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. This applies to all RN and APRN licenses currently held.
    • 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 $250
Nonmembers $355
ACCNS-N Retest  
AACN Members $200
Nonmembers $305

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

return to top

Your Feedback