I just passed my RN Medical-Surgical certification exam yey!!
For nurses, it is always good to take extra steps in our career like acquiring certification in areas that we practice. I am currently working in Surgical Specialty Floor so I intend to take the RN Med-Surg Certification (RN-BC). Acquiring this certification can give a nurse a sense of validation of his/her nursing skills, recognition from peers and boost also self-esteem.
But who has time to study, right? It’s hard especially nurses works 12 hours in a day for 3 days (and get called sometimes), and attend to family needs after work or during off days. For me, the best strategy was Time Management and Practice. And THAT I believe, all nurses are doing all the time with their patients. I applied online August 2017 and took my exam on October 7, 2017. Trust me, it was a struggle to finish a 100 practice exam because there seem to have no time at all.
Let me blog on how I did it, and maybe it will help others as well.
First Step: Apply for the Certification Exam.
There are two certification bodies that certifies registered nurses which are American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and Academy of Medical Surgical Nurses (AMSN). You can visit their website to choose the certification you wish to earn and check if you are legible to apply. It comes with an exam fee as well, and they differ in that. I took the ANCC Med-Surg certification and became Registered Nurse-Board Certified (RN-BC).
As soon as you finish applying, then you have 90 days to schedule your test.
For those undecided, try applying right away. I kind of think that if you do that, it forces you to change your habits so you can study. Since you pay for the exam, it sometimes motivates you more because you don’t want to waste money. I believe this worked for me. lol!
Second Step: Understand the Test Plan
Before plunging to your old notes or memorizing DOZENS of lab values, take time to read their test plan. Certification exam prioritizes in nursing care pertaining to the area of specialty you chose. One can get overwhelmed studying without reading the test plan.
Third Step: Prepare your Study Materials
Get your books or study resources. There’s no better way to review concepts but go back to basic principles and nursing concepts. There’s no other trick but to study.
There are four study materials that I used, depending on what mood I am or how much energy I have.
I used two books to refresh my mind with nursing concepts for this exam. I did not plan to have more books to read. I used Lippincott’s Review for Medical-Surgical Nursing Certification. This is a very good book because it will explain the certification test plan as well. It helped also that at the end of the book, there is a 150 item comprehensive exam in addition to the practice tests that each chapter (by system) have.
I also used the Medical-Surgical Nursing Made Increadibly Easy which is also by Lipincott because I prefer just reading the bullets at most times. It doesn’t make me sleep (lol!). I looked at the Table of Contents of this book and I used it actually as my study guide since nursing concepts are divided into concepts. (i’ll write it as my next step =))
For the many times that I did not want to open my books and my computer, I used my phone to study. I thought, since I check Facebook all the time then I might as well use my phone to review for the exam. I downloaded NCLEX RN Mastery app randomly on my phone when I searched for apps that could help. I like it that I didn’t download anything else. This app has practice exams per system and has mnemonics that was a big help. I didn’t even buy the app, as the free version was enough to help.
And last, i bought an online practice test that is constructed similar to the ANCC exam at https://www.anccprep.com/. For those taking the CMSRN or Cerification for Medical Surgical Nursing by AMSN, they also have their own practice test online. Practicing on their sample test questions online makes you get used to how the questions are asked on the actual exam.
Fourth Step: Plan your Study Schedule/Guide
Depending on time when you applied for the exam and you scheduled your exam, you can plan your study schedule. In between work and family needs, this is the toughest part.
I made my study schedule based on the book’s table of contents. I had to study by systems, mostly skimmed through concepts and take the exam that comes with that concept. The exams usually is the trigger to study as it makes me read more on the concepts and it’s nursing priorities.
My study guide looked like this:
Week 1: Cardiovascular, Respiratory, Renal and GI Disorders
Week 2: Endocrine, Reproduction, Hematology and Immuno Disorders
Week 3: Neurologic, Musculoskeletal, Skin Disorders and Cancer
Week 4: Perioperative Nursing and other concepts (Pain, Wound, Theories etc)
Week 5: Practice Exams
I just had to concentrate on this concepts on the week that I assigned them to, so that I don’t get overwhelmed. I usually take the exams first and concentrate on my mistake and read on them. Then I take the exam again and find out if I learned from my mistakes (sound dramatic lol!).
Fifth Step: Find a Convenient Time to Review (or study)
You just have to find time. It may not be a regular time or a daily basis but you have to find time where you can concentrate on concepts.
If I was not working, I mostly studied after 11 pm when my family was sleeping already and stayed up until 2 in the morning. On the days (or nights) that I was working, I tried my best to at least review through my phone using the RN NCLEX application when I am in my bed about to sleep.
PRACTICE. PRACTICE. PRACTICE
The Day of the Exam
Sleep well and clear your mind of any stress. It’s easier said than done but it really helps. I took my exam after lunch because I didn’t want to rush things. I prayed to God and asked for this, and that’s the greatest strategy of all. I have now new letters attached to my name, RN-BC. (woot! woot!!)
Nothing beats mind-setting. It means taking this exam and thinking that you pass it because you prepared for it. And actual working with patients makes it easier because we, nurses, use the concepts everyday.
I may have different methods than others who did the exam but all that matters is that we passed it.
So to those who are planning to be certified, best of luck. Tell yourself, “You got this !”.