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Is the CCRN Certification Worth Your Investment?

*Original post released 5/10/2023

If you’re a critical care nursing working in some variation of an intensive care unit, you’ve likely asked yourself this very question – “Is pursuing a CCRN certification worth the time and investment?” While that is ultimately your personal decision, I’d like to take the time to give my opinion about certification after having held my own CCRN title for the past three years. In this article, we’ll discuss what the benefits of CCRN certification are, some certification statistics, and potential drawbacks to certification. Hopefully this article helps you decide if sitting for your critical care registered nurse certificate is worth doing for you personally.

Let’s jump in, starting with the benefits of getting certified as a critical care registered nurse (CCRN). First and foremost, and probably the most enticing to nurses is the potential for pay differential or bonus pay upon certification. Many facilities will issue a voucher or reimburse for the cost of the certification and/or learning materials to prepare for the exam. Aside from the financial benefits of certification, holding this cert also boosts your resume, making your application for a job or graduate school that much more appealing. This is especially important for those nurses interested in pursuing CRNA school! Holding this certificate makes you more versatile and marketable for future jobs, units, facilities, and locations across the United States.

Obtaining your CCRN certification can help increase your self confidence, knowledge and skills, critical thinking ability, competency, and implementation of patient-centered evidence-based care. For employers, this is enticing because it can result in reduced patient complications, fewer medical and medication errors, and safer decision making by nursing staff. Additionally, it outwardly displays your expertise to colleagues, other healthcare professionals (HCPs), and patients/family members. To your nursing management, it demonstrates initiative to learn and qualify for a certification in your specialty that is not necessarily required of you.

Holding a CCRN certification is a competitive accolade that leaves you with the opportunity to pursue sub-specialty certifications such as those in cardiac medicine (CMC) and cardiac surgery (CSC). To put this into perspective, as of 2023, the AACN reported that the United States has a total of 84,295 CCRN certified nurses (as compared to a total of 4.2 million RNs country wide). That means that of all registered nurses, only 2% hold this certification. Now here’s a little more perspective! The total number of RNs with the CCRN-CMC certification, nation wide, is only a mere 3,556 nurses (or 0.085% of all RNs and 4.2% of those CCRNs). Similarly, and even more competitively, the total number of RNs with the CCRN-CSC certification, nation wide, is 3,322 nurses (or 0.079% of all RNs and 3.9% of those CCRNs). As a CCRN-CMC certification holder personally, there are only at total of 323 nurses in my state of Texas with the same certification. I am one of 323 nurses who are certified in the same specialty as myself! How neat is that?

Now let’s discuss some of the drawbacks of getting your CCRN certification. This exam is a difficult one to master, regardless of how long you’ve been a nurse in the ICU setting. It can be incredibly time consuming to prepare for, expensive to invest in review materials for studying, and it requires studying in your off time outside of work. The cost of the exam, if not covered or reimbursed by your employer, is not cheap either at the price of $250 for AACN members or $365 for non members. If you don’t pass on the first attempt, you’re looking at paying that price a second time to retake the exam; if your employer does cover the cost and you don’t pass on the first try, you will likely be responsible for paying to retake the exam. According to the AACN, the organization that creates the exam and maintains certifications, one in three or 33% of test takers do not pass this exam. Finally, recertification requires much of your time as you’ll be expected to participate in and accumulate a total of 100 CE credits from three specific areas of critical care nursing practice.

In short, I personally believe getting your CCRN certification as an ICU nurse is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your professional career. I firmly believe that the benefits of certification and the prestige associated with certification far outweigh the *potential* drawbacks. Ultimately, it’s something you’ll have to decide for yourself, but I hope you give yourself the chance to succeed and obtain the certification! In the meantime, check out these articles about the CCRN exam:

Until next time, happy studying!

Andra Alyse

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