Milestones are a big deal, and they are often times of celebration. Throughout July, that’s exactly what the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing (BCEN) has done. This month marks the 40th of the Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN) as well as of the emergency nursing specialty certification. What makes this all even more significant is that the CEN was the first emergency nursing specialty certification offered anywhere in the world.

“As emergency medicine was becoming recognized as a specialty, emergency nurses formed the Emergency Department Nurses Association (today’s Emergency Nurses Association) and in the mid- to late-1970s recognized the need for a certification program for emergency nurses. Thanks to the forethought and efforts of the association and some extraordinary nurse-pioneers, the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing (BCEN) came into being and several years after its creation was purposefully separated from the professional association to become a fully independent certification body,” explains Janie Schumaker, MBA, BSN, RN, CEN, CENP, CPHA, FABC, the Executive Director of BCEN, which is based in Oak Brook, Illinois.

Taking that first CEN exam was much different than it is today. “During BCEN’s first full year of operations in 1980, the very first emergency certification exam was offered on July 19 at over 30 sites around the country, including Alaska,” says Schumaker. “More than 1,400 RNs took the four-hour, 250-item, pencil-and-paper exam. After waiting several weeks for notification by mail, 1,274 nurses received the news that they had passed and became the first RNs to earn the Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN) credential.

“While BCEN has operated independently from ENA for many decades, we support each other and strongly believe professional membership and board certification are both important for RN success and to advance nursing excellence across every nursing specialty.”

Two years later, in 1982, that number of nurses who held the CEN had increased to 6,000. By 2005, 23,000 nurses held a CEN. By the end of 2020, BCEN expects to have 40,000 CENs.

“As the years went by and emergency nursing knowledge and patient care needs evolved, for instance with the introduction of medevac flights and taking into the consideration the unique physiology of pediatric patients, BCEN developed and introduced certification programs for flight nurses, the Certified Flight Registered Nurse (CFRN®) in 1993, the Certified Transport Registered Nurse (CTRN®) in 2006 for critical care ground transport nurses, and the Certified Pediatric Registered Nurse (CPEN®) in 2009. BCEN’s newest certification, introduced a little over 4 years ago (in 2016) is the Trauma Certified Registered Nurse (TCRN®) for nurses who practice across the trauma continuum from prehospital care to rehabilitation and including injury prevention. This is our fastest growing certification program, which is not surprising given that trauma is a major public health issue affecting people of all ages,” says Schumaker.

And BCEN keeps making sure that nurses can learn more. This past May, it began offering its first certificate program BCEN EDvantage.

Schumaker, a certified nurse, says that she is sure the skills she learned through becoming certified saved lives. “Once the connection between my knowledge, the care I was providing, and the correlation to studying for the Certified Emergency Nurses exam was clear to me, I became a lifelong certification advocate. I have since become certified in other areas of practice that have been a part of my career. Certification has helped ensure I have the knowledge and expertise to do the best possible job in my given role,” says Schumaker. “To me that is huge because I want to be a strong contributor and make a difference.”

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