The American Board of Nursing Specialties defines certification as “the formal recognition of the specialized knowledge, skills, and experience demonstrated by the achievement of standards identified by a nursing specialty to promote optimal health outcomes.”1 With this goal, the Dermatology Nursing Certification Board (DNCB) was formed in 1996 to promote the highest standards of nursing practice and to establish credentialing mechanisms for validating proficiency as a registered nurse (RN) or nurse practitioner (NP) specializing in dermatology. In 1997, a certification exam for RNs was developed and in 2007, an exam for NPs.
The first Dermatology Nurse Certified (DNC) exam was administered in February 1998 and since then 770 RNs have taken the exam, with 560 becoming certified. The initial Dermatology Certified Nurse Practitioner (DCNP) exam was given in March 2008, with 370 subsequently taking the exam and 242 becoming certified. Both exams were developed by RNs and NPs working in dermatology—first by distributing a practice analysis that became the basis for a survey to determine what was important to daily practice as well as to identify patient problems seen. From this, test specifications or a blueprint for each exam was developed. Because each exam question can be directly linked back to the survey, the exam provides evidence of relevance and validity to practice.
Each exam consists of 175 multiple choice questions and includes photos. The DNC blueprint has 3 major areas of practice and 4 major types of nursing activity. The major areas of practice are: (a) general dermatology including cosmetics, (b) dermatologic surgery, and (c) phototherapy. The types of nursing activities include assessment and monitoring the status of patients before, during, and after treatment (30%); planning, administration, and monitoring medical, surgical, and phototherapeutic interventions (30%); selecting appropriate strategies to meet the educational, health promotion, and psycho-socio-cultural needs of patients, their significant others, and the community (29%); and coordinating care to ensure safe, efficient delivery of high-quality care in collaboration with other health care providers and community resources (11%).
Blueprints for both examinations are further delineated into problem areas on the DNCB website (www.dnanurse.org/dnaeducation/certification/). The Dermatology Nurses’ Association (DNA) publishes Dermatologic Nursing Essentials: A Core Curriculum (3rd edition)2 to be used as a study guide. In addition, the Journal of the Dermatology Nurses Association, or JDNA, is recommended and includes CE articles with practice questions.
An online review course for the DNC exam is ready and will be placed on the DNA CE learning center as soon as that is ready. The course mirrors the content described on the blueprint. Candidates who are not successful on the examination are given a report of the percent of questions they answered correctly in these subareas.
The DCNP blueprint includes 10 types of patient problems and 5 NP activities. These activities include assessment and diagnosis of acute and chronic conditions that occur across the life span (35%); prescribing interventions including evidence-based treatment, therapies, and procedures (33%); teaching patients, significant others, community, and colleagues about prevention and management of dermatological conditions (24%); consulting for and with peers and other health care professionals regarding specific cases (5%); and analyzing research data in order to implement effective evidence-based data (3%).
An online review course for the DCNP exam is in development by the NP Society of the DNA and is expected to be available in mid-2017. Additionally, the JDNA as well as standard dermatology textbooks are recommended as study guides and are used as references in developing the exam.
Both exams are administered by C-NET, the Center for Nursing Education and Testing. Each exam is administered 3 times a year, with the first date as part of the annual DNA convention. Although separately incorporated from the DNA, the DNCB works closely with and participates in activities with the DNA. Applicants for each exam must meet criteria including practice hours and licensure and those sitting for the DCNP exam must hold national certification as a NP. As such, neither exam is designed to be an entry into practice.
The exams are reviewed on a regular basis by dermatology certified nurses and NPs from geographically diverse areas working in different dermatology specialties and settings. A psychometric analysis is performed and new questions are written, old questions revised, and out-of-date questions deleted. This process helps ensure an ongoing, valid certification process that will continue to protect patients receiving dermatology nursing care.
The DNC and DCNP credentials are valid for 3 years. Recertification can be obtained through contact hours from CE or retaking the exam. This ensures that the RN or NP must be committed to CE and practice. For more information, visit www.dnanurse.org/dnaeducation/certification/.
Ms Bermann is president of the Dermatology Nursing Certification Board.
1. About us. American Board of Nursing Specialties website. http://www.nursingcertification.org/about. Accessed February 22, 2017.
2. Nicol N. Dermatologic Nursing Essentials: A Core Curriculum. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Wolters Kluwer; 2016.