About the Exam

BCEN is dedicated to developing certification exams to the highest industry standards. We rely on a large group of nurse volunteers to help supply questions and review to ensure your certification is impactful and valuable to your career. Read on to learn more about the CEN exam, or register now.
Apply Now

About the CEN Exam

The CEN exam is for nurses in the emergency department setting who want to demonstrate their expertise, knowledge and versatility in emergency nursing.

BCEN is the only source for emergency nursing professionals and their employers to obtain recognized certification with proven results for greater knowledge and performance. Enhance your knowledge, your career, and patient care with specialty certification in emergency nursing.

How A BCEN Exam Comes To Life

Let’s take a look at the journey a BCEN exam takes from beginning to end.

BCEN’s certification exams are developed by an exam committee of nurses who practice in the specific exam’s specialty area and represent diverse geography. BCEN partners with a test development company to ensure the exam is psychometrically sound and questions are written in best practice format. Earning a BCEN certification is a national recognition and allows the holder to display the credential as part of their signature.

BCEN exams are based on specialty nursing role delineation studies (RDS). These research studies also known as a practice analysis or job analysis are conducted by exam committees of subject matter experts.

As part of the RDS, survey instruments are distributed to nurses practicing in each specialty area throughout the United States. The survey responses guide the exam committee in determining knowledge relevant to practice. The integrated concepts, cognitive level distribution, and the number of items (questions) specified within each content area are developed by an iterative process resulting in unanimous agreement from the exam committee.

Next, item writers create exam questions and the items are reviewed, revised, and approved by the exam construction and review committee. The items are also repeatedly reviewed throughout the exam development process.

Finally, examinations are delivered by computer at Pearson VUE testing centers. The examinations are administered daily Monday through Friday at the test taker’s convenience.

A word about Certifications vs. Certificates

One of the more common questions we get from our customers is about the difference between a certification and a certificate. Here is the difference in a nutshell:

A certificate comes from an educational program where a certificate is awarded after the individual successfully completes the offering. Examples of certificates are Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) or Trauma Nursing Core Course (TNCC).

A certification, like the Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN) is an earned credential that demonstrates the individual’s specialized knowledge and skills. Certification is awarded by a third-party organization, such as Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing. Individuals receive their certification after meeting strict eligibility requirements and successfully completing the required examination. In addition, certifications have ongoing requirements that must be meant to maintain the credential, ensuring the holder has maintained their level of expertise in the specialty area. Certifications are nationally recognized and are often utilized as part of the earner’s signature.

Earning professional certifications such as the CEN, CPEN, CFRN, CTRN and TCRN offered by BCEN, and completing certificate programs such as ACLS, PALS, ENCP and TNCC, are critical to the work emergency nurses do, but there are significant differences.

Certification ProgramsCertificate Programs
PurposeValidate knowledge, skills, and expertise across entire specialty practice area. Learn, practice or demonstrate knowledge or proficiency in a focused topic, subject or skill set.
OutcomeBoard certification/Professional credentialCertificate or proof of completion card and/or CE hours.
Essential to Safe and Professional PracticeYesYes
Awarding Organization Independent credentialing bodiesVaries
Nationally RecognizedYesMost
PortableYesVaries. Nurses may be required to take employer-sponsored or employer-approved offering.
Eligibility RequirementsStrict and nationally standardized. Most require RN licensure.^ Many require relevant direct or indirect clinical experience.^Varies. Clinical experience or RN licensure may or may not be required.
Preparation/Course of StudyIndependently designed. Spans weeks or months. Prep materials and review courses developed by professional associations and dedicated certification prep providers. Class or course offered over several hours to several days, in person or online. Content can vary by instructor or provider.
Culminates in Exam or PracticumYes. Rigorous, comprehensive, standardized exam, offered in a secure testing facility. Based on national role delineation studies to ensure relevance to clinical practice specialty area. Psychometrically sound and legally defensible.Sometimes. Content can vary. Test or practicum hosted by sponsoring organization and/or offered online.
Renewal/Recertification Frequency & RequirementsEvery 4 years, on average.^ Retake certification exam or accrue required continuing education (CE) hours.Renewal frequency varies. May be used toward certification program CE requirements.
Eligible for Accreditation by ABSNC* or NCCA*Yes. Accreditation by these independent, 3rd parties validates the certification program has met recognized national and international credentialing industry standards.No. Certificate program/CE providers may be accredited or sanctioned by industry organizations or certificate program sponsor organizations.

Compiled by the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing (BCEN®).

^American Board of Nursing Specialties (ABNS) Member Organization Profiles Summary Survey Data, 2016.

*Accreditation Board for Speciality Nursing Certifications.

*National Commission for Certifying Agencies.

Candidate Handbook

We strongly encourage certification candidates to download and thoroughly review our Candidate Handbook. Here, you will find the guidelines and policies we use regarding registration, scheduling, cancellation and administration of exams. All candidates are responsible for reading the Candidate Handbook, and will be held to the policies and regulations found therein. Download your copy here.

Get Started Today

Apply Now Recertify