PCCN Certification

As I pass the 2-year mark on my current unit, I am officially eligible to get my Progressive Care Certified Nurse (PCCN) certification. I’ve never really had an interest in going back to school to get my NP or practice somewhere that isn’t bedside. So getting certified feels like a way to continue growing and developing professionally. If you’re unfamiliar, the PCCN is a specialty certification for nurses who provide direct care to acutely ill adult patients who are moderately stable with an elevated risk of instability, compared to the CMSRN (Certified Med Surg Registered Nurse) that is just for Med Surg general care nurses. Here is a bit of a breakdown on the certification process, test, and perks at my hospital.

Eligibility Criteria

  • Two-Year Option: Practice as an RN or APRN for 1,750 hours in direct care of acutely ill adult patients during the previous two years, with 875 of those hours accrued in the most recent year preceding application
  • OR Five-Year Option: Practice as an RN or APRN for at least five years with a minimum of 2,000 hours in direct care of acutely ill adult patients, with 144 of those hours accrued in the most recent year preceding application

Exam Content

  • The PCCN exam is a 2½-hour test consisting of 125 multiple-choice items. Of the 125 items, 100 are scored and 25 are used to gather statistical data on item performance for future exams. The PCCN exam focuses on adult patient populations only.
  • The passing point/cut score for the exam is established using a panel of subject matter experts, an exam development committee, who carefully reviews each exam question to determine the basic level of knowledge or skill that is expected. The passing point/cut score is based on the panel’s established difficulty ratings for each exam question. 

Exam Reimbursement

  • As my hospital encourages certifications and continuing education, they make sure I will be reimbursed for the amount it costs for a member of the associated professional organization to take the test ($195)
  • If up front cost is an issue, they also have additional programs and grants I could apply for as well


  • Certification is good for 3 years, but comes with upkeep of required Continuing Education (CE) hours — 100 CEs required

Certification Bonus

  • Another perk of getting certified is employees who meet the eligibility criteria receive a $300 bonus for maintaining a certification above and beyond their job requirement(s) that is relevant to their current position


  • AACN website has links to review books, review courses, and practice tests
  • You can find review books online, in stores, or borrow one from a coworker
  • My hospital interweb has a whole section called “Nursing Certifications”. On that page you can find review materials, courses, practice questions, and free Continuing Education credits for renewal

Some of this information was gathered from the AACN website.

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