Frequently Asked Questions about CCRN Certification

Who is eligible to sit for the CCRN certification exam?
The CCRN exam is for nurses who work at the bedside of acutely or critically ill patients, regardless of the setting (includes areas such as ICU, CCU, Emergency Department, Trauma Unit, Interventional Radiology/Cardiology, and Critical Care Transport/Flight). Certain other units with high acuity patients may also be eligible; please contact AACN Certification Corporation to inquire.
Can I meet the CCRN clinical hour eligibility requirement for practice hours completed outside the United States?
Eligible clinical practice hours for AACN Certification Corporation examinations or certification renewal are those completed in U.S.-based or Canada-based facilities or in facilities determined to be comparable to the U.S. standard of acute/critical care nursing practice, as evidenced by ANCC Magnet Status or Joint Commission International accreditation.
Do I need to be a member of AACN to sit for the CCRN exam?
No. Although members receive a discount on exam fees, membership in AACN is not a requirement.
How many clinical hours are needed to be eligible to sit for the CCRN exam?
You need 1,750 hours of direct bedside care of acutely or critically ill patients in the last two years, with 875 hours in the most recent year preceding application.
Is a BSN degree required to sit for the CCRN exam?
No. You are not required to have a BSN in order to be eligible to sit for the CCRN exam.
How many questions make up the CCRN exam?
The CCRN exam consists of 150 questions (125 are scored, 25 are pre-test items). Adult, neonatal and pediatric versions are offered.
What is the CCRN exam fee?
Fees are $220 for AACN members or $325 for nonmembers. If joining AACN at the time of CCRN application, the fee is $298 ($220 CCRN exam fee + $78 AACN annual member fee).
How do I obtain an application for the CCRN exam?
An application for the CCRN exam may be found in the Certification Exam Handbook or you may apply online.
How do I prepare for the CCRN exam?
The Certification Exam Handbook contains a list of recommended references used by the Item Writer volunteers who helped develop the CCRN exam. We also suggest reviewing the test plans and sample questions included in the Certification Exam Handbook.
Do you have exam review materials for purchase?
The Practice CCRN Exam Questions, available in Adult, Pediatric and Neonatal versions, as well as the sample questions included in the Core Curriculum for Critical Care, are available for purchase through the AACN Online Bookstore. Videotapes and audiotapes of an adult CCRN review course held at a previous NTI are also available. The online Adult CCRN Self-Assessment Exam, a 60-item exam with rationales for correct answers, is available for 90 days from date of purchase.  A variety of products are available from other companies.
Which review materials do you recommend?
AACN Certification Corporation does not endorse any particular product or company. The Certification Exam Handbook contains a list of recommended references. When selecting a product to purchase, we recommend that you look at the qualifications and certifications of the people producing or presenting the materials and at the copyright date to make sure that updates are occurring regularly. We also suggest obtaining a recommendation from a friend or colleague who has already purchased these products.
How do I find a CCRN review course?
To locate review courses in your area, contact your local AACN chapter or local area hospitals to inquire about upcoming courses. For further information about contacting an AACN chapter, please call AACN customer service at 800-899-2226. For a listing of upcoming and previously held courses, click here.
What does CCRN stand for?
"CCRN" is a registered service mark and a brand name. It does not mean "Critical Care Registered Nurse" as we are not able to guarantee that a certificant is a registered nurse. This is an issue between the nurse and their state. We do require that certificants are RNs when they apply for the exam and renew their certification, and that they notify us of any change in their status; however, we cannot be perceived as guaranteeing that they are currently registered as a nurse.
What is the application process?
After AACN Certification Corporation receives your application and verifies eligibility, which can take up to 6 weeks, an approval-to-test postcard will be sent to you from our testing service, Applied Measurement Professionals, Inc. (AMP). You may then schedule your exam by calling a toll-free number or going online to make your testing appointment. You are given a 90-day window during which you may schedule and sit for the exam. The CCRN exam is administered by computer at AMP testing centers nationwide. To locate a testing site in your area, visit www.goAMP.com. Testing is offered Monday through Friday twice daily at 9:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
What do I need to know about the Synergy Model?
Professional Caring and Ethical Practice questions make up 20% of the CCRN exam. The CCRN exam does not test knowledge of the Synergy Model or its vocabulary, but tests the psychosocial knowledge underlying the model: knowledge of and sensitivity to diversity in patients and families; ethics involved in critical care nursing; collaborating with other healthcare professionals to achieve the best outcomes possible for patients and their families; knowledge of teaching techniques and psychology in order to prepare patients and their families for discharge, etc. This information can generally be found in any nursing text published since 1996.
How many nurses hold CCRN certification?
There are currently approximately 50,000 certified nurses certified through AACN Certification Corporation, most of which are CCRNs.
How often may I sit for the CCRN exam?
Candidates have a maximum of a four opportunities in a 12-month period to successfully pass the CCRN exam.
How soon after testing will I find out if I passed the CCRN exam?
Those who complete the exam via computer-based testing will receive their results and a score report immediately upon completion of the test. Those who complete the exam via paper and pencil testing will receive their results and score report by mail approximately 8 weeks after testing.
If I do not pass the CCRN exam on the first attempt, what can I do?
Referring to your CCRN exam score report, you will want to focus your studies on the topic areas in which you have room for improvement. Candidates may sit for the CCRN exam up to four times in a 12-month period. The discounted retest fee of $170 is available to candidates who do not pass the initial examination.
What areas does the CCRN exam cover?
The CCRN exam is weighted most heavily in the areas of Cardiovascular, Pulmonary, Multi-system and Professional Caring and Ethical Practice. Pulmonary questions address ventilator settings and how they would be adjusted according to ABG results. Cardiovascular items include hemodynamic settings, as well as questions about MI, CHF, PE, and IABP.  If you are not familiar with or do not have experience in caring for these types of patients, we recommend that you gain the necessary experience before taking the exam.
What is required to renew the CCRN credential?
Candidates must hold a current unrestricted RN license and have 432 hours in direct bedside care of acutely or critically ill patients during the three-year certification period, with 144 of those hours accrued in the most recent year preceding application. Candidates must either retake and pass the CCRN exam or have accumulated 100 Continuing Education Recognition Points (CERPs) in specified categories during the three-year certification period..
Does working in a doctor's office count toward the hours needed to renew my CCRN?
Whether or not you are eligible to renew your CCRN is something you would need to determine based on your own practice. If your nursing position finds you working directly at the bedside of critically ill patients for at least 144 hours per year (average of 12 hours per month), you could meet the clinical practice requirement and be eligible to renew. If your current practice does not meet the eligibility criteria, you might consider picking up one 12-hour shift per month in an ICU-type setting to meet the clinical practice requirement and maintain your CCRN status.
If I work as a manager or educator, am I eligible to renew my CCRN?
Nurses serving as a manager, educator (in-service or academic), CNS or preceptor may apply their hours spent supervising nursing students or nurses at the bedside. Nurses in these roles must be actively involved in caring for acutely or critically ill patients at the bedside; for example, demonstrating how to measure pulmonary artery pressures or supervising a new employee or student nurse performing a procedure at the bedside.
How are CERPs calculated?
CERPs are basically the same as contact hours, or CEs. We do not refer to them as CEs or contact hours because "Recognition Points" are also awarded for activities that don't strictly fall into the contact hour category, such as writing articles, serving on committees, professional presentations, etc. One CE or contact hour is equal to 60 minutes of classroom time, which is equal to one CERP. For example, a six-hour ACLS course (minus lunch and breaks) is calculated as follows: 6 hours x 60 minutes = 360 minutes; divide 360 by 60 for 6.0 CERPs.
What are the different Renewal by CERP categories?
Renewal by CERPs (available through 12/31/09)

Category A CERPs are earned by attending acute and critical care educational programs or by completing academic credit courses specific to patient care. Examples are physical assessment, pathophysiology, pharmacology, ABG interpretation, infection control, BCLS, ACLS and PALS.

Category O CERPs are granted for a broad range of activities including professional publications, professional presentations, professional memberships, volunteer activities, academic credit courses (i.e., chemistry, psychology, sociology, medical Spanish), activities to improve care (i.e., preceptorship; committee work; revising a nursing policy, procedure or protocol; designing patient educational aids).

Renewal by Synergy CERPs (available in January 2007; required in January 2010)

Categories A, B, and C - click here for details

For more information about eligible CERPs, please refer to the CCRN Renewal Handbook.

How long may I hold inactive CCRN status?
When you obtain inactive status, you have three years from your most recent expiration date to apply for active status. Once you meet the eligibility requirements, your new renewal period is determined by counting back three years from the date you submit your application for reactivation. This is important in terms of dates for eligible clinical hours and continuing education that can be counted toward your renewal. You would use the same application for both renewal and inactive status; for inactive status you would complete and sign the first page only and check the appropriate box at the top of the page. You may NOT hold inactive CCRN status for two consecutive 3-year periods.
Can I still maintain my CCRN credential if I leave direct bedside critical care or retire from nursing?
If you are no longer eligible for active CCRN status, you may apply for Alumnus CCRN status, or Retired CCRN status. More information and applications for both designations can be found in the CCRN Renewal Handbook
What is an AACN/CCRN Ambassador?
Anyone can volunteer to be an Ambassador. Being a CCRN or member of AACN is not a requirement. Ambassadors act as a resource person in their facility to share information about AACN and certification. In addition to receiving five (5) CERPs per year toward renewal of the CCRN credential, Ambassadors receive a welcome kit and quarterly mailings that provide updated information about AACN and Certification Corporation programs. Included are posters, flyers, brochures and other items to display on your unit or share with your colleagues. For more information about the Ambassador program, please click here.
As a CCRN, am I held to a higher standard of care than an RN in a court of law?
A common myth suggests that certified nurses assume greater legal liability because they are held to a higher standard. Marsh Affinity Group Services, a leader in insurance program management and the world's largest insurance broker, dispels this myth. Marsh acknowledges that validation of additional education is a definite advantage from a liability standpoint. "The more you have, the better off you are. Education reduces your exposure to risk and better prepares you to make informed decisions that encompass a larger scope."
Nurses whose clinical judgment has been validated through certification make decisions with greater confidence. Confidence can contribute to recognizing situations at risk for failure to rescue and reduce the likelihood of medical errors such as incorrect prescriptions, insufficient or absent documentation and failure to address the needs of patients and their families. The more knowledgeable the nurses, the better they can recognize problems and intervene appropriately resulting in fewer medical errors.