Initial ACCNS-N Certification

Obtaining ACCNS-N certification demonstrates you have mastered certain skills, knowledge and abilities that distinguish you as a neonatal clinical nurse specialist (CNS) across the spectrum of wellness through acute care.

Once you have reviewed the information outlined below and are ready to sit for the ACCNS-N exam, you may apply online or submit a paper application

ACCNS-N Exam Information

The Certification Exam Policy Handbook provides detailed testing and policy information. The ACCNS-N Exam Handbook includes exam-specific information, including an application/honor statement and test plan.

Exam Content

  • The ACCNS-N exam is a 3.5-hour test consisting of 175 multiple-choice items.
    • Of the 175 items, 150 are scored and 25 are used to gather statistical data on item performance for future exams.
  • The ACCNS-N exam focuses on the neonatal patient population, covering the spectrum of wellness through acute care.  
  • Each question on the ACCNS-N exam assesses one of the nurse characteristics identified in the Synergy Model.
    • The 2010 AACN Certification Corporation Study of Practice included Synergy Validated CNS Competencies.
    • Within the domain of Clinical Judgment, body systems is used as a second dimension of exam development.

Exam 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.
    • Candidates and ACCNS-N-certified nurses must notify AACN Certification Corporation within 30 days if any restriction is placed on their RN or APRN license.
  • Completion of a graduate-level advanced practice education program meeting the following requirements:
    • The education program is offered by an accredited college or university that offers a CCNE or ACEN accredited graduate degree in nursing with a concentration as a neonatal clinical nurse specialist covering the spectrum of wellness through acute care. 
    • The program has demonstrated compliance with the Criteria for Evaluation of CNS Graduate Educational Programs.
    • Both direct and indirect clinical supervision must be congruent with current AACN and nursing accreditation guidelines.
    • The curriculum includes, but is not limited to:
      • Biological, behavioral, medical and nursing sciences relevant to practice as a neonatal CNS including advanced pathophysiology, pharmacology and physical assessment.
      • Supervised clinical practice relevant to the specialty.
      • Legal, ethical and professional responsibilities of the CNS.
    • The curriculum meets the following criteria:
      • Curriculum is consistent with competencies of neonatal CNS practice.
      • Five hundred (500) supervised clinical hours in all roles of the neonatal CNS within the graduate program.
        • All clinical hours must be in the direct care of neonatal patients. A portion of the total clinical hours must be focused on wellness and a portion on acute care, in the neonatal patient population.
      • Supervised clinical experience is directly related to the knowledge and all role components of the neonatal CNS.
  • Those making up clinical or didactic coursework to meet ACCNS-N exam eligibility must complete make-up courses in a post-graduate certificate or DNP program. 
  • Applicants determined to be ineligible for the ACCNS-N exam will have their application fee refunded.

Exam Fees

ACCNS-N Exam  
AACN Members $245
Nonmembers $350
ACCNS-N Retest  
AACN Members $200
Nonmembers $305

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

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