Find answers to all your questions about CSC nursing certification in this complete guide. Learn how to study for it, how many practice hours you need, and more!
CSC Nursing Certification – What You Need To Know
Have you ever wondered how to get a CSC nursing certification? I’m going to answer all your questions about it right now. Bookmark this post, you’ll be coming back.
If you would rather watch my video you can.
What is CSC Nursing Certification?
The Cardiac Surgery Certification (CSC) is a subspecialty certification for nurses who already have another certification, like the CCRN and PCCN.
To get this certification, you must have another certification to attach it to. The CSC is for nurses who take care of patients within the first 48 hours postoperatively in a cardiovascular/thoracic ICU, stepdown, floor, or PACU.
If you’re interested in this certification but need to get a certification to attach it to first, never fear! We’ve got your back. Nicole teaches an outstanding CCRN review. I interviewed her recently about it on how to pass the CCRN Certification post.
How many many practice hours do you need to take it?
There are two options for obtaining enough practice hours for the exam.
- Practice as an RN or APRN with 1,750 in the last 2 years (875 must be in the most recent year). Of the total, 875 must be caring for patients within the first 48 hours postoperatively in the CV or cardiothoracic surgery or PACU
- Practice as an RN or APRN for at least 5 years with a minimum of 2,000 hours in direct care of acutely/critically ill adult patients, with 144 of those hours accrued in the most recent year preceding application. Of those 2,000 hours, 1,000 need to be in the care of acutely/critically ill adult cardiac surgery patients within the first 48 hours postoperatively.
How long does the certification last?
This is a 3-year certification. You can renew with continuing education credits or by testing again. You would renew with the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN).
If you decide to renew with continuing education credits, there are very specific requirements for them. That process is spelled out on their website, and it’s certainly not something you can do at the last minute. You definitely need to plan to get these done well before your certification expires.
What types of jobs can you get with this certification?
This is a certification you can get after working in a position for a certain number of hours as I explained earlier in this post. It is not something you do to get a job.
Nurses with this certification typically work in cardiovascular intensive care units (CVICU), post-anesthesia care units (PACU), or specialty recovery units specific to cardiac surgery (CVRU).
What kinds of topics are tested on in the CSC Certification Exam?
Nicole Kupchik, the author of a super-popular CSC exam review course, said it best. She explains that “the CSC is highly focused on hemodynamics and bleeding.”
These are the topics on the exam and how frequently they appear, according to the super-popular CSC exam review course provided by the AACN.
- Procedures (19%)
- Cardiovascular procedures like CABG, MAZE, congenital heart defect repairs, valve surgery
- Thoracic procedures like aneurysm repair, surgical treatment of esophageal & lung CA
- Complications (31%)
- Cardiovascular – cardiogenic shock, blood pressure issues, MI, hypovolemia, heart failure, tamponade
- Pulmonary – ARDS, air leaks, atelectasis, pneumos, pleural effusions, pulmon HTN
- Endocrine – blood sugar issues
- All the rest… Hematology, neuro, GI, renal, multisystem, and behavioral (like adjustment disorders)
- Therapeutic interventions (36%)
- Monitoring and diagnostics (15%)
How many times can you take the CSC Nursing Certification Exam?
According to the handbook, if you don’t pass you can take it up to 4 times within 12 months. You’ll get a discount if you re-test within 90 days.
After 12 months, a new honor statement is required.
How much should I study for the exam?
I asked Nicole this question, and she said she would study for this exam the same way you would have studied for the CCRN. Nicole recommends that you mentally plan on studying about 3-4 days/week for about 15-30 minutes for a total of 6-8 weeks.
Know that studying should include both a content review and some practice questions.
About two weeks before your test date, plan to take 1-2 full practice exams to get yourself mentally and physically prepared to sit and answer questions successfully for an extended period of time. (super-popular CSC exam review course has two full practice exams.)
If you want a CCRN study guide calendar, I’ve got your back!
How much do nurses with this certification make?
This would be tough to say honestly – some hospitals pay more for specialty certifications, some don’t. Because studying for this exam and taking the test are financial and time investments, I would highly recommend how your hospital compensates nurses who go the extra mile for embarking on this professional development journey.
Your hospital may actually pay for this certification and testing materials! You should definitely ask your hospital if they offer reimbursement for the exam, and if so how you would go about doing so.
(When I took my CCRN back in 2015, my hospital paid for the certification and review material, and it counted towards my clinical ladder which is how raises were calculated.)
CSN Nursing Certification Resources
Are you ready to prepare for the exam? Awesome! Here are some resources and a study guide that can help you out.
- Cardiac Surgery Essentials for Critical Care Nursing (Third Edition) from the AACN
- Cardiac Surgery Essentials for Critical Care Nursing (Second Edition) from the AACN
- CSC Exam Flashcard and Study System from Momentrix
- Manual of Perioperative Care in Adult Cardiac Surgery from Robert M. Bojar (this one isn’t for the CSC specifically, but provides a great overview and is a solid reference for CV surgery patient care)
Cardiac Surgery Essentials for Critical Care NursingCardiac Surgery Essentials for Critical Care NursingFlashcard Study System for the CSCS Exam: CSCS Test Practice Questions & Review for the Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist Exam (Cards)Manual of Perioperative Care in Adult Cardiac Surgery
The Best CSC Review Study Guide
The CSC is an incredibly specific exam, and therefore there isn’t a lot out there on it.
Nicole Kupchik MN, RN, CCNS, CCRN-K, PCCN-K has practiced as a critical care nurse for over 25 years and has her MN with a specialty as a Clinical Nurse Specialist. She teaches multiple certification reviews – and has published a CSC study guide!
Her CSC study guide is concise, yet thorough. You can check it out here.
More CCRN Resources
If you’re looking for CCRN resources as well, I’ve written a few blog posts on that and think you’ll find them helpful.
- Ultimate List of CCRN Prep Courses and Books
- How to Pass the CCRN
- Top Tips for New Grad Nurses in ICU
- Nursing Certifications – The What, Why, How, and When FreshRN Podcast