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How to Become a Certified Perianesthesia Nurse

Career News October 12, 2013

To become a certified perianesthesia nurse, you must first complete all of the steps to become a registered nurse (RN). This includes:

•Completing high school or GED
•Completing nursing school
•Passing the NCLEX-RN

After receiving your unrestricted nursing license, you must still complete at least 1,800 hours of direct perianesthesia clinical experience, in the two years prior to the perianesthesia nursing certification test.

According to the American Board of Perianesthesia Nursing Certification (ABPANC), in order for experience to qualify as “direct” experience, you must have bedside interaction with the patient/family and have a role in the patient’s experience. You do not, however, have to accumulate these hours in a direct care position. You also do not need a BSN degree for certification.

To become a perianesthesia nurse from here, the bulk of your work is behind you. These are the steps to follow:

Decide precisely which certification you would like to complete

ABPANC offers two distinct certifications: Certified Post Anesthesia Nurse (CPAN) and Certified Ambulatory Perianesthesia Nurse (CAPA). The differences are subtle. You should read the ABPANC official statement for detailed information about the differences to help you decide which is best fitting for you.

Acquire and read the necessary handbook

Read and reread the CPAN and CAPA Certification Candidate Handbook, available for free through the ABPANC website. This book will walk you through the finer details and policies regarding the exams. There are also a number of useful appendices for these books, including study references, deadlines, and a form to request special testing accommodations.

Study, study, study

The level of your knowledge and expertise in perianesthesia nursing will dictate the course of study you will need to complete. There are a number of useful resources available to you. ABPANC has a downloadable test blueprint, so you will know what to expect and how to most effectively schedule your study time.

Take the practice tests

There are official practice exams offered through ABPANC online. Each practice exam costs $35, but they currently offer a buy one get one free discount. Aside from studying, this is the absolute most useful resource to see if you are ready for the test or not.

The format of the practice exams is remarkably similar to the actual exams. If you do well in practice, you will likely do well with the real thing – or vice versa.

Get a certification coach

Through ABPANC, there is a nationwide group of volunteer certification coaches. These coaches are experts at helping students pass the test and go on to be successful in the field. Utilize this opportunity! Go to to find out more about locating a CPAN and CPAN coach in your area.

Apply for the exams

This might seem easy enough, but make sure that you check the testing and registration schedule to find out when the next registration window opens and closes, as well as the next testing window. Register online to ensure you get your spot quickly and easily.

Pay the exam fees

If you are a member of the American Society of Perianesthesia Nurses (ASPAN), the testing fees are substantially reduced. Currently, the prices are $285 for members and $385 for non-members. This is the price for each test.
There is no additional discount regardless of whether you take them together or separately. It is a pricey undertaking, but remember this, you can write these expenses off on your taxes.

Schedule the exam date and location appointment

Soon after application, you will get Admission-to-Test letter from the testing service, Professional Examination Services. In this letter, you will receive specific and detailed instructions for scheduling your testing appointment.

Take the test

Finally! It is time to get it over with. The exam is administered as a computer-based test (CBT), which makes testing both easier and more efficient. You will be able to skip or mark question to return to them later, change answers with no worry, and see a list of uncompleted questions when you reach the end of the exam.

Also, you will receive a preliminary pass/fail evaluation after taking the exam. This is not a final verdict, but a good indicator.

Yes, it is a good deal of work to get these certifications, but it is well worth it. You have already put a lot of work into your nursing licensure. Take it to the next level with these specialized certifications.

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