Pam Chapman | RN, CPAN

My Certification Story

"My goal for this PEP (performance review) is to get certified as a CPAN." I said this to my Supervisor for a year and a half, and finally took the plunge and registered. I figured if I was registered it would be more real and I would actually do it. I felt very unsure if my brain could study and learn at this stage of my life or if I could commit to a study plan. But, nothing risked, nothing gained, right?

I was able to get reference books from my hospital library system. I also took advantage of the 2 for 1 deal on the ABPANC Practice Exams. I took one before I started studying and did not pass - but it helped me to focus where I really needed to study. I committed to studying at least 4 hours a week and dived in. I struggled to know how to focus my study time as there is a vast body of knowledge that one could study. I used ABPANC’s 12 Week Study Plan and bounced around from one area to another as I felt I needed. That worked out well for me.

I spoke with someone at the ABPANC office and she referred me to an ABPANC Certification Coach (super helpful!) and also suggested that I take additional practice exams if I wanted to do practice questions. I felt a lot better, and decided to go ahead with the exam.

I took the exam in a city about 50 miles away and stayed in a nice B&B the night before. I was a bit nervous but felt peaceful too. I prayed a lot. The check-in process at the test site was a bit unnerving as they take your picture, need two forms of ID, you have to sign an agreement that you won’t cheat, they had to look at my arms, hands and ankles for hidden notes, and empty my pockets. I couldn’t take anything in to the exam room, not even my own tissue. I had to take one of theirs. I know, right? The exam was long and hard. I was unsure of several questions so tagged them to review later. I am usually a fast test taker but this one took nearly the whole 3 hours. Once I clicked the “submit” button, I had no idea if I had passed or not. It could’ve gone either way. When I told them I was done, they said they would have my results in about 5-10 mins. I went to the bathroom and took deep breaths, got my purse out of my locker and went back into the office. When I walked in the door they handed me a sheet of paper and all I saw on it was "Congratulations." What a real relief!

My Study Strategies

I found the practice tests to be very helpful. I took four of them, one before I started studying, one about 2 weeks before the exam, and two within a few days before the exam. I also used the Core Curriculum and Drain's Perianesthesia Nursing books. I also read the most recent ASPAN Standards. It's very wise to start early and give yourself lots of time. Don't cram it all in at the last minute. I made my own flashcards too.

My Benefits

Taking the certification exam was a really good experience for me. I enjoyed studying a lot more than I thought I would. It was good to learn new things and get a deeper understanding of drugs and interventions I do in PACU. I feel like I am definitely a better nurse and the level of care I give to my patients is higher and more comprehensive. It’s a confidence booster to have this certification and I have a real feeling of accomplishment. I am actually looking forward to my next PEP as I can check this goal off my list.

It feels really good to set a difficult goal and achieve it! I had doubts about my ability to learn and retain new knowledge. I actually really enjoyed studying and learning. It felt good to learn the whys and what-fors and to understand at a deeper level what is happening with my patients.

I got a lot of congratulations and kudos for passing the exam and that always feels good. This will be a good notch in my belt for my performance review and it feels really good to be seen as a bit of an expert by my co-workers.

My Advice

I would encourage anyone who is thinking about taking either the CPAN or the CAPA exams to set it as your goal for this year and do it. I was intimidated and didn’t think I had the time to commit to studying, but once I decided to go for it, it was a challenge that was very doable. If you want to learn more about certification, go to the ABPANC website. There is ton of information there. Or contact ABPANC—I did, and they were super helpful.

Thankfully, I passed the first time I took the exam. I was quite nervous about failing and how hard that would be. I don't know that I have any helpful advice except the obvious. Don't give up; try, try again; There are so many resources and supports that are offered. Take advantage of as many as is possible.