Submitting your application is the first step toward obtaining your CCRN certification.
Step One: See if you are eligible to sit for the CCRN exam
You probably guessed this already, but you need to meet specific criteria for your CCRN Certification Application to be processed. The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) provides the CCRN certification. In order to sit for the exam, you must meet the following CCRN requirements per the AACN:
- Have a current, unrestricted RN or APRN license in the United States.
- Meet the minimum hourly requirements to confirm you have direct critical care nursing experience.
There are two different avenues you can take to meet the minimum hourly requirements. No matter what route you take, you need to complete the hours in a U.S. or Canada-based facility. For nurses with experience outside of these countries, there are exceptions
As long as your organization meets the U.S. standards of nursing care, as determined by Magnet status or the Joint Commission International, your hours should qualify.
Here is a breakdown of the two avenues you can take to reach your hourly requirement:
- Work in the direct care of acute or critical patients during the previous 2 years with at least 1,750 hours of contact. Of those hours, 875 must be within the most recent year before you submit your application. Or,
- Work in the direct care of patients for 5 years or more with at least 2,000 hours of contact with critical or acutely ill patients. Of those hours, 144 must be within the most recent year before you submit your application.
Many nurses wonder if their experience qualifies for the CCRN application. Per the AACN, nurses from a variety of departments can sit for the exam, such as:
- Specialty ICUs (cardiac, neuro, medical, surgical)
- Trauma units
- Emergency departments
- Critical care transport
- Nurse anesthesia
Finally, you should know that nurses working with neonatal, pediatric, and adult patients can take the CCRN exam. You will want to select the appropriate exam when submitting your application and make sure your contact hours are with the age group you have experience.
Step Two: Inform your manager or employer of your CCRN goals.
It is important to connect with your supervisor or manager if you plan to take the CCRN exam. For the application, you will need to provide contact information for your supervisor. Thus, it is essential to ask your supervisor if you can share their information.
Informing your supervisor about your application has other benefits as well. Often, organizations will pay for your exam fees and even CCRN review courses because getting your CCRN has tremendous benefits for your unit and hospital. Remember, CCRN nurses are more confident in their skills and have better patient outcomes.
Additionally, your supervisor may find other ways to help support you in your exam preparation, such as giving you more flexibility with your hours or connecting you with extra resources so you can succeed.
Step Three: Fill out your application
Once you have met the CCRN eligibility requirements, you can fill out your application. Nurses can do this online at www.certcorp.org, or you can also fill out a paper application and fax or mail it to the AACN. No matter how you choose to apply, it is relatively straightforward.
If you choose to fill out your application online, you will need to create an account with the AACN. You may already have an account if you are an AACN member. If you do not have a current membership, you may want to renew or become a first-time member, as it provides a discount on your exam fee.
When you are filling out your application, you will need to provide the following information:
- Name and contact information
- RN/APRN license number
- Employer name and contact information
- AACN membership information (if applicable)
- The exam you wish to apply for (neonatal, pediatric, adult)
- Demographic information
Lastly, you will need to sign an Honor Statement when you submit your application, along with your payment information.
Step 4: Wait and study!
It can take between 2 and 3 weeks for your application to be processed and approved before you can schedule your test date. Be effective with your time by starting a CCRN review course. Although you can do self-paced studying with a CCRN book, nurses who take a CCRN review course have higher first-time pass rates.
Review courses not only provide structure and guidance on what to study, but they can give you more exposure to test questions, so you can learn how to answer them. Certainly, certification exams test your knowledge, but there are also strategies for how to answer specific questions.
When you are looking for a review course, make sure it has an evidence-based approach to teaching you what you need to know.
You should also know that a review course can be offered in-person or online. In-person courses have many benefits, but they can also be time-consuming and take away time from work, so many nurses are switching to online review courses. With video modules and discussion groups, online courses can offer that interpersonal experience without losing your valuable time.
Step 5: Once approved, pick your testing center and date
You will receive a notification once your CCRN Certification Application has been approved. From there, you can schedule your test date. Make sure you schedule your exam within 90 days. During the days or weeks before you take your exam, make sure to stay on track with your studying and do as many practice questions as possible! Ready to start studying for the CCRN on your own terms?
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