CCRN Certification

What is CCRN? The CCRN certification is a highly desired level of expertise that is earned by the most confident and knowledgeable of nurses. After all, as a nurse, there are many times in our practice that we may hesitate when making a decision. Wouldn’t it be better to base our decisions on more knowledge in order to make the correct choice? The CCRN will boost a nurse’s confidence and allow them to better advocate for patients.

The CCRN stands for “Critical Care Registered Nurse,” although the certification itself does not guarantee that the nurse in question has an RN license as opposed to an LPN license. It is offered by the AACN (American Association of Colleges of Nursing), a professional accreditation body.

There are different versions of the CCRN certification exam: one for Pediatrics, one for Adults, and one for Neonates. Which one you take depends on your area of specialty as a nurse.

CCRN Requirements

What are the CCRN requirements? In order to be eligible to take the exam, a nurse must have their official license and meet one of two clinical requirements. The first is to have practiced as an RN or APRN for 1,750 hours in direct bedside care of acutely and/or critically ill patients during the previous two years, with 875 of those hours accrued in the most recent year before applying. The second is to have practiced as an RN or APRN for at least five years with a minimum of 2,000 hours in direct bedside care of acutely and/or critically ill patients, with 144 of those hours accrued in the most recent year before applying. Nurses who do not have enough experience may not sit for the exam. If a nurse has enough experience in two or all three categories, however, he or she may sit for those exams at the same time.


Most nurses will elect to take one specialty at a time even if they are eligible for more than one. Each test will ask nurses questions about every aspect of their area of study, including every body system, nursing care questions, and psychosocial questions. There are countless review books and courses to study for the CCRN, but the best teacher is time. The Critical Care Nursing Certification should not be rushed into, and it is recommended that least a month or two of serious study be dedicated to each clinical area.

The CCRN exam is three hours in length with 150 questions, 125 of them scored and 25 unscored. The latter 25 are used to gain statistical data on question performance for future exams. The questions are based on the AACN Synergy Model for Patient Care: 80% focuses on clinical judgment and 20% focuses on Professional Caring and Ethical Practice. What is the AACN Synergy model? It’s the idea that patient outcomes are closely linked to nursing clinical care; therefore, clinical care should be implemented based on evidenced-based practice. This practice has shown that clinical skill is not the only thing linked to better outcomes- professional caring, response to diversity, and many other skills are a few of the qualities that a competent nurse must possess.

CCRN Salary

Once you have obtained your Critical Care Certification, you are eligible for the higher end of the salary scale of your specialty. Assuming you are an actual registered nurse, you can expect to make up to $87,000 per year in salary depending on the amount of responsibility your job position entails. That’s a decent increase from the typical RN salary that has an average of $66,000 per year salary.

You may be a candidate for a more leadership-driven position such as nursing supervisor or clinical manager once you receive your CCRN. It all depends on what environment you wish to work in. Many nurses may choose to simply use their new skills and knowledge in clinical practice and forego any advancement besides an intellectual one. Either is satisfying and will add immensely to your nursing practice.