Initial PCCN Certification

Congratulations! You have taken your first step toward becoming a certified nurse. By demonstrating you have mastered certain skills, knowledge and abilities, you can distinguish yourself as a leader in direct care.

The Certification Exam Policy Handbook will provide you with detailed testing and policy information. The PCCN Exam Handbook includes exam-specific information, including the PCCN application/honor statement and the PCCN test plan.

Once you have reviewed all available information and are ready to sit for the PCCN exam, we recommend you submit your application online.

PCCN Exam Content

  • The PCCN exam is a 2.5-hour test consisting of 125 multiple-choice items.
    • Of the 125 items, 100 are scored and 25 are used to gather statistical data on item performance for future exams.
  • The PCCN exam focuses on adult patients only.
  • The PCCN test plan includes detailed exam content, organized by body system, with a percentage breakdown for each topic area.
    • The majority of the exam is age-specific for the adult patient population, while a portion of the exam covers content that may address any age across the life span.

Initial 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 must meet one of the following clinical practice requirement options:
    • Option 1: Practice as an RN or APRN for 1,750 hours in direct care of acutely ill adult patients during the previous two years, with 875 of those hours accrued in the most recent year preceding application.
    • Option 2: Practice as an RN or APRN for at least five years with a minimum of 2,000 hours in direct care of acutely ill adult patients, with 144 of those hours accrued in the most recent year preceding application.
  • Orientation hours spent shadowing/working with another nurse who has the patient assignment do not count toward clinical hours for PCCN eligibility; however, orientation hours during which you are the assigned nurse providing direct care to acutely ill adult patients may be counted.
  • Eligible clinical practice hours are those completed in a U.S.-based or Canada-based facility or in a facility determined to be comparable to the U.S. standard of acute/critical care nursing practice.
  • Nurses serving as a manager, educator (in-service or academic), APRN or preceptor may apply their hours spent supervising nurses or nursing students at the bedside.
  • The name and contact information of a professional associate must be given for verification of clinical practice
    • A professional associate is defined as a clinical supervisor or colleague (RN or physician) with whom you work.

PCCN Initial Exam Fees

PCCN Exam  
AACN Members $180
Nonmembers $280
PCCN Exam Retest or Renewal by Exam  
AACN Members $135
Nonmembers $215

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

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