One of the perks of nursing is that there are so many different specialties to choose from. While some prefer the organized, systematic pace of case management, for example, others may prefer a more unpredictable environment such as in the emergency room or intensive care unit. Critical care is a field in which nurses must expect the unexpected- and be able to treat patients quickly no matter what may present.

Why Do I Need a Critical Care Nursing Certification?

Because critical care is so specialized, it's a good idea for nurses to earn certification in the field. One reason why it's important to earn certification is that it is usually required by the employer for nurses who provide direct patient care. However, it also demonstrates a high level of skill and competency for not only nurses, but APRNs, nurse managers, and clinical nurse specialists. It is also a desirable attribute for those looking for a new career or those wanting to climb the clinical ladder or return to school.

Where Can I Get a Critical Care Nursing Certification?

The American Association of Critical Care Nurses has many options for nurses. The organization offers certification for adult, neonatal, and pediatric critical care, and also offers certification for those who do not perform direct patient care.

American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN)

Certificate Names: Acute/Critical Care Nursing (adult, pediatric, neonatal), Acute/Critical Care Knowledge Professional (adult, pediatric, and neonatal-not providing direct patient care), Tele-ICU Acute/Critical Care Nursing (for those working behind a camera for remote tele-ICU locations), Progressive Care Nursing, Progressive Care Knowledge Professional (for those not providing direct patient care), Cardiac Medicine, Cardiac Surgery, Acute Care NP, CNS Wellness through Acute Care (adult, pediatric, neonatal)

Credentials Awarded: CCRN (adult, pediatric, neonatal), CCRN-K (adult, pediatric, neonatal), CCRN-E, PCCN, PCCN-K, CMC, CSC, ACNPC-AG, ACCNS-AG, ACCNS-P, ACCNS-N

Cost: The cost can vary depending on the type of critical care certification. Prices start at $130 for members, $215 for non-members. Nurses can determine the exact cost by selecting the appropriate certification.

Certification Requirements & Eligibility

As with the cost, the specific requirements differ based on the type of critical care certification. The adult Acute/Critical Care requirements, for example, include the following:

  • Applicant must have an unencumbered RN or APRN license
  • Must have practiced a minimum of 1,750 hours as an RN/APRN caring directly for critically ill patients within two years of application, 850 hours of which need to be within one year of application, or:
  • Have practiced as an RN/APRN in critical care for at least five years, and have practiced a minimum of 2,000 hours indirect patient care, with 144 of those hours within one year of application

More detailed eligibility requirements can be found in the specific certification's handbook.

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