PCCN Test Information

The Progressive Care Certified Nurse (PCCN) exam is given as a way to evaluate an individual’s ability to provide direct care for acutely ill adult patients. Those who want to become a Progressive Care Certified Nurse will need to pass the PCCN exam. The exam is offered by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN) and helps candidates to keep their knowledge of caring for acutely ill patients up-to-date.

PCCN Test Information

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Who is eligible to take the exam?

Those eligible to take the PCCN exam must have a current, unencumbered U.S. RN or APRN license. A candidate must also complete one of the following clinical practice hour requirements:

  • Two Year Option:
    • The two-year option includes practice as an RN or APRN for 1,750 hours providing direct care to acutely ill adult patients. 875 of these hours will need to have been acquired in the most recent year preceding the application.
  • Five Year Option:
    • The five-year option includes practice as an RN or APRN for a minimum of five years with at least 2,000 hours providing direct care to acutely ill adult patients. 144 of these hours will need to have been acquired in the most recent year preceding the application.

Clinical practice hours must be completed at a U.S.-based or Canada-based facility, or an equivalent, and must be verifiable by your clinical supervisor or a professional colleague. In order to verify your practice hours, the name and contact information of the professional colleague must be given.

How much does it cost to take the exam?

The exam costs are different for members of AACN and non-members. For members of AACN, the exam fee is $185, and for non-members, it is $285. If you need to retest, the fee for members of AACN is $135, and for non-members, the fee is $215. For exam renewal, the fee for AACN members is $135, and for non-members, it is $215.

How do I register for the exam?

You may register for the exam either online or by mail. To register online visit the official AACN website. Be sure to have all the necessary information including your RN or APRN license number, your clinical supervisor’s or your professional colleagues’ information, and your credit card (Mastercard, Visa, Discover, or American Express) with you. The online application has same day processing. If you are mailing your application, you will need to allow 2-3 weeks for it to process.

For both the online and paper application, you will need to use your legal name, which is the same name printed on your identification and your certificate.

What happens after I register?

After you register for the exam, you will:

  • Receive notice of your processed application from AACN.
  • You will also receive an approval-to-test email approximately 10-days after getting your confirmation email. This will include instructions to schedule your testing appointment, the 90-day period during which you must take your exam, and your exam identification number. This email is extremely important, so be sure to keep it handy.

When can I take the exam and where will I be taking it?

The exam is given twice daily, Monday through Friday at 9 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Saturday appointments are available at most locations. You will be taking the exam at one of the 300 PMI/AMP testing centers located throughout the U.S. To find a location that is convenient for you, visit www.goAMP.com.

How is the PCCN exam formatted?

The PCCN exam is either computer-based or paper and pencil and consists of 125 multiple-choice questions. 100 of these questions are scored while the other 25 are used to gather information for future exams. You will have 2 hours and 30 minutes to complete the exam.

How is the exam scored?

The PCCN exam is scored based on a passing point/cut score, meaning that an individual’s test score is measured against a predetermined score. The cut score for the exam is an 87.

Upon completion of a computer-based exam, a test taker will be provided with their score immediately after. For paper and pencil exams, a test taker can expect their score in the mail 3 to 4 weeks after completing it.

Am I able to retake the exam if I fail it?

Yes. You may retake the PCCN exam up to 4 times in a 12-month period. Those retaking the exam will receive a discounted retest fee until the exam is passed.

What will I be tested on?

80% of the PCCN exam is based on Clinical Judgement, which includes subtopics such as:

  • Cardiovascular (27%) – This section includes subtopics such as acute coronary syndromes; cardiogenic shock; dysrhythmias; heart failure; vascular disease; and cardiac tamponade.
  • Pulmonary (17%) – The pulmonary section includes asthma; COPD exacerbation; obstructive sleep apnea; pleural space complications; pulmonary embolism; pulmonary hypertension; and respiratory failure.
  • Endocrine/Hematology/Neurology/Gastrointestinal/Renal (20%) – This section includes topics including diabetes mellitus; hyperglycemia; hypoglycemia; seizure disorders; anemia; GI infections; pancreatitis; and GI surgeries.
  • Musculoskeletal/ Multisystem/Psychosocial (16%) – This section includes subtopics that include functional issues; infectious diseases; pain; palliative care; sepsis; shock states; and end of life care.

The other 20% of the exam focuses on Professional Caring and Ethical Practice, which includes subtopics such as:

  • Advocacy/Moral Agency
  • Caring Practices
  • Response to Diversity
  • Facilitation of learning
  • Collaboration
  • Systems Thinking
  • Clinical Inquiry

Will I lose points for guessing if I don’t know an answer?

No. The PCCN exam is scored based on how many questions you answer correctly. If you don’t know the answer to a question, guessing may be your best option.

Do I need to renew my certification after obtaining it?

Yes. The purpose of the renewal process is to make sure individuals are still competent in what they are doing. You will need to renew your certification every 3 years. In order to do so, visit the AACN website and click the Renew Certification option.

To be eligible for renewal a candidate must:

  • Hold a current, unencumbered U.S. RN or APRN license that has not been subject to formal discipline by any state board of nursing.
  • Complete at least 432 hours providing direct care to acutely ill adult patients as an RN or APRN within the 3-year certification period. Keep in mind that144 of these hours will have to have been within the 12-month period preceding the scheduled renewal date.
  • The individual will also need to either complete the required Continuing Education Recognition Point (CERPS) Program or retake and pass the PCCN exam.

How can I properly prepare for the PCCN exam?

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