Clinical Practice Requirement for Initial Certification

The clinical experience requirement for those seeking initial certification (only) was changed in 2007. The clinical practice requirement has not been changed for recertification.

The revised requirement for those seeking initial certification, as published in ABPANC’s Certification Handbook states:

“Candidates applying for CPAN® or CAPA® certification must have a minimum of 1800 hours of direct perianesthesia clinical experience as a Registered Nurse during the past two years prior to application. In other words, when seeking initial certification, a candidate must have bedside interaction caring for perianesthesia patients.”

The number of hours has not changed, just the need to have been involved in direct care of patients Those in staff nurse roles will obviously have no problem meeting this requirement. However, confusion exists regarding how educators, managers, researchers, and Clinical Nurse Specialists can meet the requirement.

One does not need to be “technically” employed in a “direct care” position. If one’s role (e.g., educator, manager, Clinical Nurse Specialist) involves bedside interaction with the patient and/or family in some capacity, those hours would count toward meeting the experience requirement.

Why this requirement? The ABPANC Board of Directors believes that nursing is both an art and a science, and in order to translate nursing knowledge and judgment into practice, one needs to have practiced direct, “hands-on” care prior to being CPAN and/or CAPA certified.

After a lengthy discussion with the board focusing on the purpose of specialty nursing certification — which is to protect the public — the board’s decision to change the requirement focused on those seeking initial certification only. The CPAN and CAPA certification programs are intended to assure the public that the certified nurse has both the knowledge and experience to meet their needs. As the board pondered this decision, they asked themselves the most important question — What’s best for patients? The board believes that patients should logically be able to assume that the certified perianesthesia nurse has actually provided direct, hands-on care to perianesthesia patients. Putting ourselves in the position of being a patient or family member, would we feel comfortable having a board-certified cardiovascular surgeon perform open heart surgery on us or a loved one if the surgeon has never actually done so before or performed such surgery recently?

The importance of nursing practice stems from its connection to patient care. Our patients have the right to expect that a certification credential reflects not only current knowledge of the specialty, but experience as well.

The board recognizes that becoming CPAN and CAPA certified is a major professional and personal achievement, and the change made to the clinical practice requirement is not meant to demean that in any way. We recognize that once a perianesthesia nurse is certified, advancing into roles that may take nurses further from the bedside may be a natural transition for some. As noted previously, the clinical practice requirement for recertification has not changed. Certainly we do not mean to imply that perianesthesia nurses working in such roles are less of a perianesthesia nurse by virtue that they are no longer employed in a clinical setting.

It is ABPANC’s experience that perianesthesia nurses sitting for initial CPAN and CAPA certification are practicing in roles that maintain a direct connection to the bedside. For those who do not have this direct connection, we encourage them to seek certification in an area more relevant to their role, such as ANCC’s CNA or CNAA certification for managers and administrators, or their staff development certification program. In addition, NLN offers certification for academic educators.

In summary, the CPAN and CAPA credentials are an affirmation of ABPANC’s commitment to quality nursing care and patient safety. ABPANC is committed to ensuring that our patients receive care from CPAN- and CAPA-certified nurses — such certification reflecting current and the most up to date knowledge and experience. For those seeking certification for the first time, requiring that they have hands-on experience is not unreasonable. In fact, such a requirement adds credibility to our certification process. If you are unsure whether your role would meet the new clinical practice experience requirement, do not hesitate to contact ABPANC for clarification at

Another way to clarify — You participate actively in the individual patient experience.