The AIDS Certified Registered Nurse (ACRN) Exam is a certification test that you may want to take if you are interested in working with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) patients and/or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) patients. This test, which is written by the HIV/AIDS Nursing Certification Board (HANCB) and distributed by the Professional Testing Corporation (PTC), is meant for nursing professionals that want to prove that they can educate and treat patients with HIV/AIDS and/or patient populations in which HIV/AIDS are extremely prevalent. The ACRN Exam typically includes 250 multiple-choice questions that will require you to demonstrate and/or apply your knowledge of a variety of topics related to the HIV/AIDS nursing field, including topics such as assessment; case management; counseling; the emergence of the disease; epidemiology; opportunistic infections; ethical issues; legal issues; pain management; pathophysiology; patient populations; patterns, trends, and projections for HIV/AIDS both in the United States and across the world; psychosocial issues; risk assessment; risk prevention; risk reduction, including antiretroviral drugs, notifying partners, occupational safeguards, safer drug use, safer sex, and other similar ways of lowering the risk that the disease will be transmitted to others; symptom management; testing; treatment; and a variety of other similar topics.
It is important to note, however, that while the exam will typically include 250 multiple-choice questions, the number of questions on the exam will vary from year to year. In fact, the questions on the exam will not only vary from year to year, but will also vary from exam copy to exam copy. This means that you should expect to answer 250 multiple-choice questions, but you may not need to answer 250 questions on every version of the exam (and you will never need to answer more than 250 questions.) It is also important to note that almost half of the questions on the exam are related to clinical manifestations (assessment, opportunistic infections, treatment, etc.), clinical management (pain management, symptom management, etc.), and the psychosocial issues that HIV/AIDS patients face. In other words, the exam covers a wide assortment of topics related to the HIV/AIDS nursing field, but there is a heavy emphasis on questions that are directly related to assessing patients, treating patients, and helping patients cope.
If you pass the ACRN Exam, you will earn the AIDS Certified Registered Nurse (ACRN) credential. This credential is not typically required for nurses that are planning to work in the HIV/AIDS field, but it can be an excellent résumé-builder for nursing professionals that are planning to work in an area with a large population of HIV/AIDS patients. In fact, some hospitals and other similar facilities will pay special attention to candidates that have the ACRN credential even when the facility is not located in an area with a large population of HIV/AIDS patients.
If you are interested in taking the ACRN Exam, you will need to fill out an application for the exam, which is known as an Application for Certification Examination in HIV/AIDS Nursing, and send your application, your application fee, and a copy of your Registered Nurse (RN) license to the Professional Testing Corporation (PTC.) The PTC will then review your application and send you the information that you need to schedule your testing date as long as your nursing license is still valid. It is important to note that there are no experience or education requirements for the ACRN Exam, but you may have trouble passing the exam if you have no experience or very little experience in the HIV/AIDS nursing field. In fact, it is usually a good idea to make sure that you have at least two years of experience before you register for the exam because the exam can be extremely difficult for individuals that have less than two years of experience in the HIV/AIDS nursing field.
ACRN Exam Scoring
The AIDS Certified Registered Nurse (ACRN) Exam doesn't actually use a scale, but instead uses a pass/fail scoring scheme. The score that you receive for the exam, as a result, is based on the total number of questions that you answer correctly, and there is no adjustment made for the difficulty of the questions. This means that in order for you to pass the exam, the total number of questions that you answer correctly must be equal to or greater than the minimum number of correct responses that the HIV/AIDS Nursing Certification Board (HANCB) has established. However, it is important to note that the specific number of questions that you will have to answer correctly may vary from year to year. In fact, the minimum passing score for the ACRN Exam is based on a number of different factors, so there is no way to know exactly what you will need to score until you actually receive your score report. It is also important to note that the ACRN Exam is intended for professionals that have some experience in the field of HIV/AIDS nursing, and it is extremely difficult to achieve a passing score on the ACRN Exam without some experience in the field.
When you are ready to take the exam, you will be given up to four hours to answer all of the questions. However, it is important to remember that there are no scheduled breaks for the ACRN Exam, and you will have to complete the entire exam in one sitting. The exam's administrators may allow you to take breaks at your desk or outside of the examination room in some cases, but you will not be able to spend more than four hours on the exam unless you have received special approval for a documented medical condition from the Professional Testing Corporation (PTC) prior to the exam. Once you finish the test or the four-hour examination period is over, the computer system will compare your answers to the correct answers to determine your total score and report your score to the PTC. The PTC will then use your total score to determine whether you passed or failed the exam and send you a score report that indicates the total number of questions that you answered correctly on the entire exam (your total exam score), the total number of questions that you answered correctly on each section of the exam (your section scores), and if you passed or failed the exam. In most cases, you will receive your score report in four to six weeks and, if you passed the exam, you will receive your official ACRN certificate from the HANCB shortly after you receive your score report.
In the event that you do not answer enough of the questions on the exam correctly to pass the exam, you may submit a written request to have the test rescored or fill out a new application to take the exam again. If you submit a written request to have the test rescored, the PTC will check the exam by hand and make the appropriate scoring adjustments if the PTC finds any mistakes. If you choose to retake the exam, you will be allowed to take the exam as many times as you like, but you will have to fill out the application and pay the appropriate fee each time you take the exam.
ACRN Recertification Requirements
The AIDS Certified Registered Nurse (ACRN) credential can be a great way for you to prove your nursing skills to a potential employer and a great way for you to demonstrate your ability to work with HIV and/or AIDS patients. In fact, there are a number of AIDS clinics, hospitals, infectious disease specialists, government agencies, and other similar employers that highly favor applicants with the ACRN over applicants without the ACRN. However, it is important to note that all of these employers will not only want to make sure that you can work with HIV/AIDS patients before you start, but will also want to make sure that you are capable of keeping up with the changes in the HIV/AIDS nursing field after you have been working in the field for some time. Most of the employers that prefer applicants with the ACRN credential, as a result, will want to make sure that you keep your ACRN credential valid throughout your entire career in the HIV/AIDS nursing field. Unfortunately, the ACRN credential does not last indefinitely, and you will have to renew your certification every four years in order to keep it current. This means that if you want to work in the HIV/AIDS nursing field, you may need to renew your ACRN certification at some point.
Renewing your ACRN certification is not that difficult, but you will have to meet one of the two recertification requirements that the HIV/AIDS Nursing Certification Board (HANCB) has set in order to renew your ACRN Certification.
- The first recertification requirement that you may choose to fulfill is the Certification Renewal by Re-Examination Requirement. This recertification requirement will allow you to renew your certification as long as you are able to successfully take and pass the ACRN Exam again. In order to take advantage of this renewal requirement, you will need to fill out the same application that you originally submitted to take the ACRN Exam the first time and send your application, a copy of your Registered Nurse (RN) license, and your application fee to the Professional Testing Corporation just as if you were applying for the exam for the first time. If you pass the exam, the HANCB will issue you a new ACRN certificate that is good for another four years. If, on the other hand, you fail the exam, you may continue to retake the examination until you are able to recertify. It is important to note that you may take the examination to re-obtain your certification after your certification has expired because there is really no difference between recertifying and obtaining a new certification via this option. However, some employers may require you to renew your certification prior to its expiration.
- The second recertification requirement that you may choose to fulfill is the Certification Renewal by Continuing Education Points (CEPs) Requirement. This recertification requirement will allow you to renew your certification as long as you have at least 70 continuing education points from courses, training programs, volunteer activities, and other similar sources. In fact, any source of contact hours, continuing education (CE) credits, continuing education units (CEUs), or any other similar type of educational credit may be used to meet this requirement as long as the credits are approved by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), the American Nurse Credentialing Center (ANCC), the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care (ANAC), or the nursing board for the state in which you are planning to practice. However, you must earn at least half of the 70 credits that you need or, in other words, no less than 35 credits from nursing programs that are directly related to caring for HIV/AIDS patients. In order to take advantage of this renewal requirement, you will need to fill out a special Recertification Application Form, keep photocopies of all the documents that prove that you have earned the points that you need, and send your application and your recertification fee to the HANCB.
How to Prepare for the ACRN Exam
The AIDS Certified Registered Nurse (ACRN) credential can be very helpful if you are planning to work in an AIDS clinic or another similar facility because the ACRN credential is designed for nurses that work with HIV and/or AIDS patients. However, it is important to remember that in order to obtain your ACRN credential, you will have to prove your skills to the HIV/AIDS Nursing Certification Board (HANCB) first. Unfortunately, proving your skills to the HANCB is usually easier said than done because the only way that you can prove your skills to the HANCB is to pass the ACRN Exam, and the ACRN Exam is designed for professionals that have already had some experience in the HIV/AIDS nursing field. This means that if you want to work in an AIDS clinic or another similar facility that treats HIV and/or AIDS patients on a regular basis, you need to know how to prepare for a test like the ACRN Exam.
- First, if you have an opportunity to volunteer, or better yet, work for pay in a facility that treats HIV/AIDS patients prior to the exam, make sure to take advantage of it. Most of the questions on the exam are designed to assess your ability to apply your knowledge of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and the Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) to help individuals that are at high risk of developing HIV/AIDS and patients that already have HIV/AIDS. This means that a facility that allows you to practice your nursing skills in a practical setting and see the patients that the exam will be asking you about firsthand can be an excellent way for you to prepare for the exam. In fact, one of the main reasons that the HANCB has an experience recommendation listed in its eligibility requirements, even though you are not actually required to have any experience to take the exam, is that exam-takers with experience in the HIV/AIDS nursing field do significantly better on the exam than individuals without it.
- Secondly, look at the content outline for the ACRN Exam and plan your study time according to the percentages that the outline provides. In other words, try to focus at least 30% of your time on the clinical manifestations and management topics that are listed on the online because these topics are the topics that you are more likely to encounter on the test. You can then focus 20% of your time on the psychosocial issues, 15% of your time on the specific population topics, 15% of your time on the pathophysiology topics, 10% of your time on the epidemiology and prevention topics, 5% of your time on the ethical and legal issues that HIV/AIDS professionals may need to face, and 5% of your time on the professional and institutional issues that HIV/AIDS professionals may need to face. This will help you to make sure that you spend more time on the topics that are more important, help you to make sure that you cover everything, and help you to divide and conquer the material. However, it is important to note that this doesn't necessarily mean that you need to study all of the topics on the exam each day, but instead means that you should have some idea of how much you are studying each topic. For example, if you have 10 days to study, you may want to spend 3 days on the clinical manifestations and management topics, 2 days on the psychosocial issues, a day and half on the specific population topics, and so on and so forth.
- Finally, if you encounter some statistics while you are studying, try to get a basic idea of what those statistics mean. This is important because the exam will usually include a number of questions about the patient populations in which HIV/AIDS is prevalent. This means that you will need to know whether HIV/AIDS is more prevalent in one patient population than another to answer some of the questions.
What is an ACRN Recertification Audit?
If you've already started looking into renewing your ACRN certification, you may have noticed that the HIV/AIDS Nursing Certification Board (HANCB) will periodically conduct recertification audits. In fact, if you've been reading through the entire ACRN candidate handbook, you probably stumbled across the word "audit" and immediately expressed your disgust at the very mention of the word. However, it is important to note that, while no one likes to be audited, audits are actually a common occurrence in the world of professional certifications. This is because most organizations simply do not have the time that they need to make sure that every certified professional has actually completed all of the continuing education requirements that they were supposed to complete. Most certification organizations, as a result, conduct random audits to make sure that the professionals that they certify are actually meeting the appropriate requirements, and the HANCB is no different. This means that if you want to keep your ACRN certification, you may want to know what an ACRN Recertification Audit is and how it works.
An ACRN Recertification Audit may sound like a terrifying prospect, but it's really not as big a deal as it sounds. This is because an audit is simply a request for the paperwork that actually proves that you took the classes and/or completed the continuing education programs that you needed to complete to renew your certification. This means that, if you are audited, you will simply need to submit more paperwork, and the audit, as a result, isn't anything to panic about as long as you have the documentation that you need. In fact, the process that you will typically have to go through to complete an ACRN Recertification Audit is actually very simple.
First, if the HANCB has decided to audit you, you will receive a letter from the HANCB with your renewal notice. This letter will typically appear between 3 and 4 months before you actually need to renew, and it will explain exactly what you need to do to complete the audit. If you are planning to meet the Certification Renewal by Continuing Education Points (CEPs) Requirement, you will have to perform all of the steps that you would typically need to perform except you will have to send your records to the HANCB instead of keeping them. In other words, if you are audited and you are planning to meet the CEP requirement, you will need to fill out the Recertification Application Form and send the form, your recertification fee, and all of the documents that prove that you have earned the CEPs that you need to the HANCB. These documents will typically include continuing education certificates, formal transcripts, grade reports, letters from the director of your training programs, and/or other similar paperwork that indicates that you attended something or did something that helped you learn more about the field. If, on the other hand, you are planning to meet the Certification Renewal by Re-Examination requirement, you can simply ignore the audit letter and apply for the exam as you normally would.
Once you have submitted all of the documents that you need to submit, the HANCB will then copy the documents and have two separate people review each of them to make sure that you actually have all of the CEPs that you need and that each CEP came from an acceptable source. If the HANCB determines that you have met all of the CEP requirements that you need to meet, you will receive a new ACRN certificate. If, on the other hand, the HANCB determines that you have not met all of the CEP requirements that you need to meet, you will receive a letter that says that you failed to meet the requirements, and you will have to take the ACRN Exam again to get a new certification.
Last Updated: 08/20/2013