CCRN - Certification in Acute/Critical Care Nursing

  • Cost $250 to $365
  • Renews every 3 years

COURSE FORMAT

Online
In Person

About

The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) Certification Corporation administers board certification for nurses who provide direct care to patients in critical care and acute care settings. Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN) certification covers nurses caring for critically or acutely ill adult, pediatric or neonatal patients. CCRN certification validates nursing knowledge within the critical care specialty, with over 95,000 acute and critical care nurses certified in adult, pediatric, or neonatal nursing worldwide.

Course Format

CCRN certification is for registered nurses or advanced practice registered nurses (APRN) who care for critically and/or acutely ill patients in ICUs, PICUs, NICUs, neuro/neurosurgical ICUs, medical/surgical ICUs, combined ICU/CCUs, cardiac care units, emergency departments, trauma units, critical care transport/flight and nurse anesthesia, among other appropriate units. Three CCRN certifications are available based on patient populations:

  • CCRN (Adult) is a specialty certification for RNs/APRNs providing direct care to critically/acutely ill adult patients.

  • CCRN (Pediatric) is a specialty certification for RNs/APRNs providing direct care to critically/acutely ill pediatric patients.

  • CCRN (Neonatal) is a specialty certification for RNs/APRNs providing direct care to critically/acutely ill neonatal patients.

Completion Time: The 3-hour CCRN certification exam includes 125 scored items and 25 unscored used for statistical data gathering for future exams.

Cost: Initial CCRN Adult, Pediatric, or Neonatal certification costs $250 for AACN Members or $365 for Non-members. Retesting or Renewal by Exam costs $175 for AACN Members or $280 for Non-members. Renewal by Synergy CERPs is $150 for AACN Members and $230 for Non-members.

In Person

Applicants may take an in-person computer-based CCRN certification exam at one of 300-plus PSI testing locations nationwide. After scheduling the exam, applicants must arrive at the testing center 15 to 30 minutes before their scheduled appointment and present a government-issued ID with a photo and signature to the proctor. Testers can't take any reference materials or personal items into the testing center with them. In-person testing steps include:

  • Having photograph taken after being seated at computer

  • Taking optional practice text

  • Starting examination

    • The testing platform includes a digital notepad for tester's use

    • Testers can take breaks, but they're considered part of the exam time

  • Receiving results on-screen immediately upon completion of exam

    • Testers receive a detailed score report via email within 24 hours of completing the exam

Applicants who pass the exam will see their certification in the AACN’s online Certification Verification system the day after they take their exam. They may request a letter verifying their certification using this system. Letters may be emailed to the candidate, their employer and/or their State Board of Nursing.

Online

Applicants may take the CCRN exam online via Live Remote Proctoring (LRP), remotely monitored testing provided by PSI. Before taking the exam, applicants must confirm their computer operating system is compatible with the LRP platform. PSI recommends a Chrome-based browser. Online testing steps include:

  • Receiving an email from PSI with a link to the system compatibility verification tool

  • Using the tool to confirm system compatibility

    • Setup must include a microphone and webcam

  • Downloading a secure lock-down browser for taking the exam

    • The browser prohibits various actions, such as accessing other browns, copying and pasting, screen sharing, using dual monitors, etc.

  • Logging into the LRP platform 15 to 30 before scheduled exam appointment

  • Accessing exam session from the applicant's AACN customer dashboard

  • Launching the exam

    • A live proctor guides you through the check-in and exam process

  • Taking a photo of yourself and a government-issued ID using your webcam

    • ID must include a photo and signature

  • Scanning the room where the applicant is taking their test using their webcam

    • Testers can't have any reference materials or personal items in the testing area

Following check-in, the system releases the applicant's certification exam in the secure lock-down browser.

  • The live proctor monitors and records the entire exam session

  • The proctor can see and hear the tester, but the tester can't see or hear the proctor

  • The testing platform includes a digital notepad for tester's use

  • Testers can take breaks, but they're considered part of the exam time

  • Results display on-screen immediately upon completion of exam

  • Testers receive a detailed score report via email within 24 hours of completing the exam

Before beginning the exam, the proctor advises candidates of exam policy violations. If an applicant violates a policy, the proctor will either give them a warning or terminate the exam, depending on the type and number of violations. Violations include:

  • Covering mouth

  • Touching or covering face

  • Moving out of camera view

  • Covering the camera

  • Looking around or taking eyes off the computer screen

  • Closing eyes for longer than a blink

  • Tapping feet or fingers

  • Talking or reading exam questions aloud

  • Whispering or moving lips

  • Using a headset or earbuds

  • Having improper webcam placement

  • Having improper lighting

  • Having a phone or other device or papers of any kind in the exam area

  • Having other people in the room

  • Copying exam content or recording the screen

  • Browsing the Internet

  • Eating, drinking, or chewing gum

  • Losing Internet connection

  • Having system errors

  • Using explicit and/or abusive language aloud or over chat

  • Displaying explicit and/or abusive behavior

Applicants who pass the exam will see their certification in the AACN’s online Certification Verification system the day after they take their exam. They may request a letter verifying their certification using this system. Letters may be emailed to the candidate, their employer and/or their State Board of Nursing.

Certification

Eligibility requirements for Critical Care Registered Nurse certification in the Adult, Pediatric, or Neonatal category are identical, the only difference is the patient population provided care. Applicants for CCRN certification must have a current, unencumbered RN or APRN license and fulfill clinical practice hour requirements that include either:

  • Completing 1,750 hours of RN or APRN practice in the direct care of critically/acutely ill adult/pediatric/neonatal patients during the past two years with half those hours in the most recent year OR

  • Practicing as an RN or APRN for at least 5 years and completing at least 2,000 hours in direct care of critically/acutely ill adult/pediatric/neonatal patients with 144 of those hours in the most recent year.

Practice hours are verified by submitting the name and contact information of a clinical supervisor or colleague who will confirm in writing that the applicant has met the clinical hour requirements if selected for audit.

The application process includes registering online for computer-based testing or completing a paper application. Online registration must be paid for using a credit card and offers same-day processing. Paper applications must include credit card information or a check or money order to cover the application fee. Processing time takes between 2 and 4 weeks. All applicants receive a confirmation email and schedule their exam online with a PSI Testing Center or via Live Remote Proctoring from the applicant’s computer.

A paper exam is available but only for groups of nurses taking it at the same time and place. Requests for paper exams must be submitted at least 4 months before the desired exam date and all test takers must submit their applications and exam fees at least 8 weeks before the scheduled exam date. Candidates receive results 6 to 8 weeks after taking the paper exam.

Renewal

Critical Care Registered Nurse certification is valid for 3 years. Nurses may renew their CCRN certification either by retaking the appropriate CCRN exam or by meeting the requirements of the Renewal by Synergy CERPs program during the 3-year certification period. During this period, CCRN certified nurses must maintain current, unencumbered licenses and complete 432 hours in the direct care of critically or acutely ill patients with 144 of those hours completed within the most recent year.

For those choosing renewal by CERPs, they must complete at least 100 CERPs during the 3-year certification period, including:

  • 60 in Category A – Clinical Inquiry and Clinical Judgment

  • 10 in Category B – Advocacy & Moral Agency, Response to Diversity, Caring Practices and Facilitation of Learning

  • 10 in Category C – Collaboration and Systems Thinking

  • 20 in either Category A, B, or C

Continuing Education

Continuing Education Recognition Points (CERPs) are like continuing education units or contact hours. However, using the recognition system allows nurses to count activities that don’t strictly fall into traditional categories for contact hours, such as serving on committees or writing articles. CERPs may be needed for renewal.

Other Resources

Clinical practice hours eligible for exam use must be obtained in facilities based in the U.S. or Canada or facilities deemed comparable to the U.S. standard of critical/acute nursing practice based on Joint Commission International accreditation or Magnet designation. The majority of eligible hours must be spent actively providing direct care to or supervising nurses or nursing students caring for critically/acutely ill adult/pediatric/neonatal patients. 

AACN offers CCRN candidate handbook and certification practice exams online that provide the most realistic exam prep available, with practice questions identical to the style of actual exam questions. Applicants can sign up for a free one-time trial with seven day access. Basic access includes 30-day access for $25 for AACN members or $30 for non-members. Premium access includes 180-day access for $65 for AACN members or $75 for non-members.

Related Certifications

Next Steps

Critical Care Registered Nurse certification is for RNs or APRNs. A logical next step for RNs is to complete higher education and pursue an APRN role, which opens new career opportunities and pays more. Becoming an APRN requires a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) from an accredited nursing program.

Other related certifications include:

  • TeleICU Acute/Critical Care Nursing-Adult (CCRN-E) certification is for RNs or APRNs primarily working with acutely or critically ill adult patients in centralized or remotely-based teleICU networked via a computer and an audiovisual communication system.

  • Adult Certified ECMO Specialist (CES-A) certification is for registered nurses, respiratory therapists and allied health professionals responsible for monitoring adult Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) procedures.

  • Certified Correctional Health Professional (CCHP) validates the knowledge and skills of health professionals who have demonstrated a passion for working in a correctional facility.

  • Certified Correctional Health Professional - Advanced (CCHP-A) validates the knowledge and skills of health professionals who have experience and demonstrated a passion for working in a correctional facility.

  • Certified Correctional Health Professional - Registered Nurse (CCHP-RN) validates the knowledge and skills of registered nurses who have experience and demonstrated a passion for working with the incarcerated population.

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Frequently asked questions

Why would nurses want to obtain CCRN certification?

CCRN certification helps nurses maintain up-to-date knowledge on critical and acute care nursing. It also provides a sense of achievement and professional pride while promoting your advanced knowledge and skills in critical care nursing to your peers and supervisors.

When and where is the CCRN certification exam offered?

The Critical Care Registered Nurse certification is offered Monday through Saturday year-round when taken via computer-based testing, which is available at over 300 testing centers across the country.

How soon after taking the CCRN exam will applicants know whether they passed?

When taking the exam via computer-based testing, nurses receive their results on-screen immediately after completing the exam with a detailed report sent via email within 24 hours. For those taking a paper test, results are mailed within 6 to 8 weeks of completing the test. Wall certificates are mailed to all successful candidates about 3 to 4 weeks following exam results.

What happens if a candidate fails the CCRN exam?

Candidates may sit for the CCRN certification exam up to 4 times in 12 months, with discounted retest fees available until they pass.

What are some certifications I can pursue after obtaining CCRN certification?

You can pursue NIH Stroke Scale (NIHSS), among others.

What other certifications should I consider after getting the CCRN?

After obtaining the CCRN, you might also pursue the TeleICU Acute/Critical Care Nursing-Adult (CCRN-E), the Adult Certified ECMO Specialist (CES-A), the Certified Correctional Health Professional (CCHP), the Certified Correctional Health Professional - Advanced (CCHP-A) and the Certified Correctional Health Professional - Registered Nurse (CCHP-RN).