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Programs Ease Specialty Certification Test Anxiety

Second-chance testing mitigates financial, emotional toll

By Marcia Frellick
urse credentialing organizations are offering a way to increase board certification by taking some of the financial stress out of testing.
The credentialing groups are teaming up with healthcare organizations and universities to offer a second test for free if the nurse fails the initial or recertification test the first time.
Second-chance testing programs go by several names in different credentialing organizations.
The largest certification board in the U.S., the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), offers the Success Pays® program. Since the program began in 2013, 486 organizations have partnered with Success Pays, said Erika A. Borlie, DNP, MS, WHNP-BC, RN-C, ANCC’s Certification Outreach Manager.
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Within those organizations, more than 34,000 nurses have applied for board certification, and more than 24,000 have been certified, Borlie said.
Having the safety net option helps nurses focus on studying for the test instead of focusing on the financial and emotional risk of not passing on one try, Borlie said.

Excellence Programs Emphasize Certification

Many organizations recently rolled out their credentialing programs on Certified Nurses Day, celebrated annually on March 19. Increasing the number of board-certified nurses is a top priority for organizations working toward Magnet Recognition or other excellence levels.
ANCC offers 18 certifications, and Success Pays works with universities, hospitals, long-term care facilities, and state nursing associations to encourage more nurses to earn them.
“That’s a special part of Success Pays,” Borlie said. “It’s not just geared toward hospitals.” She added that the hospitals that partner with the program are not just Magnet hospitals or those on the Magnet path.
“It may just be hospitals who want to increase their certification numbers,” she said. There’s no maximum number of clinicians within an organization who can use the Success Pays program.
Having the safety net option helps nurses focus on studying for the test instead of focusing on the financial and emotional risk of not passing on one try, Borlie said.
“You might have one system with 30 hospitals under that one agreement,” Borlie said. Here’s an example of how the Success Pays process works in a hospital for nurses taking a test to achieve board certification.
When a nurse passes, a fee for the exam is invoiced to the hospital. If a nurse fails the first time, the retest is free (a potential savings of $395 out-of-pocket for each nurse). If a nurse fails the retest, the hospital is not charged.
For some, the certification may help nurses get an increase in pay, Borlie said, but there are other reasons to get certified. Those include a confidence boost for the nurse and patients’ and colleagues’ confidence in their skills, she notes. “Some organizations have a requirement that you have to get certified in your specialty area over a certain period of time,” she added.
Eligibility for second-chance testing is different depending on the certifying organization.
The Orthopaedic Nurses Certification Board, for example, offers a Retest for Success program, but it is open only to nurses pursuing initial certification and not nurses taking the exam for recertification, according to its website.

Med-Surg Board Offers “FailSafe”

The Medical-Surgical Nursing Certification Board offers another version of the second-chance testing called FailSafe Certification Program™.
One feature of that program is that a healthcare facility agrees that within one year of establishing the contract, 10 of its nurses will enroll to take a Certified Medical-Surgical Registered Nurse exam to earn the CMSRN® credential.
Jessica Tully, DNP, RN-BC, CMSRN, CENP, is treasurer for the MSNCB as well as a leader at a small community partner hospital that uses the FailSafe program. Tully is the director of the medical/surgical division at Midland Memorial Hospital in Midland, Texas.
She said MSNCB has offered the FailSafe Certification Program since 2013. “[Since the program began,] 18,100 nurses have taken the certification exam through the program and, 79% of those have passed,” she said.
Tully says that in her hospital, 82 nurses have taken the exam through FailSafe, and 61 of those nurses have passed.
“It really gives them that badge of honor knowing that they have that skillset and they have the competency.”
— Jessica Tully, DNP, RN-BC
Nurses tell her they worry they will have to commit large blocks of time to prepare for a test they may not pass.
‘It’s especially important with our most experienced nurses who haven’t taken an exam for an extended length of time,” she said.
The FailSafe Certification Program offers that security so nurses feel more confident in trying.
Midland Memorial Hospital has earned the ANCC’s Pathways to Excellence designation three times and plans to pursue Magnet Recognition, Tully said. That’s one reason increasing numbers of board certified nurses there is a priority.
The FailSafe Certification Program also has become a recruiting tool, she said, as hospital leaders can assure nurses they can assist them through certification.
Certification is important for organizations but also for nurses’ confidence, she said.
“It really gives them that badge of honor knowing that they have that skillset and they have the competency,” Tully said.
Marcia Frellick is a freelance writer.