Nurses become certified in specialty areas by meeting the standards of a nongovernmental certification agency, according to the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses. The certification process assesses the nurse's skills and knowledge using a combination of verified experience and one or more exams.
Different organizations certify nurses for specific specialty areas, states the Lippincott Nursing Center. The American Board of Managed Care Nursing offers the certification in managed care nursing, while the American Legal Nurse Consultant Certification Board offers the legal nurse consultant certification course. Some agencies, such as the American Nurses Credentialing Center, offer multiple certifications. The ANCC provides specialty certifications ranging from faith community nursing to rheumatology nursing.
The certification process varies by specialty. The American Association of Heart Failure Nurses requires a nurse to have two years of full-time practice as a registered nurse, the association states. In addition, applicants must have spent at least 1,200 hours working with heart failure patients in the two years before certification. Once a nurse reaches these thresholds and completes the required continuing education heart failure courses, he may apply to take the AAHFN certification exam.
Certification exams cover specialty-specific topics. For example, the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation's Oncology Certified Nurse exam contains 165 questions in nine subject areas, as of December 2015, the agency's website states. Once a nurse meets the eligibility requirements and passes the exam, the certification is valid for four years.