organizations that are members of the American Board of Nursing Specialties (ABNS) label their credentials/programs in this way. While an organization may use the term board certified when referring to their nursing certification programs, it does not reflect a different or higher level of certification.

Board certified in the nursing world simply refers to certification from a nationally-accredited organization that is governed by a board of directors. As such, AACN certification programs are, indeed, board certified. 

How do I apply for the CMC or CSC exam?

The CMC Exam Handbook and the CSC Exam Handbook include detailed testing information and a paper application. You may also apply online

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