Happy 40th to the CEN® & Emergency Nursing Certification!

July 2020 is a very special month in BCEN’s history and the history of emergency nursing, because it marks the 40th birthday of both the Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN) and emergency nursing specialty certification.

On July 19, 1980, the 1,274 nurses who passed the first CEN exam made history as the first to earn the CEN and the first nurses to become board certified in emergency nursing.

Back then, and for many years to come, the 4-hour, 250-question, paper-and-pencil exam was offered on just two dates each year, in July and February … and the results came by mail 6-7 weeks later! When it came time for the first class of CENs to renew their certification, they had to sit for the exam on a single test date in July 1984. It wasn’t until 1999 that candidates could receive their score immediately and testing was offered monthly.

While a lot has changed over the past four decades, what has remained the same is BCEN’s commitment to excellence, achievement and impact, and BCEN-certified nurses’ commitment to clinical expertise and professionalism. Then and now, BCEN nurses inspire, mentor and lead their peers and colleagues, advance the specialty and the profession, and make a difference in every one of their patient’s lives every day.

Take a walk with us down Memory Lane as we recount some of the major milestones in the history of BCEN, the CEN and emergency nursing certification:

CEN & Emergency Nursing Certification Milestones

Early 1970s – Recognition of emergency care as a discrete specialty gains momentum

Mid 1970s – Visionary Emergency Department Nurses Association (today’s ENA) nurses set a goal to develop an emergency nursing certification and begin the challenging work of funding and developing the exam

September 1979 – EDNA General Assembly votes to create a “Certification Board,” and the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) officially recognizes emergency medicine as the 23rd medical specialty

January 1980 – Judy Spinella begins her term as BCEN’s founding chairperson

July 19, 1980 – First CEN® exam is offered in 30 states including Alaska

July 1982 – Nearly 6,000 nurses hold the CEN

July 1984 – First CENs renew their certification by reexamination

January 1986 – BCEN becomes an independent, not-for-profit corporation

July 24, 1993CFRN® (Certified Flight Registered Nurse) certification launches

January 1997 – CEN and CFRN exams first offered to nurses outside U.S., and the number of U.S.-based CENs and CFRNs tops 27,000

February 2002 – CEN certification program is accredited by ABSNC

Fall 2005 – Number of CENs tops 23,000

March 2006CTRN® (Certified Transport Registered Nurse) certification launches

January 2009CPEN® (Certified Pediatric Emergency Nurse) certification launches

February 2009 – CEN, CFRN, CTRN and CPEN are Magnet-accepted

February 2016TCRN® (Trauma Certified Registered Nurse) certification launches

December 2016 – Yes You Can! Employer Discount Voucher Program is introduced

Winter 2016 -17 – Nearly 10,000 emergency nurses and supervisors participate in BCEN’s landmark Value of CEN Certification Research Study

October 2017 – Digital badges & Recertification by CE attestation are introduced

June 2018 – BCEN publishes first white paper (with three more to follow)

December 2018 – Over 50,000 BCEN credentials are held by nurses worldwide

Spring 2019 – BCEN introduces Nurse Recognition, Make Your Case and Support Your Nurse Kits

June 2019 – BCEN and its research partners announce preliminary findings of the 2019 Emergency/Trauma/Transport Nursing Workforce Study

July 2019 – BCEN Executive Director Janie Schumaker is installed as ABNS President

January 2020 – BCEN’s year-long “Your Story is Our Story” 40th anniversary celebration begins

March 2020 – BCEN launches new International Candidate Evaluation service

May 2020 – BCEN introduces its first certificate program, BCEN EDvantage

June 2020 – BCEN offers CEs for its full-length practice exams

July 2020 – BCEN marks 40th birthday of the CEN


What’s the next milestone? Stay tuned, because 2020 isn’t over yet!

In the meantime, we will continue sharing the stories of BCEN nurses, because Your Story is Our Story.