It’s National Certified Nurses Day!
A day to recognize and honor “the important achievement of nursing specialty and sub-specialty certification.” That’s what the website says.
If you follow me on Instagram (@anna_the_nurse), you’ll have noticed I recently joined the ranks of certified nurses:
So, in honor of Certified Nurses Day, I thought I’d do a little Question/Answer post to help you learn more about becoming a certified nurse. And since I’m a member of the AACN and my certification was through them, a lot of this will be about my experience with them.
Keep in mind, there are a BUNCH of nationally recognized professional organizations who offer certifications. Some of these include: American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN), American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI), Emergency Nurses Association (ENA), Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates (SGNA), Center for Improvement in Healthcare Quality (CIHQ), and Oncology Nurses Association (ONA).
Q. Don’t you just take the NCLEX and become an RN? What is this nursing certification thing?
A. “Certification affirms advanced knowledge, skill, and practice to meet the challenges of modern nursing.” (source) So, you won’t lose your job if you fail a certification test, but it’s an extra something you can add to your registered nurse status. It’s a milestone that not all nurses choose to pursue, but it does recognize personal excellence in a particular area.
Q. Why should I become certified?
A. There are a bunch of reasons! You can test your knowledge and be a more confidant nurse in the area you work. If you’re not ready or wanting to go back to school, this gives you something to work towards. It looks great on a resume. The hospital I work for gives a bonus to nurses who become certified, which is awesome. I can sign my name Anna, RN, BSN, PCCN (if I wanted). My hospital also has a ladder system where nurses can level up and having a certification gives you points to go up the ladder. And then you can have celebratory fro-yo after you pass the test.
Q. How should I prepare to for the certification test?
A. Remember the NCLEX? Sort of like that.
-Get study materials. I used the AACN’s PCCN review course online and the audio from David Woodruff’s PCCN review (a friend hooked me up with downloads of his review). I studied for about 3 months. I listened to the review in the car between home and work. I spent a few hours each week reviewing material. I spent the last couple weeks taking practice questions/tests.
-Form a study group. While I did not have a study group for my PCCN certification, I DO plan on having one for the CCRN certification! If you do well learning in a group environment where you can talk through ideas and ask questions, it’s smart to do it. If you’re looking for a study group/review course, check with your hospital and with AACN. They have chapters scattered throughout the nation and they will sometimes organize group reviews for certification. This website will help you find an AACN chapter if you’re interested.
-Use ALL your resources. Google the certification and see what’s out there. I read through some nursing forums that had suggestions of how people studied and other helpful tips. Youtube the certification. The PCCN, for example, had several videos posted of people doing reviews for the certification and there were questions on the actual test that I got correct BECAUSE I watched those youtube videos! Ask other certified nurses about what they did to study and what they’d recommend to someone preparing to take their test.
-Take practice tests! Just like NCLEX. You need to get into the groove of how they ask questions and what they are looking for.
-Be confidant. Believe in yourself and believe that you will pass. It helps.
-Test day. Know where the testing center is. Don’t be late. Most of the places offer ear plugs, which is nice. I tested at a H&R Block in March, so even though I was in a separate room with the computer, you could still hear customers coming in and talking. Ear plugs made a difference! Also, you find out the SAME day if you pass or fail! That’s something I actually appreciated. Last time I took a test like this, it took 3 days to hear the results. These certification tests can be re-taken. If you don’t pass, they’ll let you know what to do next.
Q. Okay, I’m certified. Now what?
A. You will have to maintain said certification. For example, mine is renewed every 3 years. I have to maintain my RN license and work so many hours in the area that I’m certified in. Then I need to either take the exam OR complete a certain amount of continuing education recognition points (CERPs). Not so bad, right?
I hope this helped a little bit! As a new nurse, I didn’t know much about certification and I probably could have taken this test years ago if I knew more. If you have other questions, leave them in the comments! If you’re on the journey to become certified, good luck!
Thank you to all you certified nurses out there!