Oncology nurses seeking basic oncology certification in 2019 will need to have more experience as an RN and more hours of specialty practice before they can take an initial certification test, according to the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation’s (ONCC’s) new eligibility criteria. The new criteria affect OCN®, CPHON®, CBCN®, and BMTCN® initial test candidates. They do not affect nurses who are renewing certification.

The 2019 eligibility criteria are:

  • A current, active, unencumbered RN license
  • A minimum of two years (24 months) of practice as an RN in the four years (48 months) prior to application
  • A minimum of 2,000 hours of specialty nursing practice in the four years (48 months) prior to application: adult oncology nursing practice for OCN®, pediatric hematology/oncology nursing practice for CPHON®, breast care nursing practice for CBCN®, and blood and marrow transplant nursing practice for BMTCN®
  • A minimum of 10 contact hours of credential-specific continuing nursing education or an academic elective completed in the three years (36 months) prior to application.

“The ONCC Board of Directors strongly supports the acquisition of skill and understanding through education and experience,” ONCC President Rebecca O’Shea, APRN, OCN®, AOCNS®, CBCN®, said. “Most undergraduate nursing programs do not provide in-depth specialty content or practice experience. Therefore, work experience is crucial in the attainment of current knowledge and skill in a specialty area.”

An ONCC Task Force found that Benner’s novice to expert model provided the best theoretical context for how nurses acquire skills and understanding over time. In that model, competence is the third stage in the development and acquisition of skill and occurs at two to three years of practice. The task force also reviewed eligibility criteria for basic certifications of 12 similar organizations. Most require two years of RN experience and more than 1,000 hours of specialty practice.

ONCC Executive Director Cyndi Miller Murphy, MSN, RN, CAE, FAAN, said that the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) accreditation standards require credentialing organizations to regularly review eligibility criteria and provide a sound rationale for those criteria.

“NCCA accreditation indicates that ONCC certifications meet national standards for high-quality certification programs,” Miller Murphy explained.

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