The American Board of Certification for Gastroenterology Nurses (ABCGN) exam is administered to nurses working in the area of gastroenterology and endoscopy. The test is put out by the ABCGN, but this board has undergone several name changes over the years. When it was founded in 1985, it was the Certifying Council for Gastroenterology Clinicians, Inc. (CCGC). In 1990 the name was changed to the Certifying Board of Gastroenterology Nurses & Associates (CBGNA), and in 2007 the most recent name change took place. It is not necessary to become certified to practice as a gastroenterology nurse, but holding a certificate will provide patients and other medical professionals with proof of your expertise in your field as well as assurance of your capabilities of carrying out the duties associated with your job as safely as possible. You may also find that with these higher qualifications you are eligible for job advancement and a raise in salary.
In terms of content, the test consists of 4 practice domains in which you will have to demonstrate your comprehension. These are general nursing care, which will count for 24% of the exam content, gastroenterological procedures, which will count for 37% of the exam material, patient care interventions, which will count for 22% of the exam material, and professional standards and responsibilities, which will count for 17% of the exam content. The test will consist of 175 multiple-choice questions. Of these 175 questions, 150 will count towards your actual score, and the other 25 will be used to gather statistical information to be used in the writing of future exams.
You will be allotted a time limit of 4 hours in which to take the ABCGN exam. While questions can cover any information related to the role of the gastroenterology nurse, most questions will be based on either the most common job functions or the most serious issues you will deal with. There are 2 exam formats: a pencil and paper exam, and a computer-based exam. The typical applicant will take the computer-based test. The pencil and paper test is offered only one time per year, and this is at the Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates (SGNA) Annual Course. This Annual Course takes place on a different date in the spring of each year in a different city, so if you want to take this form of the test, look on the ABCGN’s website for a specific date and location.
For those applicants wishing to take the computer-based test, they will be able to choose a location that is in proximity to them. Applicants must meet eligibility requirements before they can apply. If you meet these requirements, apply, and are approved for a testing seat, you will receive notification by email directing you to a test scheduling system at the website for Castle Worldwide, the testing service that actually administers the ABCGN exam. You will be provided with a list of official testing locations and available dates from which you can choose to register. After you are approved to take the test, you will only have 30 days in which to register for an exam location and time. After this time period is up, you will have to start over with the application process. You will receive another email once you have registered confirming the date and time you have signed up for and providing you with a username and password for logging into the exam at your scheduled time. You will not be able to take the exam without this information. If you sign up for the pencil and paper exam, you will receive an admission ticket by mail that you must have with you on the day of the exam. After taking the test, you should receive your exam scores within 6 weeks by mail. Scores range from 200 to 800, and you must score at least 450 to pass.
ABCGN Exam Content
The American Board of Certification for Gastroenterology Nurses (ABCGN) exam is divided into 4 major areas of practice domains. These are general nursing care, gastroenterological procedures, patient care interventions, and professional standards and responsibilities. You will be tested over special tasks that fall into each of these areas. Take each of these areas and their associated tasks into account when you are studying to maximize your chances for success on the exam.
The first practice domain covered in the ABCGN exam is general nursing care. This portion of the test will consist of 37 multiple-choice questions, and it will constitute 24% of the entire exam. There are a number of tasks in this category that may appear on the exam in some form, so it is a good idea to get a general idea of them. As a gastroenterology nurse you will conduct procedures for the assessment of a patient’s health, monitor the patient’s progress through observation and interpretation of their condition, and help other medical professionals establish a recovery plan for patients. You will communicate with your patients to educate them about their condition, to explain any self-care instructions they need to know, and to get their input or any relevant thoughts they may have for their recovery plan. In regards to patient care, you must work with consideration for patient diversity, taking into account the way different cultures may feel about certain procedures and remaining sensitive to the patient at all times. These are the general tasks associated with general nursing care. Use these as a starting point for more specific study.
The second practice domain is gastroenterological procedures, which accounts for 37% of the test. There are 56 questions in this category. For this section, be familiar with any endoscopic procedures that would require you to work with doctors and a team of other medical professionals. There may also be some questions related to non-endoscopic procedures that would require you to work with doctors and a team of other medical professionals. A few examples of procedures associated with gastroenterological medicine are colonoscopies, polypectomy, endorectal ultrasound, abdominal paracentesis, esophageal pH testing, and gastric feeding tube placements.
The third practice domain covered in the ABCGN exam is patient care intervention. This domain will count for 22% of the overall exam material, and it will come out to 33 questions. Tasks associated with this domain include preventing, recognizing, and efficiently handling gastroenterological emergencies. You may receive questions on the administration of medications and fluids to break a cycle of pain or discomfort for a patient. Know about non-medicinal methods for pain intervention as well.
The fourth practice domain in the ABCGN exam is professional standards and responsibilities. This section comprises 17% of the overall exam material. There are 26 multiple-choice questions in this portion. There are numerous tasks associated with working in compliance with rules and regulations regarding your field. As a gastroenterology nurse, you will be expected to know how to advocate for a patient while operating under a code of ethics. You must know the professional guidelines detailed by various agencies, organizations, and the hospital or medical facility you work for. You should be familiar with safety regulations regarding the prevention of infection and how to work accordingly. This may require disposing of certain chemicals or products in a certain way or properly cleaning equipment after each use. Questions may cover the documentation of findings during your work that may affect practice guidelines in the future. Questions may also cover the instruction and supervision of other medical professionals to ensure correct operation under professional and ethical guidelines.
These are the 4 practice domains covered in the ABCGN exam and the tasks associated with them. These tasks are of necessity quite broad and are not necessarily a comprehensive list of everything that will appear on the exam. These should, however, make a starting point in study.
ABCGN Exam: Eligibility and the Application Process
The American Board of Certification for Gastroenterology Nurses (ABCGN) exam, formerly the CBGNA exam, is not open to everyone. There are certain eligibility requirements that must be met before a potential candidate can be approved to sit for the exam. These requirements have been set in place for a reason. They are to your benefit, because by meeting them you will be more prepared for the exam and more likely to pass on your first attempt. These requirements are also set in place for the general safety and well-being of the public. Just because you study hard and pass the ABCGN exam does not mean you are qualified to operate in a live situation under those credentials. Along with passing the exam, a certain amount of experience is necessary.
In order to qualify for the exam you must already be a Registered Nurse. You must have logged either 2 years of work on a full-time basis, or 4000 hours in a 5 year time period on a part-time basis. Your position may be clinical, administrative, instructional, or supervisory, but whatever the capacity, you must work in the area of gastroenterology and endoscopy. If you held a medical position prior to becoming a Registered Nurse, the hours amassed in that capacity will not count towards work experience hours for the ABCGN exam. These hours must come from experience as an RN. In order to verify that your experience has been in the gastroenterology and endoscopy area, and that you have performed acceptably, you will have to include the names of two medical professionals in this field that you have worked with in your application. Also include a way to reach these individuals, so that they can be contacted to verify your level of performance. As proof of your status as an RN, include your RN license number and its date of expiration in your application materials. This license should be current.
If you meet all eligibility requirements you can apply for an ABCGN exam seat. The application process takes place over the Internet. There is no option for mailing in a physical application. To apply, go to the website for the American Board of Certification for Gastroenterology Nurses and create an account. After you create your account, you will be directed to the application page. Fill out the application as directed and submit it online. If you have a disability and need arrangements to be made for a special testing location, you should make a formal request during the application time window. You can do this by mail. Such a request will require the inclusion of a doctor’s letter verifying your condition.
You must also pay fees at the time of application. This can be done online with a credit card. If you are a Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates (SGNA) member applying for the pencil and paper version, your fees will be $300. If you are not an SGNA member and are applying for the pencil and paper version, your fees will be $385. SGNA members applying for the computer-based ABCGN exam will pay $400, while nonmembers applying for the computer-based exam will pay $485. If you are a military or international applicant planning on taking the exam overseas, you must add $200 to your regular fees. Along with your application, fees, and documentation of any disability precluding you from an official testing location, be sure to submit all proper documentation verifying that you meet the eligibility requirements.
If your application is met with approval, you will receive notice by email if you signed up for the computer-based exam, and by mail if you signed up for the pencil and paper exam. You must have the confirmation notice you received by email and the username and password it comes with to enter the computer-based exam. You must have the admission ticket sent out by mail to enter the pencil and paper exam.
ABCGN Exam: Study Strategies
How you study for a test like the American Board of Certification for Gastroenterology Nurses (ABCGN) exam is a strategic decision. If you wait until the week before your exam date, your stress levels will rise, you’ll find yourself forgetting and confusing information, and the material itself will seem much harder than it really is. If you prepare ahead of time, on the other hand, the material will be manageable and you will have time to really learn it rather than attempting to memorize it. You will go into the test with confidence. There are several approaches you can take to studying. One of the most essential and beneficial is implementing a schedule.
Staying on a schedule while you are studying is helpful for several reasons. It keeps you organized, it ensures that your preparation for the exam will not be encroaching on other obligations you have, and it helps you monitor your progress. Most importantly, a study schedule ensures that you will do just that: study. When you put any activity into a routine, you are more likely to actually do it regularly. Plan to study for a set period of time every day in the same place. Make sure your study spot is quiet and free of distractions. The television room is not the place for studying. In fact, even being a few rooms away from the television might be a distraction. Try the library or a study lounge at your college. Study for 2-3 hours at the end or beginning of each day, setting aside more time for Saturdays and taking Sundays for rest. At the end of each day, week, and month you’ll be able to see how far you have progressed and how much further you need to go in your study.
Form a study group and plan to meet on a regular basis. 1-2 times per week should be sufficient. At the first few meetings you should collaborate to come up with a definitive study guide to the exam. Every group member should have this study guide on hand at the rest of the meetings leading up to the exam. Assign different topics that might come up on the test to all of the group members, letting each member lead the group in a discussion on his topic. Instructing others will solidify your own understanding, and hearing certain topics taught from the point of view of others may help you see things from a different angle that makes more sense. It would be a good idea to break off into pairs at some point during meetings to collaborate one-on-one about more difficult material. As you near the exam date, start playing review games. You can format these like television game shows, dividing the study content up into categories reflecting those that will be on the exam: general nursing care, gastroenterological procedures, patient care interventions, and professional standards and responsibilities.
While the American Board of Certification for Gastroenterology Nurses does not administer any kind of practice exam, the Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates, Inc. (SGNA) does administer an Online Practice Exam. This can be purchased in the Marketplace section of their website. Taking a practice exam can be a great way to prepare for the actual ABCGN exam. It will allow you to become comfortable with the format of the exam before you have even seen it, and it will allow you to assess your level of knowledge. The SGNA’s Online Practice Exam is especially good for studying because it features questions that were on older ABCGN exams. It is best that you wait until you have been studying for quite a while before you take the practice exam. You will be more likely to get a better idea of what your problem areas are in this way.
After you take the American Board of Certification for Gastroenterology Nurses (ABCGN) exam you will remain certified for 5 years. This time begins with the date you take the exam and elapses 5 years later on December 31. To renew your certification, you must meet all eligibility requirements and then either retake the ABCGN exam or amass a certain number of continuing education hours.
Just as when you first applied for the ABCGN exam, there are several eligibility requirements you must meet before you can recertify. These requirements are directly related to work experience. Your work experience must come out to 2 years on a full-time basis or 4000 hours in a 5 year period on a part-time basis. Whether your job detail is clinical, instructional, administrative, or supervisory, you must be working in the gastroenterology and endoscopy field. You must also already hold an ABCGN certificate.
If you meet the eligibility requirements, you can recertify by taking the ABCGN exam over again or logging continuing education hours. If you choose to take the exam, you will proceed exactly as you did when you first took it. You will send in the same application on the ABCGN website and the same amount of fees as you first did. These are $300 for Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates (SGNA) members applying for the pencil and paper exam, $385 for non-SGNA members applying for the pencil and paper exam, $400 for SGNA members applying for the computer-based exam, and $485 for non-SGNA members applying for the computer based exam. You will be notified of your approval to take the exam, register for a location, date, and time, and receive an admission ticket via mail for the pencil and paper exam or a confirmation notice via email for the computer-based exam. You’ll show up at your scheduled appointment time and take the same exam as those applicants testing for certification for the first time. The only difference between this exam and the one you already took will be in the assorted questions.
The other method for recertifying is accumulating continuing education hours. You must meet the minimum work experience requirements and then complete and submit an application package. This will include an application, a verification of professional qualifications form, a copy of your RN license, a recertification verification form, and all appropriate fees. This application package can be found at the ABCGN website.
You must log at least 100 continuing education hours under 4 categories. The activities you use to amass these hours must be directly related to gastroenterology. Category 1 is Attendance at Nursing CE Approved Seminars or Workshops. You must have 40 GI-specific hours from this category. A GI-specific activity will relate directly to the field of gastroenterology. Any seminar or workshop attended to satisfy this category must be approved by a state nurses’ association, a state Board of Nursing, the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), or an ANCC-approved organization. Category 2 is the attendance of seminars and workshops approved by an accredited provider, but not necessarily approved by an official nursing organization. You can log no more than 50 hours in this category. Category 3 is the publication of scholarly articles related to gastroenterology. You can log no more than 50 hours in this category. Category 4 is the completion of courses at an educational institution, such as a tech school or community college. These courses do not need to be specific to gastroenterology or even nursing, but they should have some sort of relevance to healthcare. You can log no more than 20 hours in Category 4. If you choose to go the continuing education route to recertification, you can put together your required 100 hours in any way you please so long as you have at least 40 hours of GI-specific activities in Category 1 and do not exceed the maximum number of hours you can attain in any area.