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Over the years, med-surg nursing has evolved into a highly-respected nursing specialty. Nurses who work in the field are charged with providing care to patients with increasingly complex medical issues, and many choose to pursue certification to validate their expertise and increase their professional development.

Below are tips on how to overcome common challenges that nurses may face when considering certification:

1 – Second-guessing your abilities

Doing a great job as a med-surg nurse is one thing, but some nurses may question their ability to pass a certification exam.

Haskins said nurses who have worked in med-surg for at least two years and who study for certification usually do very well and feel an extreme sense of satisfaction after passing.

2 – Overcoming test anxiety

For nurses who haven’t taken an exam in a while or who have test anxiety, Haskins recommends taking a practice test to prepare for the certification exam.

Haskins said the FailSafe program offers a great way to help boost confidence for nurses who may be nervous about taking an exam or are unfamiliar with computer-based testing.

“Nurses who have taken a certification review course have been shown to do better on the exam than those who haven’t,” Haskins said. “In addition, nurses feel less pressure when they know that if for any reason they don’t pass the exam on the first try, the FailSafe program allows them to repeat the exam.”

3 – Feeling ill-prepared

For nurses who have been out of school a long time, the idea of a test may seem daunting.

Haskins said going into the test feeling prepared can make a huge difference and she recommends the free 15-question sample test on

4 – Overlooking human resources

Forming a study group and preparing for the exam along with colleagues can give nurses confidence as they prepare to take the test.

Haskins said studying within a group also allows nurses to identify topics where they may need to devote additional time studying. For example, a nurse may feel confident about diabetic care but feel she could use a refresher on respiratory issues.

Most professional nursing journals also offer CE articles that can be utilized to meet the 90 CE’s in five years,” Haskins said. “Many local chapters of professional nursing organizations also have educational programs throughout the year that have CEs attached to them as well

“Staff at my facility got together and formed a study group with each person taking a section from the Core Curriculum and reviewing with their colleagues at weekly meetings,” she said.

Maintaining certification

Once you have obtained certification, which lasts for five years, you will want to maintain your certification. To be eligible for re-certification, nurses must hold a current med-surg certification, hold a current RN license, have accrued 1,000 practice hours in a med-surg setting in the last five years and have earned 90 contact hours in the last five years.




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