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Why Should Nurses Get Certification?

If you’re a nurse who loves taking care of the smallest or the sickest babies in the NICU, you have probably heard about getting “certified” by the NCC (who is the leader in perinatal, pediatric, and neonatal certifications).  Getting certified sounds scary, and I know this first hand, because I put off taking my first NCC exam for many year. To help you avoid this same pitfall, in this article I peel away all the myths about taking a certification exam and break down what it mean to be certified, resources you can use to study, and why you should even think about getting certified too.

What is the NCC? 

According to their website, the National Certification Corporation (NCC) is a non-profit organization that offers certification programs for nurses, doctors, and other healthcare professionals specializing in women’s and newborn health. Since 1975, NCC has awarded certifications to over 215,000 professionals, demonstrating their expertise in various specialties and subspecialties. Through its YouTube channel and public awareness campaigns, NCC highlights the importance of certification in enhancing patient care, communication, and professional recognition in the healthcare field.

The NCC offers Certifications in the following maternal and newborn speciality areas:

  • Low Risk and High Risk Neonatal Care
  • Neonatal Nurse Practitioner Board Certification
  • Neonatal Pediatric Transport
  • Two neonatal sub-speciality certifications in Neuro-Intensive Care and Care of Extremely Low Birth Weight Neonates
  • Obstetric and Neonatal Quality and Safety, and   
  • Electronic Fetal Monitoring

Visit the NCC website for more details about the certifications they provide and exam qualifications: https://www.nccwebsite.org/certification-exams

Why is “Getting Certified” Important for NICU Nurses? 

The neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is a world of its own – a place where the tiniest patients require the most specialized care. If you’re a nurse passionate about supporting these vulnerable newborns and their families, NCC certification could be your next career milestone.

But it doesn’t stop there, getting certified as an expert neonatal nurse also has many personal, professional, and even financial benefits too.  I’ve listed a few of these benefits below for you:

  1. Enhanced job opportunities: Hospitals and healthcare facilities often prioritize candidates with RNC-NIC certification, recognizing their advanced qualifications.
  2. Salary advancements: RNC-NIC certification may lead to higher earning potential, reflecting the enhanced value and expertise you bring to the NICU team.
  3. Professional recognition: Earning your RNC-NIC credential signifies your dedication to continuous learning and professional development, garnering respect from colleagues and peers.
  4. Personal Confidence and Self-Esteem:  Earning any certification should give a sense of accomplishment, confidence and pride.  Not everyone takes the extra effort to get certified and if you do, display those credentials!

In essence, a NCC certification in the perinatal or neonatal specialty opens doors to new possibilities, both personally and professionally. Being certified solidifies your expertise and empowers you to make an even greater impact in the care you provide.

Who is Eligible to Take the NCC Certification Exam? 

Each exam offered by NCC has a different set of qualifications and they have created comprehensive candidate guides to help you prepare.

For example, before you can call yourself an RNC-NIC, you’ve got to pass the NCC low-risk or high-risk neonatal certification exam. To qualify to take the RNC-NIC exam, you must:

  • Possess an active RN license.
  • Have a minimum of 2,000 hours of NICU experience within the past five years.
  • Complete a NCC-approved basic life support (BLS) course.
  • Meet the NCC’s ethical and professional standards.

To take the Neonatal Neuro-Critical Care (Neuro-NICU)  or Small Baby (C-ELBW) certification exam, you must:

  • Possess an active RN, MD, DO, RT, OT, PT, or SLP liscence from the US or Canada
  • There is no minimum of hours of NICU experience to take the C-NNIC exam.

What Topics Are Covered on the RNC-NIC Exam? 

The RNC-NIC exam comprehensively evaluates your knowledge and skills in various domains of high-risk neonatal care, including:

  • Neonatal assessment and development
  • Respiratory care
  • Cardiovascular support
  • Nutrition and fluid management
  • Neurological and developmental care
  • Ethical and legal considerations
  • Cultural sensitivity, and family support

What Topics Are Covered on the Neuro-NICU (C-NNIC) Exam? 

The C-NNIC exam comprehensively evaluates your knowledge and skills in various domains, including:

  • Neurologic Development and Evaluation of the Fetus and Newborn
  • Neuro-monitoring, Imaging and Diagnostic Tools 
  • Assess and Manage Pathophysiologic States specific to the neurologically compromised or at risk neonates
  • Strategies to provide neuroprotection 
  • Assess and Manage Neuro-development, psychosocial behavioral states, follow-up and post-discharge care
  • Professional Issues (EBP, Professional, Legal, Ethical, Safety)

Get more info here.

The C-NNIC exam comprehensively evaluates your knowledge and skills in various domains, including:

  • Neurologic Development and Evaluation of the Fetus and Newborn
  • Neuro-monitoring, Imaging and Diagnostic Tools 
  • Assess and Manage Pathophysiologic States specific to the neurologically compromised or at risk neonates

How Can I Prepare for any of the NCC Neonatal Certification Exams? 

To ensure your success on the RNC-NIC, C-NNIC or C-ELBW exams, consider these valuable resources:

NCC Study Guide: This official resource provides a comprehensive overview of the exam content and valuable test-taking tips.

My favorite NCC Study Textbooks on Amazon — If you are looking for a list of books that can help you study for the NCC NeuroNICU or ELBW certification exams, then check out this list of my favorite books here.

See my favorite Neurology Books on Amazon on this page → https://ncc.synapsecare.com/kickoff-may10

Below are a few direct links to books that I highly recommend ( Please note that these links may contain Amazon affiliate links, which means that if you buy them I might make a small commission at no additional cost to you). – 

NCC NeuroNICU Study Quiz Questions
The NNIC exam is designed for NICU nurses looking to becoming certified in their field. This book provides a comprehensive collection of 200 practice exam questions. The questions were written by a practicing neonatal nurse practitioner with over 10 years of experience in neonatology.

NCC C-ELBW Study Quiz Questions
The ELBW exam is designed for NICU nurses looking to becoming certified in their field. This book provides a comprehensive collection of 200 practice exam questions. The questions were written by a practicing neonatal nurse practitioner with over 10 years of experience in neonatology.

Lange’s Book Neonatology
The field’s most trusted and comprehensive guide to treating common and rare problems in newborns

Volpe’s Neonatal Neurology Textbook (new 7th edition)
Stay up to date with today’s latest advances in diagnosis and management, as well as the many scientific and technological advances that are revolutionizing neonatal neurology, with the definitive text in the field.

Synapse Care Solutions NCC NeuroNICU Exam Prep Course & Live Study Group: The ONLY NeuroNICU exam study course currently available! This comprehensive course includes a step-by-step weekly study guide, recommended textbooks, more than 12 hours of recorded lectures by NICU nurses, educators, and neonatologists, study quizzes, and dozens of bonus teaching videos. Occasionally we offer a live bi-weekly study group that allow you to interact with other NICU professionals studying for the NCC NeuroNICU exam, ask questions, and get answers! 

Click here to watch the replay of our recent information session of the NCC NeuroNICU certification exam offered by NCC.  I cover the exam requirements, exam components, and share my favorite study tips and textbooks for the exam.

NCC Second Chance FREE Promotion (Limited Time Offer)

What is the NCC’s Second Chance Free Take Offer?

NCC is offering a Second Chance Free” promotion for all those who submit a certification application between April 15, 2024, and July 15, 2024, until 11:59 pm CST, and are found eligible for the NCC examination. You must register for the examination and pay the registration fee during this time frame.  For a limited time, if you are not successful in achieving certification on your first examination attempt, you can apply to retake the same NCC Certification examination for a second attempt for free. (Please note, if you registered for an exam before April 15, 2024, you do not have a second chance free promotion). 

If you registered during the promotion time frame and are not successful on your first attempt, you will be eligible to reapply for the same certification examination after a 90-day wait period and your fee for the second attempt will be waived. Candidates who fail on the first attempt have 12 months from the date they tested to register again for the same examination and receive their second chance free.  

How Can I Take Advantage of the Second Chance Free Take?

Submit a certification application between April 15, 2024, and July 15, 2024, until 11:59 pm CST. You must register for the examination and pay the registration fee during this time frame.

To receive the second chance free, you must be signed into your account,  use the link to apply for the exam again within the account, and then complete the application process to demonstrate continued compliance with all eligibility requirements. The fee will only be waived if you apply for the same certification. 

Offer to reapply at no cost is only valid for the 12 months following your first unsuccessful examination attempt. Please note, there is a 90-day waiting period after an examination attempt before you can register again.  A voucher code will not be provided and should not be used when applying for a second attempt. Once signed in to the account the registration process should be done using the “register for an exam” link on the Certification home page or directly from the link in your account.  The policy for retesting including the 90-day wait to register is within this 12-month time frame.

Visit their website for more information: Second chance Free Promotion Begins April 15, 2024 – National Certification Corporation (nccwebsite.org)

Ready to Take the Next Step?

Submit an application to the NCC website for the Second Chance Free Promotion and sign up for NCC NeuroNICU Certification Self-Study!

Frequently Asked Questions about the NCC Certification Process & Fees

How much do the NCC exams cost? 

The cost varies depending on your membership status with the NCC. Non-members typically pay a higher fee than members.  In general they range from $200 to $300 USD.

How long is the a certification valid? 

The RNC-NIC, C-NNIC and C-ELBW certifications are each valid for three (3) years.

How do I maintain my RNC-NIC, C-NNIC, and C-ELBW certifications? 

To maintain your certification, you’ll need to complete continuing education credits and meet other requirements set by the NCC.

Are there other certifications for NICU nurses? 

Yes! The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) offers the CCRN (Neonatal) Certification. And there are several other speciality certifications that you might want to consider, such as:  STABLE, NRP, Neonatal Touch & Massage, Infant Driven Feeding, and Trauma-Informed NICU Professional.  

Get our free resource guide on NICU certifications here

Is it worth getting NCC certified? 

Absolutely! It’s a fantastic way to demonstrate your expertise, advance your career, and potentially earn a higher salary.

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