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The Steps to Becoming an Emergency Room Nurse and Taking the CEN Test

So, you’re thinking about a career as an emergency room (ER) nurse.

Well, that’s awesome!

Let us cover the initial steps on this exciting career path together so you can get a better understanding of what you’re getting into.

We are talking here about your career for possibly the next 10 years, at the very least, and even the rest of your life. That is exciting and nerve-racking at the same time.

Let’s get to it then.

How do you become an ER nurse?

You typically need to be a practicing registered nurse (RN) or an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) to become an ER nurse. So, to become an ER nurse, you should earn a nursing degree or diploma, gain the required work experience, and pass the licensure examination.

For more information, read How to Become an Emergency Room Nurse.

What type of schooling does an ER nurse need?

To work as an ER nurse, you need to first obtain your RN credentials, for which you have to earn the appropriate diploma or degree (associate’s or bachelor’s) and then pass the NCLEX-RN.

What are the types of certifications and requirements needed to become an ER nurse?

To become an ER nurse, you need to be a registered nurse, for which you need to pass the NCLEX-RN exam. The only widely accepted certification for ER nurses is offered by the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing (BCEN). To qualify for the BCEN certification, you need to pass the CEN Test. The certification has to be renewed every four years. BCEN also recommends that you have two years of work experience in your specialty area before taking the test, but it is not mandatory.

How long does it take to become an ER nurse?

Once you have completed your nursing education and obtained the RN credentials, you can take the CEN Test. BCEN recommends that you have two years of work experience in your specialty area before taking the test, but it is not mandatory.

How much does it cost to become an ER nurse?

The costs associated with the CEN Test are as follows:

  • Initial test – $230 for members of the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) and $370 for non-members
  • Retaking the initial test – $200 for ENA members and $340 for non-members
  • Recertification – $210 for ENA members and $350 for non-members

What is the CEN Test?

The Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN) Test is a computerized exam offered by the BCEN for nurses in the emergency department setting who want to demonstrate their expertise, knowledge, and versatility in emergency nursing. BCEN certification obtained by passing the CEN Test is not mandatory to practice as an ER nurse but is highly recommended as employers generally prefer candidates who have demonstrated their expertise in this field.

What are the eligibility requirements to take the CEN Test?

To qualify for the CEN Test, you must hold a current, unrestricted RN license in the United States or its territories. A nursing certificate that is equivalent to an RN in the United States is also acceptable. BCEN recommends you have two years’ experience in your specialty area; however, it is not required. You can also sit for the test even if you no longer work in a clinical setting as long as you have a current, unrestricted RN license.

How many questions are on the CEN Test?

The CEN test consists of 175 items, 150 of which are scored questions and 25 are unscored pretest items.

What are the Categories on the CEN Test?

The CEN Test outline is as follows:

  • Cardiovascular emergencies – 13%
  • Respiratory emergencies – 11%
  • Neurological emergencies – 11%
  • Gastrointestinal, genitourinary, gynecology, and obstetrical emergencies – 14%
  • Psychosocial and medical emergencies – 16%
  • Maxillofacial, ocular, orthopedic, and wound emergencies – 14%
  • Environment and toxicology emergencies, and communicable diseases – 10%
  • Professional issues – 11%

How long does the CEN Test typically last?

The total seat time for the CEN Test is 3 hours.

What is the passing grade needed for CEN Test?

Of the 150 scored items, candidates must answer 106 items correctly (70.67%) to achieve a passing score.

How many times can you take the CEN Test?

Unlimited testing is allowed if you are unsuccessful; however, you are required to wait 90 days before re-testing.