The Path to CNOR: Fears v. Facts


To be honest, I’m not a good test taker. To be really honest, I really dread taking tests. But,  almost five years ago, I was fortunate to take the CNOR exam and obtain my CNOR certification on the first try. I get questions all the time from surgical nurses about this test so I figured now was as good a time as ever to debunk some rumors as well as shed some light on the infamous four letter word.

What is the CNOR?

Despite what some people who I work with feel, it does not stand for Crazy Nurse in the Operating Room. CNOR doesn’t stand for anything actually. According to Competency and Credentialing Institute (CCI), CNOR is defined as “the documented validation of the professional achievement of identified standards of practice by an individual registered nurse providing care for patients before, during and after surgery.” 

Who can take the CNOR? 

Generally, you have to be working for at minimum  2 years plus have 2,400 hours as an operating room nurse in either the clinical, education or administration setting.  At least 1,200 hours need to be in a clinical setting.  Once you meet these requirements, you can apply and start studying for the exam.

How to study for the CNOR?

We’ve all been there..

The CNOR consists of 200 questions (15 will not be graded) and you will be given roughly 3 and a half hours to answer them. The test will cover every aspect of perioperative nursing including (but not limited to), preop, intraop, assessment, management, and my least favorite topic–cleaning/sterilization of instrumentation.

Typically I would recommend 2-3 months to prepare for this exam. Depending on your study habits, I would focus more on the topic that you seem to struggle with. For me, this was the surgical instrumentation portion. This topic tends to be denser and relies on specific parameters.

Benefits of having CNOR?

Some of you might be thinking? Why put myself through all that stress if I already am working as a nurse? I get it, especially if you are not a fantastic test taker like I was you might not want to take the exam.  Typically, it is always better to get certified in whatever specialty of nursing  you are practicing but here are some other incentives to getting certified:

•            Sets you apart from other nurses as a leader in your field

•             It increases the quality of care you give to your patient

•            Provides a smoother path to career advancement

How you will be arriving into work after you pass the CNOR exam.

In conclusion,  no one hates taking tests more than me, but it can be very valuable in the long run. Specifically, as a travel nurse, being certified is a very beneficial asset. No matter how many facilities I hop to every 13 weeks,  my certification always gives me an advantage over other travel candidates who have been an OR nurse longer but are not certified. There are a plethora of study aids, but if you need to know where to start it can’t hurt to start here. If you have any other question or comments, feel free to drop a note below. Until then, happy studying!

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