Do credentialing examinations for nurses, such as the NCLEX-RN and specialty certification exams, put minority and foreign-educated candidates at a disadvantage? Or are these tests indeed culturally sensitive and fair to all who take them, regardless of race, ethnicity or national origin? There are no easy answers to this thorny question, which is currently the subject of much debate among minority nursing leaders.

One way the organizations that create these exams can maximize the chances of the playing field being level is to make sure nurses from culturally diverse backgrounds are involved in the test development process. The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), an ANA subsidiary that offers more than 40 certification exams in a wide range of specialties, is seeking qualified nurses of color to write examination items (questions) or to serve on content expert panels (CEPs) that review the items and develop test content outlines. Item writers and reviewers don’t have to be academics or have test development experience, but they must be certified in their nursing specialty.

Why is it so important to have more racial and ethnic minority nurses serving in these capacities? “One of the advantages of having minority nurses involved in developing exams is that they can look for bias [in questions] against a particular group,” says Dr. David Paulson, ANCC’s director of Measurement Services. The CEPs generally convene twice a year for three-day test review workshops in Washington, D.C. At these workshops, Paulson explains, “if any cultural or ethnic issues come up regarding a test question, it is helpful to have minority nurses represented there to discuss any items that may be biased.”

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Item writers participate in an intensive three-day training session in Washington (all expenses paid). They are then required to research, write and submit 80 exam questions over a one-year period. Content expert panel members must attend the review workshops plus participate in approximately three conference calls a year. Some at-home review work may also be required. While writers and reviewers are not paid for their services, they do receive a substantial reduction in the number of continuing education contact hours required for their recertification.

For more information, contact Jamila Odom, (800) 284-7291, [email protected].

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