Which AACN Certification is Right for You?

Chances are, if you’re thinking about getting an AACN certification, you’ve probably already realized that there are a number of different certifications that you can get. In fact, you may already know that you can get the CCRN, the Progressive Care Certified Nurse (PCCN) Certificate, the Cardiac Medicine Certification (CMC), the Critical-Care Clinical Nurse Specialist (CCNS) Certification, and a number of other similar certifications from the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN.) However, you may still be wondering, what is the difference between all of these certifications and how do you tell which AACN certification is right for you? Well, the fact of the matter is that all of the AACN’s certifications are very similar, but they are designed for different types of nurses. This means that, in order for you to determine which certification makes the most sense for you, you have to know what type of nurse you actually want to become. Fortunately, figuring out what type of nurse you want to become is usually just a matter of figuring out which patients you would like to work with and which patients you would rather avoid.

In fact, if you like working with infants that have severe medical conditions, you may want to consider the Neonatal CCRN or the Neonatal CCNS. These certifications are intended for nurses that work in Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs), and they will help you prove that you can care for babies that need to be closely monitored and/or babies that require care beyond what a typical maternity unit or a pediatric floor can provide. It is important to note, however, that the Neonatal CCRN is primarily intended for nurses that actually provide the care that the infants need while the Neonatal CCNS is primarily intended for nurses that have a management role in a NICU.

If you like working with children that have severe medical conditions, you may want to consider the Pediatric CCRN or the Pediatric CCNS. These certifications are intended for nurses that work in a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), and they can be very helpful if you’re trying to obtain a position in a larger PICU or you’re trying to move from one hospital to another. It is important to note, however, that the Pediatric CCRN is primarily intended for nurses that directly care for the children in a NICU while the Pediatric CCNS is primarily intended for nurses that have a management role in a PICU.

If you like working with adults that have severe medical conditions, you may want to consider the Adult CCRN, the Adult CCNS, the Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Certification (ACNPC), and/or the Cardiac Medicine Certification (CMC.) The Adult CCRN is intended for nurses that work in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) or another similar unit. The Adult CCNS is intended for nurses that have a management role in an ICU or another similar unit. The ACNPC certification is intended for nurse practitioners that primarily care for adult patients. The CMC is intended for nurses that primarily care for patients with severe heart problems (these nurses typically work in Coronary Care Units or Cardiac Care Units, but they may work in other units as well.)

If you like working with adults that require more medical attention than a typical floor nurse can provide, but less medical attention than an ICU patient or another similar patient typically needs, you may want to consider the PCCN. This certification is intended for nurses that work in telemetry units, step-down units, and other similar units that care for patients that need to be monitored (either by a person or a machine like a heart monitor); patients that have just left an ICU but are not yet ready to go home; and other similar patients that are relatively stable, but have moderate to severe conditions.

How to Review for the AACN Exams

The American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN) offers a number of different certifications for nurses that care for patients with severe illnesses or injuries. However, it is important to remember that in order for you to obtain any of these certifications, you have to pass an AACN certification exam. Unfortunately, passing an AACN certification exam is usually easier said than done because each of the AACN Exams covers a wide assortment of medical information. In fact, some of the AACN Exams will cover all of major topics that you will typically see on a nursing licensure exam except that the questions focus on the advanced nursing concepts that a critical care nurse needs to know rather than the general concepts that every nurse needs to know. This means that each of the AACN Exams can be extremely difficult, and you may want to know how to review for each exam.

  • First, look at the test plan for the exam that you are planning to take. The AACN offers test plans for each of their certification exams, and these test plans will not only show you what the test covers but will also show you which topics are more important than others. The test plan for each exam, as a result, can be very helpful when you’re trying to figure out what you need to study.
  • Secondly, if you’re preparing for the CCRN Exam or any of the other AACN Exams that cover more than one major system of the body, try to study one body system or management concept at a time. Each of the AACN Exams covers an enormous amount of information, and there’s no way that you will be able to learn everything that you need to know in one sitting. In fact, you may find that it is difficult to learn all of the information that you need to know for even a single system of the body all at once, and you may want to review each of the subtopics that the test plan lists under the major body systems or management concepts one at a time if you’re having trouble with a particular section. This will make it easier for you to cover everything without driving yourself insane (although, it is important to note that you have to have enough time to study all of the major body systems and/or management concepts for this technique to work.) Third, if you’re preparing for the CMC exam or any of the other AACN exams that focus on a single body system, try to study one condition, treatment, or management concept at a time. This will make it easier for you cover everything that you need to know in the time that you have available.
  • Fourth, if you know someone that is planning to take the same exam that you are or you know someone that is planning to take a similar exam to the one that you are taking, ask him or her if he or she wants to study. The AACN Exams cover a large amount of information, and some of these exams will cover topics that are extremely complex. This means that it can be extremely helpful to have someone that can explain a concept to you or expand on the information that you have available when you encounter something that you just don’t understand.
  • Finally, try to find some practice questions that you can answer, and try to keep track of the questions that you get wrong. This will help you to determine whether you already know something or not and help you determine the body systems, the conditions, and management concepts that you may need to spend more time reviewing. In fact, simply writing down the name of each of the conditions and/or the body systems that are discussed in the questions that you get wrong can help you identify the areas in which you are weak.

ACNPC Exam

The Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Certification (ACNPC) Exam is a certification test that you may need to take if you want to obtain a position as a nurse practitioner in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) or another similar type of unit that provides care to individuals with severe illnesses or injuries. The ACNPC Exam, which is designed by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) and administered by Applied Measurement Professionals (AMP), Inc., is intended to help a hospital or a State Board of Nursing assess your ability to perform the duties of a nurse practitioner in a critical care setting. This exam includes 175 questions that will assess your knowledge of the cardiovascular system, clinical inquiry, collaboration with other medical personnel, the endocrine system, ethical obligations and standard practices for nurse practitioners, the gastrointestinal system, handling diversity, hematology, neurology, patient advocacy, pulmonary function, systems thinking, training and educating staff, and other similar topics. Approximately half of the questions on the exam are designed to test your knowledge of the systems of the body, but it is important to note that the other half of the exam will assess your ability to apply the ethical and management concepts that you have learned in the past to some of the situations that you may encounter in the future as an acute care nurse practitioner. Most of the questions on the ACNPC Exam are related to adult care, but it is important to remember that the exam will include some questions on neonatal and pediatric care as well.

It is also important to note that the ACNPC Exam may be able to help you obtain your Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) license and/or meet the requirements that you need to meet to work as a nurse practitioner in an acute care unit, but the ACNPC Exam is a certification exam and not a licensure exam. This is important because the ACNPC Exam is not the only certification exam that a State Board of Nursing may require you to take, and you may need to take other exams and/or meet other requirements in addition to or instead of the ACNPC Exam to obtain your APRN license and/or begin your career as an acute care nurse practitioner in some states. In fact, some states will allow you to work in an acute care unit as long as you meet the basic requirements for a nurse or nurse practitioner while other states will require you to take an exam that focuses on the specific type of care that you are planning to provide (such as pediatric care or family care.)

In order to register for the ACNPC Exam, you must have a Registered Nurse (RN) license or an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) license; prove that your license does not have any disciplinary restrictions on it (and inform the AACN if you obtain any disciplinary restrictions before or after you receive your certification); prove that you have a master’s degree or a doctorate in nursing from a program that is accredited, focuses on critical care, requires you to complete at least 500 hours of clinical instruction in an environment in which you are allowed to practice your skills under the supervision of a nurse practitioner or another similar professional, and meets other similar requirements; and submit an application to the AACN Certification Corporation for review. However, you may be able to receive the ACNPC certification without taking the ACNPC Exam if you meet all of the requirements above (except for the education requirement); have an adult acute care nurse practitioner certification from any accredited source; prove that you have spent at least 2,000 hours working as a nurse practitioner in an acute care unit over the five years immediately before you apply for the certification with at least 400 hours completed in the year that you apply; and prove that you have completed at least 150 hours worth of continuing education over the five years immediately before you apply.

CCNS Exam

The Critical-Care Clinical Nurse Specialist (CCNS) Exam is a certification exam that you may need to take if you want to become a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS.) The CCNS Exam, which is designed by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) and administered by Applied Measurement Professionals (AMP), Inc., is intended to help a State Board of Nursing determine whether a particular nurse has the skills and knowledge that he or she needs to manage a healthcare system and its personnel or not. The CCNS Exam includes 175 questions that will assess your ability to maintain the highest quality of care possible with the lowest expenditure of resources possible, and these questions will cover topics such as advocacy, collaboration, clinical inquiry, ethical practices, handling diversity, systems thinking, training and educating staff, and other similar topics. The exam will also assess your knowledge of behavioral and psychosocial conditions, the cardiovascular system, the endocrine system, and all of the other systems that are typically covered on the CCRN Exam. It is important to note, however, that only about 22% of the questions on the exam will be devoted to the systems of the body and that most of the questions on the exam will actually be related to the ethical and/or management topics mentioned above. It is also important to note that there is more than one version of the CCNS Exam and that each version of the exam will assess your ability to manage a different type of unit or a different type of patient.

The three types of care that the CCNS Exam may assess include Adult Care, Neonatal Care, and Pediatric Care. The Adult CCNS is intended for nurses that are planning to manage or help manage an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) or another similar unit that cares for adults. The Neonatal CCNS is intended for nurses that are planning to manage or help manage a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) or another similar unit that cares for infants. The Pediatric CCNS is intended for nurses that are planning to manage or help manage a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) or another similar unit that cares for children. Each of these exams is primarily intended for individuals that want to manage an acute care unit, but nurses that are interested in managing other units may be able to take the exam as well.

It is also important to remember that the CCNS Exam is not actually a licensure exam, but is instead a certification exam for Clinical Nurse Specialists. This is important because there is no guarantee that a passing score on the CCNS exam will mean that you will be able to obtain your Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) license and/or meet the requirements that you need to meet to work as a CNS in the state in which you are planning to work. The exam, however, will typically help you meet the advanced certification requirements that you need to meet to obtain your APRN or CNS license in most states.

In order to register for the CCNS Exam, you must have a Registered Nurse (RN) license or an Advanced Practice Nurse (APRN) License; prove that your license does not have any disciplinary restrictions on it (and notify the AACN if your license becomes restricted at any point before or after you take the CCNS Exam); prove that you have a master’s degree or a doctorate in nursing from a program that meets the AACN’s requirements (the program must be accredited, focus on critical care, allow you to practice your skills in a clinical setting under the supervision of a CNS or another similar professional for at least 500 hours, and meet other similar requirements); and submit an application to the AACN Certification Corporation for review.

CCRN Exam

The CCRN Exam is a certification exam that you may need to take before or, in some cases, after you obtain a position in an emergency room (ER), an Intensive Care Unit (ICU), a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), or another similar unit that provides care to individuals that are in need of serious medical attention. The CCRN Exam, which is designed by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) and administered by Applied Measurement Professionals (AMP) Inc., is intended to help hospitals and other similar facilities prove that their nurses actually have the knowledge that they need to care for individuals that have aliments and/or injuries that are too severe and/or too difficult for other nurses to handle. The CCRN Exam includes 150 multiple-choice questions that will assess your knowledge of behavioral and psychosocial conditions, the cardiovascular system, the endocrine system, the gastrointestinal system, hematology and immunology, neurology, pulmonary function, professional care and ethics, the renal system, and conditions that affect multiple systems. It is important to note, however, that there are three main versions of the CCRN exam, and each version of the exam will assess your knowledge of a different set of conditions and procedures.

The three main versions of the exam include the Adult CCRN, the Neonatal CCRN, and the Pediatric CCRN. The Adult CCRN is intended for nurses that are planning to work in an ICU or another similar location that primarily handles the care of adults with severe medical conditions. The Neonatal CCRN is intended for nurses that are planning to work in a NICU or another similar location that handles the care of infants with severe medical conditions. The Pediatric CCRN is intended for nurses that are planning to work in a PICU or another similar location that handles the care of children with severe medical conditions. Each of these exams is intended for nurses that are working in a specific unit and/or a specific area of the critical care field, and it is important to note that some nurses may be required to take more than one exam if their duties require them to care for more than one type of patient (for example, an ER nurse may be required to care for adults, children, and infants in some cases.)

It is also important to note that a CCRN certification is not required by law and that some hospitals may allow you to work in an ER, an ICU, a NICU, or a PICU without a CCRN certification. This is because the CCRN certification is not a license, but is instead a credential that indicates that an individual knows more about acute care than a typical nurse. In other words, the CCRN does not necessarily indicate that an individual has met all of the legal requirements that he or she needs to meet to become a critical care nurse (because there typically aren’t any legal requirements for a critical care nurse beyond the requirements that a typical nurse must meet), but instead indicates that an individual knows how to take care of really sick patients.

In order to register for the CCRN Exam, you must have a Registered Nurse (RN) license or an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) license; prove that your license does not have any disciplinary restrictions on it (in fact, you will be required to inform the AACN if your license becomes restricted at any point before or after you take the exam); prove that you have spent at least 1,750 hours working in an acute care unit over the two years immediately before you register for the exam with at least 875 hours completed in the year before you register; and submit an application to the AACN Certification Corporation for review.

CMC Exam

The Cardiac Medicine Certification (CMC) Exam is a certification test that may help you obtain a position in a Coronary Care Unit (also known as a Cardiac Care Unit or a CCU), an Intensive Care Unit (ICU), or another similar unit that provides care to individuals with severe heart conditions. The CMC Exam, which is designed by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) and administered by Applied Measurement Professionals (AMP), Inc., is intended to help hospitals and other similar facilities prove that their nurses have the skills and knowledge that they need to care for patients that are suffering from a dysrhythmia, congestive heart failure, a heart attack (also known as a myocardial infarction or an MI), or another similar condition that severely limits the ability of the heart to function normally. The CMC Exam includes 90 multiple-choice questions that will assess your knowledge of anticoagulants, anti-platelet medications, and the potential problems that they can cause; acute coronary syndromes including angina and heart attacks; cardiology monitoring and interventions; cardiomyopathy; diabetes; dysrhythmias; electrolyte imbalances; heart disease; heart failure; hypertension; muscle ruptures; pulmonary monitoring and interventions; pulmonary issues; renal failure; strokes; and other similar topics. All of the questions on the CMC Exam are designed to test your knowledge of the conditions, equipment, and treatments that you may encounter and/or use in a CCU or another similar unit. However, it is important to note that the CMC Exam is designed to focus solely on the heart conditions that adults typically have, and the exam does not typically include questions related to the heart conditions that occur in infants of children (unless those conditions also occur in adults.)

It is also important to note that the CMC is not a standalone certification, and you will need another certification in acute care to obtain and maintain your CMC. This is because the CMC is considered to be a subspecialty certification, and you will need to have a specialty certification in order to obtain it. This means that you will need to have an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner Certification (ACNPC), a CCRN Certification, a Critical-Care Clinical Nurse Specialist (CCNS) Certification, a Progressive Care Certified Nurse (PCCN) certification, or another similar certification in good standing before you obtain your CMC. In fact, you will not only need to obtain a specialty certification, but will also need to maintain that certification for as long as you have the CMC because you cannot use the CMC unless you have another certification linked to it. The CMC is not required by law, and most hospitals will allow you to work in a CCU or another similar unit without a CMC. However, the CMC can be an excellent résumé-builder, and some hospitals may require you to obtain a CMC after you have worked in the unit for a certain length of time.

In order to register for the CMC Exam, you must have a Registered Nurse (RN) license or an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) license; prove that your license does not have any disciplinary restrictions on it (the AACN will actually require you to report the disciplinary restrictions that are placed on your license if it is restricted after you take the exam); prove that you have spent at least 1,750 hours working in an acute care unit over the two years immediately before you register for the exam with at least 875 hours completed in the year before you register; prove that you have spent at least 875 hours caring for individuals with severe cardiac conditions over the two years immediately before you register for the exam (the 875 hours in cardiac care counts towards the 1,750 acute care hours required); and submit an application to the AACN Certification Corporation for review.

PCCN Exam

The Progressive Care Certified Nurse (PCCN) Exam is a certification exam that you may need to take before or, in some cases, after you obtain a position in an emergency room (ER), a step-down unit, a telemetry unit, or another similar unit. This exam, which is designed by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) and administered by Applied Measurement Professionals (AMP), Inc., is intended to help hospitals and other similar facilities prove that their nurses can provide care to individuals that need to be monitored and/or receive serious medical attention, but do not necessarily require the level of medical attention that a patient in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU), a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), or another similar unit would typically require. The PCCN Exam is very similar to the CCRN exam as it includes 125 multiple-choice questions that will assess your knowledge of behavioral conditions, the cardiovascular system, the endocrine system, the gastrointestinal system, hematology and immunology, neurology, pulmonary function, professional care and ethics, the renal system, and conditions that affect multiple systems. However, it is important to note that the PCCN Exam primarily focuses on the cardiovascular and pulmonary conditions that a nurse might encounter in a step-down unit or a telemetry unit and that it does not have as many questions related to the other systems of the body as the CCRN exam does. In fact, approximately half of the questions on the PCCN exam are related to the cardiovascular and pulmonary conditions that a step-down or telemetry nurse may have to face. The questions on the exam, as a result, will focus heavily on the heart and lung issues that adults typically have, and there are rarely any questions related to infants or children.

It is also important to note that you may not need a PCCN Certification to work in a step-down unit, a telemetry unit, or another similar unit. This is because, while some hospitals will require you to obtain a PCCN before you begin working or after you have worked in the hospital for a certain period of time, step-down nurses and other similar nurses are not legally required to have a PCCN Certification. In fact, some hospitals may allow you to work in a telemetry unit as long as you have a Registered Nurse (RN) license or an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) license. However, most hospitals will require you to have an RN or APRN license, an Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) Certification, and other similar cardiac certifications before they will allow you to obtain a position in a telemetry or step-down unit.

The PCCN Exam has the same eligibility requirements as the CCRN Exam, and, in order to register for the exam, you need to have an RN license or an APRN license; prove that your license does not have any disciplinary restrictions on it (you will have to notify the AACN if your license is restricted after you register and/or after you take the exam); prove that you have spent at least 1,750 hours working in an acute care unit over the two years immediately before you register for the exam with at least 875 hours completed in the year before you register; and submit an application to the AACN Certification Corporation for review.