Nursing Certifications: The What, Why, and When

by | Jul 24, 2018 | Podcasts, Professional Development for Nurses | 0 comments

This podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, PlayerFM, iHeartRadio, Libsyn, Spotify, and Amazon Music.

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Who You’ll Hear

Kati Kleber, MSN RN– Nurse educator, former cardiac med-surg/stepdown and neurocritical care nurse, author, and speaker.

Melissa Stafford, BSN RN CCRN SCRN – highly experienced and currently practicing nationally certified neurocritical care nurse.

Elizabeth Mills, BSN RN CCRN – highly experienced neurocritical care nurse, current Stroke Navigator for a Primary Stroke Center.

Karen Kesten, DNP APRN CCRN-K CCNS CNE, chair of the certification board of directors for the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN). 

What You’ll Learn

  • Certifications
  • Exam vs NCLEX
  • Tips
  • Maintaining Nursing Certifications

Nursing Certifications: The What, Why, and When

In this episode, we talk about nursing certifications and why they are important to our profession, plus how to become certified.


  • A way to meet national standards in a specialty area
    • OB, mental health, med-surg, critical care, progressive care, dialysis, cardiac, etc. are just some examples
  • Essentially, you demonstrate that you meet this standard by practicing for a certain amount of hours (typically around 2 years full time at the bedside) and passing a rigorous exam
  • Long-term goal
  • Example:  CCRN (certified critical care nurse)
  • The Why? The Benefits of Nursing Certification
  • It feels amazing to pass the exam
  • Whenever you pass, you get to add letters behind your name
    • Kati Kleber, BSN RN CCRN
    • Melissa Stafford, BSN RN CCRN SCRN
    • Elizabeth Mills, BSN RN CCRN
  • Take a prep course
    • Check with the organization who gives the exam
      • For example, checking if the AACN has a review course for the critical care certification (spoiler alert: they do)
    • Online resources like review books are typically available

Certification exam vs. NCLEX®

  • It’s not computer adaptive (which means giving you a harder question based off of the answer to your previous question)
  • Experience really helps you answer the questions, while NCLEX® is very textbook
  • You typically find out if you pass immediately, versus going
  • You don’t have to go through your State Board of Nursing / Pearson Vue to take it, rather through the accrediting body (like AACN or ACCN)
  • Focuses a lot on the synergy model


  • See if your hospital/facility offers a review course or resources
  • See if your hospital/facility reimburses for the exam or will increase your pay for having a certification
  • Before you start to study…
    • Take a pre-test – tells you where to focus your time
    • Look at the blueprint for the exam so you know what’s on the exam
  • Question banks + a review course are really helpful

Maintaining your nursing certification

  • Every organization handles this differently, be aware of what’s expected of you before it’s time to renew
  • Typically, you must have a minimum amount of hours and many CEU’s OR you can take the test over again
  • Make sure you’re taking the CEU’s you need in the correct categories to maintain appropriately
  • Keep track of your paper trail of CEU’s

More Resources on Nursing Certifications

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Picture of Kati Kleber, founder of FRESHRN

Hi, I’m Kati.

Kati Kleber, MSN RN is a nurse educator, author, national speaker, host of the FreshRN® Podcast, and owner of FreshRN® – an online platform created to educate, encourage, and motivate newly licensed nurses in innovative ways.

Connect with her on YouTube, Pinterest, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook, and sign-up for her free email newsletter for new nurses.


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