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RN Neuroscience Certification

by Steve McDonnell, studioD

A registered nurse who is certified in neuroscience nursing demonstrates expertise in caring for patients with diseases and injuries to the brain, spinal cord and other parts of the nervous system. While employers encourage nurses to become certified by passing a certification exam, certification is not required to work in neuroscience nursing. Some employers, however, reward certified nurses with higher pay, and being certified may provide an advantage over other candidates for promotions or during staff reductions.


The first step to entering neuroscience nursing is to become a registered nurse. An aspiring nurse can earn a bachelor's or an associate's degree in nursing or a diploma from a hospital nursing program. Some candidates continue school and earn a master's degree in nursing or a related field. After earning a degree or diploma, a registered nurse must pass the National Council Licensure Examination and obtain a license from a state board of nursing.

Neuroscience Nursing Experience

To become certified in neuroscience nursing, a nurse has to work for at least two years in a neuroscience nursing program. Many nurses choose a program where they provide direct clinical care to patients with neurological issues. Some nurses don't provide direct patient care, but they supervise students and staff who do. Other nurses work in a non-clinical setting, such as research, consulting, teaching or administration of a neuroscience unit.

Certified Neuroscience Registered Nurse Examination

After completing two years of direct or indirect neuroscience nursing, a nurse can sit for the Certified Neuroscience Registered Nurse, or CNRN, examination offered by the American Board of Neuroscience Nursing. The CNRN exam is a computer-based test with 220 questions that cover most aspects of nursing care for neurological patients, including neurological trauma, neurosurgery care, neurological rehabilitation and neurological diseases. Candidates find out whether they passed or failed immediately after taking the test. A candidate who fails can register again and take the test the next time it's offered.

CNRN Recertification

A CNRN certification expires after five years. To renew a CNRN certification, nurses must earn a required number of continuing education credits and work a certain number of hours in neuroscience nursing. The American Association of Neuroscience Nurses provides continuing education programs that satisfy continuing education credit toward the CNRN recertification. Alternatively, a nurse can retake the CNRN certification exam to renew a certification.

About the Author

Steve McDonnell's experience running businesses and launching companies complements his technical expertise in information, technology and human resources. He earned a degree in computer science from Dartmouth College, served on the WorldatWork editorial board, blogged for the Spotfire Business Intelligence blog and has published books and book chapters for International Human Resource Information Management and Westlaw.

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