Stroke nurse certification
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Grow Your Career with Stroke Nurse Certification

Advancing your registered nurse (RN) skills can open new career opportunities, especially if you work toward certification in a specialty. A career as a stroke or neurology nurse is a challenging yet rewarding path. Once you earn the relevant stroke nurse certification, you’ll work directly with patients with neurological conditions who require ongoing support. Assessing patients and helping create effective, unique treatment plans are crucial parts of your job as a neurology nurse.

What Is a Stroke or Neurology Nurse?

Stroke nurses, also called neurology or neuroscience nurses, help patients with brain and spinal disorders. Duties include providing immediate trauma treatment, ongoing care in hospital environments to manage patient symptoms and working alongside care teams to support patients’ care and healing post-discharge.

RNs may work as neurology nurses or pursue advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) status and become neurology nurse practitioners. Neurology nurses hold an RN license and specialty certification, enabling them to carry out additional nursing duties. They work directly with patients to plan, oversee and administer support. Patients who require care from a stroke nurse may have suffered a stroke or been diagnosed with:

  • Brain tumors
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Brain or spinal injuries
  • Other neurological conditions

Stroke nurses begin their care by assessing, then monitoring a patient’s condition. They collaborate with a care team to create a treatment plan and offer rehabilitation or end-of-life care as needed. The role of a neurology nurse is highly skilled and requires warmth and compassion to help patients feel comfortable during treatment.

What Does a Stroke or Neurology Nurse Do?

Neurology nurses have a wide array of responsibilities. They provide direct patient care to help treat conditions or symptoms resulting from a neurological injury or an illness that’s neurological in nature. These positions require incredible patience and compassion because it can take a long time for neurological patients to recover. 

Neurology nurses work with neurological doctors to assess a patient’s condition and symptoms. They provide and coordinate treatments ordered by doctors, including administering medications and working with other healthcare staff to conduct tests or scans. Nurses and other care providers collaborate to create and implement a proactive treatment plan once they receive test results and additional pertinent information.

Stroke nurses may be involved in: 

  • Helping patients recover bodily functions
  • Providing appropriate therapies and rehabilitation
  • Providing preoperative and postoperative care
  • Monitoring neurological activity during treatment
  • Educating families about ongoing treatment and care
  • Making sure the patient remains comfortable

Each day looks different for every nurse, but especially for neurology nurses due to the unpredictable nature of brain and nervous system conditions. Besides the direct care they provide, stroke nurses must also complete seamless handovers at the beginning and end of each shift.

Solid handovers include ensuring other staff members are aware of any patient changes and test results and treatment details are up to date. Stroke nurses may stay a little late or come in early for a shift to ensure the required communication between nursing shifts happens.

What Facilities Employ Stroke Nurses?

Stroke nurses often work in the stroke care units, neuro-intensive care units or general ICUs of hospitals. They may also work in dedicated neurology units or other areas of a hospital that might see patients with neurological conditions. Babies and children may have a designated neurology nurse within the pediatric ward to help them through trauma or inherited conditions.

Brain injury clinics might also employ specialist stroke nurses who can provide their expertise and work out treatment and recovery plans for people with injuries affecting the brain and spinal cord. Doctors with private neurology practices may also have specialty nurses on staff. Facilities that care for elderly patients, such as nursing homes and skilled nursing centers, may benefit from having a stroke nurse on staff as the risk of having a stroke increases with age.

Stroke Nurse Salary Data

A career as a neurology nurse is considered one of the highest-paying RN specialties. Based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Vivian’s salary tool, the average hourly rate for a neurology nurse practitioner was $53.77 in October 2022. California was the highest paying state, with a maximum hourly salary of $91. Neurology RNs were earning an average of $37.24 hourly, with a high of $79 per hour in California. 

As in any RN specialty, salary can significantly depend on where you work and your education and experience levels. Some cities and states traditionally pay more than others, and the work setting can also play a role in your base salary and career potential.

What Licenses Do Stroke Nurses Need?

Nursing students

To begin your career as a neurology nurse, you must first become an RN. Start by earning your nursing degree, either a two-year Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). After graduation, you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses exam to earn state nursing licensure. All states require licensure to become a professional nurse.

If your goal is to become an APRN and pursue a neurology NP role in the future, you may want your BSN to prepare you for earning your Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). You need your MSN to qualify for advanced practice roles. You can take an RN-to-BSN program that allows you to jump from an ADN to an MSN in about two years if necessary.

Once you’re a licensed RN and gain clinical experience, you can explore your certification options to become a neurology nurse. 

What Certifications Exist for Stroke Nurses?

Whether you want to become a certified neurology or stroke nurse, the American Board of Neuroscience Nurses (ABNN) offers professional certification. Options include Stroke Certified Registered Nurse (SCRN) and Certified Neuroscience Registered Nurse (CNRN). You may also opt to earn your National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale (NIHSS) certification developed by the American Stroke Association, American Academy of Neurology and National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Professional certification in your chosen field often provides you with greater responsibility, leading to a higher salary, more career opportunities and a higher level of trust from your patients and employer.

Stroke Certified Registered Nurse Certification

SCRN certification proves you have the knowledge, skills and ability to help stroke patients through high-quality care in hyperacute, acute and post-acute settings. Applicants have three hours to complete the exam, which consists of 150 scored questions and 20 unscored pre-test questions for research purposes.

To be eligible to take the SCRN exam, you must hold a valid RN license issued in the U.S. state or territory or Canada. as an RN in the U.S. or Canada. The ABNN also considers International candidates with comparable licensure if they can read and understand English.

You also must have worked as an RN directly or indirectly within a stroke setting, full-time for at least a year or 2,080 hours within the last 3 years. Positions must be in clinical practice or employment as a consultant, researcher, educator or administrator.

Once you pass and obtain certification, it’s valid for 5 years. To renew, you must either retake the exam or earn continuing education (CE) hours while working a set number of hours. There are options for renewing:

  1. Work 4,160 stroke nursing practice hours within the past five years and pass the current certification exam
  2. Work 4,160 stroke nursing practice hours within the past five years and earn 50 CE hours
  3. Work 2,500 stroke nursing practice hours within the past five years and earn 100 CE hours

Certified Neuroscience Registered Nurse Certification

A CNRN certificate helps you achieve neurology nursing specialization and is the only credential representing your knowledge and experience in delivering high-quality care to patients with neurological trauma, tumors, chronic illnesses, seizures, infections and other conditions. Thus, you might treat patients with brain trauma, spinal cord injuries and neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s. 

To qualify for this exam, you must have an active RN license within any U.S. state or territory, or Canada. The ABNN may also consider internationally trained nurses with comparable licensure who speak and under English.

You must also have one year of full-time experience, equivalent to 2,080 hours, working directly or indirectly in neuroscience nursing within the past three years. Experience may include working in a clinical setting as a nurse or in related research, education, consultant or administration jobs. 

As with the SCRN certification, the CNRN lasts for 5 years. To renew, you must have:

  1. Worked 4,160 stroke nursing practice hours within the past five years and passed the current certification exam
  2. Worked 4,160 stroke nursing practice hours within the past five years and earned 50 CE hours
  3. Worked 2,500 stroke nursing practice hours within the past five years and earned 100 CE hours

NIH Stroke Scale Certification

You don’t have to be a stroke or neurology nurse to take the NIHSS exam. Any nurse, medical student, therapist, clinical researcher, neurologist or other healthcare professional working with stroke patients benefits from understanding and learning how to apply the NIH stroke scale.

NIHSS certification is available through the American Heart Association and teaches candidates how to use the internationally-recognized NIH stroke scale to assess acute stroke. The NIHSS helps you accurately and consistently evaluate the severity of a patient’s symptoms by measuring 15 areas affected by a stroke. It involves asking patients questions and having them perform simple tasks, then scoring various areas such as consciousness, language and motor strength. 

To pass, you must use the stroke scale to assess a group of six patients with varying degrees of neurological deficit. Test Completion Certificates document compliance of NIHSS certification. These certificates are valid for up to one year. To renew, you must assess a new group within 12 months of the previous certification date.

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