What does CNE stand for? Glad you asked!

Karen Davis | 06/01/2017

Those three letters represent a significant part of who I am.

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“What does the CNE credential behind your name stand for?”

I wasn’t surprised by the question because I had been asked that many times before. What did surprise me was who asked the question—she was an academic nurse educator, like me.

The certified nurse educator (CNE) designation recognizes academic nurse educators who have passed an exam administered by the U.S.-based National League for Nursing (NLN).

Karen DavisTo quote NLN: “Certification in any field is a mark of professionalism. For academic nurse educators, it establishes nursing education as a specialty area of practice and creates a means for faculty to demonstrate their expertise in this role. It communicates to students, peers, and the academic and health care communities that the highest standards of excellence are being met. By becoming credentialed as a Certified Nurse Educator (CNE), you serve as a leader and a role model.”

I loved teaching
When I took the qualifying exam for certification in September 2009, I had been an academic nurse educator for almost 20 years. I had been out of direct nursing practice long enough that I was not qualified to sit for any other certification exam. There always seemed to be one criteria or another that I didn’t—or couldn’t—meet. Besides, I loved teaching, and I wanted some way to demonstrate my expertise as an academic nurse educator. 

As I read more about the exam, I discovered that NLN’s goals for CNE designation fit exactly what I was looking for:

  • Distinguish academic nursing education as a specialty area of practice and an advanced practice role within professional nursing.
  • Recognize the academic nurse educator’s specialized knowledge, skills, and abilities and excellence in practice.
  • Strengthen the use of core competencies of nurse educator practice.
  • Contribute to nurse educators’ professional development.

There was one string of text that stood out from all the others: “[Certification] establishes nursing education as a specialty area of practice.” NLN recognized that academic nurse educators—those of us whose primary mission is teaching nursing students—should be professionally recognized as a specific specialty!

No walk in the park
I was determined to pass the exam and be able to proudly display those credentials behind my name. But I had also heard the exam was no “walk in the park” and that average pass rates are in the 60-percent range. Although I didn’t look forward to studying for such an epic exam, I signed up a week or so later to take it. 

Several books were recommended to me as good review resources, but as I picked each one up and thumbed through it, I began to ask myself: “Where do I start? How do I review all the content areas included in the exam?” Long story short, I really didn’t do a thorough review. I am not usually a procrastinator, and I honestly don’t know how it happened—but all of a sudden, it was “the day” to take the exam, and I hoped my knowledge and academic nurse educator skills would be enough for me to pass.

I remember taking the NCLEX-RN examination back when it was a pencil-and-paper test. It took two grueling days—8 a.m. to 5 p.m.—to complete, and you had to wait for months to find out if you passed. I remember coming out of the exam room thinking I never want to take that again. When I took the CNE exam, I felt exactly the same, but this time, I didn’t have to wait months to find out if I was successful. Within minutes of completing the exam, I had the results. I passed!

Recognizes who I am
I am proud to be a certified nurse educator. Those three letters—CNE—represent a significant part of who I am: the knowledge and skills I have acquired for my role as a nurse faculty member, my deep interest in nursing education, and my strong love of teaching. With this certification, my expertise as an academic nurse educator is recognized and valued. It acknowledges what I have worked so hard to accomplish—recognition as a competent academic nurse educator. But certifying is just the beginning.

Like other specialty certifications, the CNE must be renewed every five years. The CNE Renewal Program, created to help nurse educators remain current in the practice of nursing, promotes expansion of knowledge and reinforcement of skills important to my role as an academic nurse educator. Because my colleagues and I have diverse career goals and educational needs, recertification can be obtained via one of two paths and in a variety of ways. Option A requires accrual of at least 50 credits during each five-year renewal period. (Renewal activities—or credits—must be related to at least five of NLN’s nurse educator core competencies.) Option B is to take the certification exam.

Those of us who are certified as academic nurse educators have much work to do in helping others learn about the advantages of being a CNE and encouraging them to study diligently and sit for the exam. That’s why I wrote this article—to draw attention to this specialty certification. According to NLN, the mission of the CNE certification is “to promote excellence in the advanced specialty role of the academic nurse educator.”

So, if you ask me the meaning of the CNE credential behind my name, I will gladly tell you what it means, especially to me. 

Karen Davis, DNP, RN, CNE, clinical assistant professor in the College of Nursing at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, Arkansas, USA, until her retirement at the end of 2016, is a Virginia Henderson Fellow. She now serves as an adjunct professor in the RN-BSN program for Upper Iowa University, Fayette, Iowa, USA, and also teaches periodically for Union University, Jackson, Tennessee, USA, in its master’s and doctoral programs.

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