Amy Dooley | MS, RN, CPAN, CAPA

My Certification Story

My certification story started back in 2004. Working in the PACU for many years I was encouraged by another certified nurse, frequently, to validate my practice by becoming certified. I was an expert to my co-workers so that step to become certified made sense. I passed my CPAN! Move forward 12 years and my unit had expanded to include ambulatory cases, interventional radiology cases as well as an occasional pre-op patient. Now I contemplated taking the CAPA exam since I was working with that population. I took the plunge but only told my Manager (because I needed that day off) what I was planning. She was totally supportive and offered assistance with whatever I needed. I passed the exam and was so proud.

My Study Strategies

When I studied for the CPAN 12 years ago, there were far fewer resources available than there are today. My focus was on those areas that I felt I was not strong.

Move forward 12 years and the study options are much more defined, practical and concrete. The variety of resources will meet whatever style of studying works best for you. They are all detailed in the Certification Candidate Handbook and ABPANC website. I toyed with the concept map and listened to some webinars. I reviewed ABPANC’s Study References List carefully. My primary sources were the Schick/Windle Core Curriculum to focus on the areas that my institution does not provide such as pediatrics and obstetrics and the ASPAN Standards and Guidelines. The question of the week is posted each week in my department. I found the practice exams helpful as to what type of questions to expect. I took one at the beginning of my study period and took the last one one week before the exam. The question of where to find the time to fit in all this studying is a valid one. Working full time I created flash cards to pull out when I was waiting anywhere. I also studied on an airplane flight to Phoenix and just dedicated whatever small chunks of time that I had. Knowing your schedule will help you plan how far in advance to start and how to carve out the time needed.

My Benefits

To any colleague out there contemplating certification the experience of studying is worth the effort. I relearned stuff that I had once known but was not using; it had gone to the far recesses of the mind. I felt so much better prepared to care for any patient because of my expanded base of knowledge. I had forgotten what I had forgotten so it was like opening up a new chapter in my life. The cobwebs were shaken off and I felt invigorated with renewed passion. Passing the exam was a side effect of the knowledge but the real benefit came from within. Having that certification gives credence to my knowledge and validates my practice. I am proud to share with my patients that I am certified and now dual certified. My institution does recognized certificated nurses with a plaque in the lobby and has a certification tea but my benefit is that I share my experiences with my colleagues and encourage them to take the plunge.

My Advice

I thought that was happening to me as the computer had a glitch so I was waiting and waiting for the results. You know the thoughts that spin through your head. The longest 13 minutes of my life. As I was sitting there I did commit to myself to retake the test again at the earliest time if I did not pass. I had learned from taking the test and would use that as a base for studying. Fortunately the computer came up and I had passed! My message would be not to stop, put to good use what studying you already did and continue on the journey! It is totally worth it!