As nursing has evolved into an ever-more complex field where science, humanity, pragmatism, and professionalism intersect, the clinical nurse educator has emerged as an essential presence among nurses. Whether they are teaching in the classroom, educating patients and families, or mentoring nurses and nursing students, the nurse educator plays an important role in guiding nurses on the leading edge of rapid and continuous progress in health care education and practice. Naturally, the process of becoming a certified nurse educator requires rigor and commitment. To many, the pinnacle of this process is the oft-dreaded Certified Academic Clinical Nurse Educator (CNE®cl) Examination. What follows is a brief breakdown of the exam itself and tips for success.

The CNE®cl Exam

The CNE®cl exam consists of 150 multiple-choice questions. One hundred and thirty of those questions count toward the test taker’s score; the remaining twenty are unscored or “free” test questions, usually experimental. The test is broken down into six topics, each of which makes up a certain percentage of the exam as follows:

  • Facilitating learning (22%)
  • Facilitating learner development and socialization (14%)
  • Using assessment and evaluation strategies (19%)
  • Participating in curriculum design and evaluation of program outcomes (17%)
  • Pursuing systematic self-evaluation and improvement in the academic nurse educator role (12%)
  • Engaging in scholarship, service, and leadership (15%)

Tips for Successful Studying

As with any credentialing exam, there is an abundance of resources available to test-takers, including apps, videos, classroom preparation, and online self-training. Many schools include test prep as part of the curriculum. The best place to begin the studying process is to speak with an academic advisor to find out if the school includes formal test prep in the curriculum. From there, speak to former students who have taken the exam and find out if they supplemented the classroom material.

Lastly, as the saying goes, know thyself. In choosing a method of study, it’s best to choose the learning techniques that have worked best for you in the past. For audio learners, seek out an audiobook or lecture series. For visual learners, try an app or video study guide. For collaborative learners, seek out a classroom or save money and recruit classmates for a self-guided group study. Many graduate nursing students are also full-time nurses, therefore, time management is key. The greatest preparation tool one can have is the peace of mind that comes with an early start and consistent practice.

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Nancy Swezey, BSN, RN, CNOR

Nancy Swezey received her BSN from Columbia University. She now practices in New York City in the operating room where she has worked as a staff nurse, and currently as a care coordinator specializing in head and neck surgery. Nancy is also pursuing her advanced practice degree at CUNY Hunter where she assists the faculty as a research assistant, focusing on nurse education and module development.

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