The CMC Certification Process: How To Become a Certified Cardiac Nurse

by | Jul 6, 2023 | Professional Development for Nurses, Cardiac | 0 comments

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If you’re ready to become a Certified Cardiac Nurse, then this is the best guide for you. I’ll explain everything about CMC certification. You’ll learn what it is, what the eligibility requirements are, and how to pass the test.

Read all about the CMC certification process including the eligibility requirements and how to pass so you can become a certified cardiac nurse.
Read all about the CMC certification process including the eligibility requirements and how to pass so you can become a certified cardiac nurse. #FreshRN #certification #nurse #nurses #CMC

What is The Cardiac Medicine Certification (CMC)?

The CMC certification is a specialty certification for nurses caring for acutely/critically ill adult cardiac medicine patients. CMC stands for Cardiac Medicine Certification and is a certification meant to demonstrate your expertise in the nursing care related to cardiac medicine.

You must be providing direct patient care to cardiac patients, are a nurse practitioner, educator, preceptor, manager, or are supervising nursing students caring for this specific patient population.

Once you take and pass the exam, you can add “CMC” to the end of your credentials. The CMC certification in nursing does not stand alone, however. It must be attached to another nursing certification (like CCRN, PCCN, or CCNS).

For example Jane Doe, BSN RN CCRN CMC

It’s always a great thing to add letters behind your name!

How is the CMC Certification Different from the CSC Certification?

If you’re a cardiac nurse you may be wondering what the difference between the CMC or CSC is. The CSC cardiac nursing certification is specific to cardiac surgical care. The CSC stands for Cardiac Surgical Certification.

The cardiac surgery certification focuses on the specialized care required for patients undergoing cardiac surgery, while the cardiac medicine certification encompasses a broader scope of non-surgical medical cardiac care. Let’s dig a little deeper into what this entails.

The cardiac surgery certification covers topics such as pre-operative assessment, intraoperative care during cardiac surgery, post-operative management, wound care, pain management, and complications specific to cardiac surgery patients. It emphasizes the technical aspects of caring for patients before, during, and after surgery, including the use of advanced surgical technologies and equipment. Surgeries can include coronary artery bypass grafts, valve surgeries, heart transplants, congenital defect repairs, aneurysm repairs, and more.

The cardiac medicine certification is designed for nurses who work in the field of non-surgical cardiac care, including cardiology units, cardiac telemetry units, step-down units, and cardiac rehabilitation programs. This certification focuses on the management and treatment of cardiac conditions through non-invasive or minimally invasive approaches.

The cardiac medicine certification covers a broad range of topics related to the diagnosis, treatment, and management of various cardiac conditions, such as coronary artery disease, heart failure, arrhythmias, valvular heart disease, and hypertension. It includes content on cardiac assessment, diagnostic tests and procedures, medication management, patient education, and rehabilitation strategies.

Both certifications provide nurses with specialized knowledge and skills to deliver high-quality care to patients with cardiac conditions, but they differ in their specific focus areas and the types of patient populations they primarily serve.

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Eligibility Requirements for CMC Certification

To be eligible for CMC certification, you must have an unencumbered nursing license – meaning not under any disciplinary actions, and it’s a current license. You must hold a clinical nursing specialty certification like the CCRN, PCCN, or CCNS. This is a specialty certification that you add to another certification. You cannot get this all by itself.

Examples of acceptable clinical nursing certifications include, but are not limited to: CCRN, CCRN-E, PCCN, ACNPC, ACNPC-AG, CCNS, ACCNS-AG, CEN, CMSRN, CNOR, CRNFA, CPAN, etc.

If you don’t already have another certification, check out this blog post about how to pass the CCRN exam, which is the broadest adult certification listed above.

You also need to have some practice hours caring for acutely/critically ill adult cardiac medicine patients to be able to sit for the exam. Specifically, you need 1,750 hours as an RN or APRN OR be an RN or APRN with 5 years of experience and a minimum of 2,000 hours with 144 of those hours in the most recent year. Please keep in mind that these hours must be verifiable by someone else. You’ll be required to list someone who can verify that you do work in an approved area.

These requirements are all directly from the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN), who write the exam and provide the certification itself. If you’re not sure if you’re eligible or if the area you work in counts, you can always ask your educator or manager directly… or even contact the AACN.

I’ve had my CCRN since 2015 and have had to contact them a few times and they’re always easy to get a hold of, responsive, and kind. When in doubt, reach out.

How to Sit For The CMC Exam

The certification process is pretty straight forward.

Before you sit down at the exam, you need to complete the application process to get approved to test.

This means filling out the application on the AACN’s website (you’ll have to create an account first if you don’t already have one). Part of this application is providing the name and contact information of a colleague or manager who can verify your eligibility to sit for the CMC.

You’ll need to provide some demographic information as well as sign an honor statement.

You’ll be required to pay the certification fees. For your initial certification, this fee is $140 for AACN members and $230 for non-members. As of the writing of this article, active membership to the AACN is only $78. I recommend joining CCRN because you’ll save on your CMC certification exam fees, get unlimited access to free CE (you’ll need that to renew your CCRN), and other perks like clinical resources, discounts, and their online community. If you don’t find benefit after the first year, you can always cancel.

You’ll submit your application and wait for approval. This typically takes about 2-4 weeks. Once all that information is processed, they’ll contact you (via email and postcard) to let you know that you’re good to go!

After you receive your approval notification, you have 90 days to schedule your exam.

Essentially, you only want to start this process if you know you want to test and have already started studying.

What Score Do You Need to Pass the CMC Certification Exam?

This information comes directly from the exam handbook.

The exam is a total of 90 questions, with 15 of them not counting towards the final score. You’ve got two hours to take the exam.

To pass the CMC, you must get at least 52 questions out of the score 75 questions correct. This translates to getting approximately 69% of the answers correct.

Pro-Tip! Critical Care Clinical Nurse Specialist, Nicole Kupchik, recommends, “If you come across a question that you have NO idea the answer, tell yourself it’s a question that doesn’t count! Don’t psych yourself out if you don’t know the answer. There will be some questions that you’re aren’t completely sure about!”. (Source: Ace the CMC®: You Can Do It! Ace the CMC®: You Can Do It! by Nicole Kupchik, pages xi-xii)

What’s On the CMC Certification Exam?

CMC percentages min

Again, this information comes directly from the AACN and is the exam blueprint (page 10).

  1. Cardiovascular patient care is 43% of the CMC exam. This includes caring for patients with acute coronary syndrome, dysrhythmias, heart failure, vascular issues, and other cardiac issues and complications (like tamponade, pericardial effusion, pulmonary edema, sudden cardiac death, and more).
  2. Other patient care problems are 19% of the CMC exam. This includes pulmonary issues, diabetes, hematology/immunology, neurology, renal, multisystem, and behavioral issues.
  3. Therapeutic interventions consist of 23% of the exam. This touches on intra-aortic balloon pumps, various cardiac and vascular procedures (caths, grafts, PCI and stents, pericardiocentesis), the pharmacology of cardiovascular meds, pacemakers, ablations, cardioversions, defibrillation, AICDs, and more.
  4. Finally, monitoring and diagnostics consist of 16% of the exam. This includes various labs (ABGs, BNP, creatinine, electrolytes – HELLO POTASSIUM), ECGs, echocardiograms, CVP, PA catheters, stress testing, pulse oximetry, end-tidal CO2, and more.

If you wanted to get a little preview of what the test questions are like, page 11 of the exam blueprint has eight of them.

How Do I know if I Passed the CMC Exam?

It’s not like the NCLEX where you have to wait for a while or pay to find out earlier. You will find out immediately after the exam whether or not you passed.

What’s the Renewal Process Like for the CMC Certification?

The certification lasts three (3) years. You can either retake the exam after three years, or you can renew it with something called CERPs.

CERPs are continuing education recognition points and are unique to the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN). The AACN offers a ton (I mean, so so so many) different continuing education opportunities in various forms on a wide array of categories.

aacn ce min

They do that so people who renew their certifications aren’t getting a ton of hours in one very specific category. It wouldn’t be helpful to renew a CCRN (the critical care certification) with all of your hours on advocacy and nothing on the latest evidence related to patient care.

Basically, to renew this certification you need to get 25 CERPs from Category A under clinical judgment pertaining to cardiac medicine over the course of 3 years.

As an AACN-certified nurse who has had to report CERPs before, the AACN website is really straightforward in calculating these even though it sounds confusing at first glance. You can report and record all of your hours there, and if you take them through the AACN’s website directly (or go to one of their conferences like NTI), it auto-populates for you into your profile.

You just log in and click on “Transcripts” in your profile and it shows you your total CERP count and how many you have for each category.

See below to check out my profile:

Read all about the CMC certification process including the eligibility requirements and how to pass so you can become a certified cardiac nurse.

Study Materials for the CMC Exam

Having good review materials for your CMC exam is critical. If you want to get started studying for the exam, first ask yourself if you want to just get a review book and practice questions or have a full online course review.

A question bank is a great resource for any certification exam. For a standalone book with a review and 100 practice questions with rationale, check out this one. (And next time you’re at the AACN’s annual critical care conference, NTI, make sure you look for the author, Nicole Kupchik, as she is often a featured speaker!).

If you just want an online course to serve as your CMC review, here is one that will provide 6.0 CE’s, a downloadable PDF study guide, and follows the exam blueprint. (Please note, the course by itself does not have practice questions.)

If you want both and would like to save a little cash, you can bundle the course and book and save about $20.

Take Your Cardiac Nursing Skills to The Next Level

More CCRN Resources

Now that you know everything you need to know about CMC certification, here is even more information about critical-care nursing.

Want to get ahead of the game for your first day as a cardiac nurse?

Cardiac Confidence Course

Cardiac Confidence from FreshRN® is your one-stop ultimate resource and online course, crafted specifically for brand new cardiac nurses. If you want to get ahead of the game so instead of merely surviving orientation, you’re thriving all the way through from day one to day done - this is the course for you.

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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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