2020 National Practice Analysis of Cardiac Surgery Nurses

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Executive Summary

AACN Certification Corporation conducts regular national practice analyses, also known as studies of practice, as the basis for development of certification test plans, which are based on current clinical practice. The purpose of the study of practice is to describe the job activities of the adult cardiac surgery nurse in sufficient detail to provide a basis for the development of a professional, job-related subspecialty CSC certification exam.

A Practice Analysis Task Force (PATF) was appointed by AACN Certification Corporation. The selected subject matter experts represent a wide variety of work-related characteristics, such as years of experience, work setting, geographic location and area of specialty. This diversity helps the PATF develop a scope of practice reflecting the roles and responsibilities of cardiac surgery nurses that is relatively free of bias.

The PATF met in February 2019 to identify the responsibilities of a nurse caring for cardiac surgery patients in the first 48 hours postoperatively and develop a web-based survey tool. A pilot survey was then conducted with the PATF.

In April 2020, invitations for the final web survey were sent to 17,907 individuals identified by AACN Certification Corporation as nurses practicing in the area of cardiac medicine and/or cardiac surgery. Respondents were able to note their specialty category. A total of 721 participants who engaged the survey described themselves as cardiac surgery nurses. Of this group, 169 participants completed the survey.

The PATF analyzed the survey results to determine which procedures, complications, therapeutic interventions, and monitoring and diagnostics topics were significant to cardiac surgery nursing practice and would be included in the CSC Test Plan.

Over the next several months, the CSC Item Review Committee (IRC) worked diligently to review and fine-tune a comprehensive pool of exam items based on the new test plan, with each item validated in at least one reference on the exam bibliography.

The CSC Exam Review Committee (PRC) then validated and linked each item to the new test plan, unanimously agreeing on each item and developing a pool of multiple-choice items identified as statistically sufficient to assess the knowledge of cardiac surgery nurses.

Finally, the CSC Score Evaluation Committee (SEC) analyzed the difficulty of the items within the final item pool to determine the passing standard, also known as the cut score. The multiple-choice CSC exam will be composed of 75 scored items, plus 15 unscored pre-test items.

The CSC Test Plan is available to exam candidates, review course instructors and other interested individuals and organizations.

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