Interview: Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing
Chairperson Rebecca Steinmann and Chairperson-Elect Allen C Wolfe share how the not-for-profit certification board is expanding its reach online and in the real world and how it adapted to the pandemic
In January 2022, the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing (BCEN) appointed its new board of directors for 2022 and 2023, including the appointment of Rebecca Steinmann as Chairperson, and Allen C Wolfe as Chairperson-Elect.
The pair have both been members of BCEN since 2007 – Steinmann first joining as an initial item writer for the Certified Pediatric Emergency Nurse (CPEN) exam, and Wolfe as an item writer for the Certified Flight Registered Nurse (CFRN) and Certified Transport Registered Nurse (CTRN) exams. Wolfe was appointed to the BCEN board of directors in 2015, with Steinmann joining him as a member in 2016.
In addition to their voluntary roles with BCEN, Steinmann and Wolfe remain actively employed in the medical sector. Steinmann works as a Nursing Professional Development Practitioner for the emergency department of Ann & Robert H Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, a role which she says ‘puts me in direct contact with what is most valuable to bedside providers, as well as their challenges, the latter of which have been amplified by the ongoing pandemic and nursing shortage’.
Wolfe meanwhile serves as the Senior Director of Education and Critical Care Nurse Specialist for air medical transport provider Life Link III in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a role where he is ‘responsible for the clinical performance and education of the organization’. He says that the role is similar to his duties as Chairperson-Elect at BCEN ‘because most of the strategic ideas focus on education and improving the performance of nurses.
Keenly watching trends and evaluating opportunities
Steinmann said that the new board of directors will focus on maintaining BCEN’s usual standards, with ‘high-quality, relevant certification examinations and the applicant experience with the certification process’ remaining ‘areas of profound interest’.
She added that the board also plans to ‘keenly’ watch trends in the number of nurses applying for certification and recertification, ‘as the shortage of emergency-trained nurses continues’, with plans to ‘evaluate opportunities for expanding our certification offerings.’
The concept behind BCEN Learn Live is to provide nurses in the emergency care arena with the opportunity to participate in smaller, more intimate ... more affordable learning environments
Steinmann highlights a recent collaboration with the American Burn Association, agreed in 2021, which saw the initial development of a burn nursing specialty certification, which will be called the Certified Burn Registered Nurse (CBRN) – which will be the first new certification program offered by BCEN since the introduction of its trauma credential in 2016.
Wolfe added that this forward-thinking approach was typical of BCEN’s board, which he says has ‘consistently helped to move the organization forward’. He cited the board’s decisions to introduce Continuing Education courses, develop new specialty exams ‘such as we are currently doing for burn nursing’, as well as enhancements to the exams themselves through the introduction of high-quality medical graphics to material.
Conferences and online platforms
Steinmann added that another continuing focus of attention during her and Wolfe’s tenure would focus on the launch of the first BCEN Learn Live educational conferences this year, as well as providing more attention and resources to the development of BCEN Learn, the organization’s online Continuing Education platform.
The first BCEN Learn Live conference was hosted in Orange Beach, Alabama, between 18 and 20 May 2022, featuring TED Talk-style inspirational speakers, advanced clinical and leadership Continuing Education sessions, and networking and self-care opportunities. A second conference is due to take place near Las Vegas, Nevada, in November.
“The concept behind BCEN Learn Live,” said Steinmann, “is to provide nurses in the emergency care arena with the opportunity to participate in smaller, more intimate, and perhaps more affordable learning environments than traditional national or international conferences.” She added that including self-care activities was a ‘top priority’ for BCEN.
Meanwhile online on the BCEN Learn digital platform, Steinmann says that BCEN to continue ‘engaging subject matter experts to develop more Continuing Education courses, as well as free continuing education unit [contact hours] webinars for the BCEN Learn platform across all five emergency nursing specialty areas [emergency, pediatric emergency, flight, critical care ground transport and trauma nursing], as well as burn nursing’.
“What is unique about the BCEN Learn virtual platform is that nurses can learn from literally anywhere they are and at whatever time works best for them,” she says. “Every Continued Education course is a highly interactive, learner-driven format that includes video or animation, case studies and process scenarios, versus the traditional and more static ‘voice over PowerPoint slides’ format.”
She added that BCEN Learn’s format means that they can convey a ‘surprisingly high amount of information while fortifying critical thinking skills’, by creating an engaging environment that supports deeper learning.
Courses offered on the platform range from in-depth studies of topics common to the larger emergency care community, to those that are more role and situation-specific. There is also a selection of refresher courses for those looking to revisit what they have already learned.
“I expect BCEN Learn will continue to grow in both scope and depth as more nurses become aware of the platform and our growing catalogue of courses,” Steinmann added. “The subject matter experts we work with to develop the Continuing Education content are outstanding, and our users are evaluating BCEN Learn courses with very high rankings.”
Steinmann believes that the platform has a bright future ahead of it, particularly serving the needs of nurses who would otherwise not be able to access the same level of resources. While offering Continuing Education content is a new endeavor for BCEN, she says that the organization is proud of what the platform and development team have accomplished so far.
BCEN Learn has won multiple awards since its launch in October 2020 – including three bronze awards at the 2021 Brandon Hall Group Awards, for the categories of ‘Best Advance in Creation of a Learning Strategy’, ‘Best Advance in Content Development’ and ‘Best Learning Team’.
“A big part of why BCEN created the platform was because BCEN-certified nurse said they needed more specialty-specific Continuing Education options,” she explained. “We have received comments from multiple nurses working in rural settings, for instance, who have said that BCEN Learn courses gave them access to essential information that they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to run down, because their facilities do not have specialty departments or practitioners they could go to.”
Managing the disruption of the pandemic
Like most large organizations, BCEN’s operations were disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, forcing BCEN’s internal team to avoid meeting in person.
Wolfe explained that there were challenges when BCEN was forced to shift more of its work online. “I think we can all agree that having face time is valuable. BCEN has always been visible at conferences where we can engage directly with nurses year-round. With the drastic decline in in-person conferences, we created ways for BCEN and nurses to engage with each other.”
He continued, explaining that in addition to creating webinars offered through BCEN Learn and annual, virtual ‘Certibration’ events, BCEN worked in other ways to support nurses, including introducing ‘an international credentialing process to help streamline the certification process’ for non-US educated nurses; ‘fast-tracking live remote proctoring (LRP) so nurses could continue to sit for certification exams during the pandemic when in-person testing centers completely shut down for many months’; offering extensions on certification expirations and renewal discounts; as well as discounted certification fees for military registered nurses.
However, Wolfe said that while the pandemic had changed how BCEN operated on a day-to-day basis, it had not led to any significant adjustments to its existing certification programs – primarily because of the constantly evolving nature of the pandemic.
I expect BCEN Learn will continue to grow in both scope and depth as more nurses become aware of the platform and our growing catalogue of courses
“The creation of all of our exams is based on established clinical practices and procedures,” Wolfe explained. “Since Covid-19 treatment is still rapidly changing and evolving, it does not make sense right now to write test questions related to it. If Covid-19 lasts and standards of treatment are formed, then our exam content will be updated to reflect those standards.”
However, while no core curricula or exams had been changed in response to the pandemic, Wolfe said that BCEN had been able to move quickly to create Continuing Education content ‘that was vital to emergency nurses during the pandemic’. He argued that ‘having nurses be knowledgeable and current in emergency care processes, including knowledge needed in emergency situations such as the pandemic, translates to patient outcomes.’
“For example,” Wolfe elaborated, “we built a ventilator course early in the pandemic because having patients on ventilators is something emergency department nurses are less familiar with than their ICU counterparts. That course became so popular we followed it up with an advanced ventilator management course and a pediatric emergency airway management course.”
Steinmann agreed, adding that since the pandemic, BCEN Learn had experienced a substantial uptake in courses and webinars, adding: “I believe more nurses are looking for quality online education since the pandemic, and we have seen growth in our BCEN Learn Continuing Education courses and webinars as evidence of that, with our ventilator management courses and trauma course bundle being particularly popular.”
Steinmann explained that during the coronavirus pandemic, BCEN-certified nurses were on the ‘front line’, and BCEN was committed to doing all they could to ensure that they could continue providing specialty certified care despite the intense disruption.
“I have never seen nurses and caregivers endure anything quite like what we’ve seen with Covid-19,” she said. “Nurses’ tenacity, compassion and dedication to specialty excellence have been tremendous.”
She added that BCEN had also seen robust growth across its transport certifications over the past two years, with demand for the Certified Flight Registered Nurse (CFRN) course in 2021 being double 2020 levels, and the Certified Transport Registered Nurse course for ground transport also seeing nearly 20 per cent growth in 2020 and 29 per cent in 2021.
Refinements to transport certifications
Alongside the growth in demand, Wolfe says that BCEN has been making refinements to the substance of its transport certifications, including the introduction of separate exam content outlines for CFRN and CTRN certification programs for the first time. Previously, while the CFRN and CTRN programs always had separate exams, there was a shared exam content outline.
“The updates to the CFRN that went into effect last August, and the changes to the CTRN that went into effect at the end of February this year, are related to the mode of transport and differences in patient management and safety,” Wolfe explained. “As a flight nurse, I recognize there are differences in the ground aspect of transport.”
He continued, adding that: “Every five years, BCEN collaborates with the Air & Surface Transport Nurses Association (ASTNA) and transport nursing subject matter experts to perform a role delineation study (RDS) to make sure BCEN’s CFRN and CTRN exams reflect what flight and critical care ground transport nurse practice entails. What are they responsible for? What procedures are they required to perform? What procedures have become obsolete? What’s new in clinical practice? This process results in updates to the exam form and content outlines.”
Wolfe says that the 2019 Transport Nursing RDS made it clear that a separate test item bank and exam content outline were merited for ground transport.
In addition to the regular RDS, Wolfe says the BCEN Exam Construction Review Committee continuously reviews exam content to ensure that it remains relevant and within the practice of the specialty it is testing, and working with item writers to create new test questions.
“Going forward,” he explained, “BCEN will be recruiting even more item writers with ground transport experience and expertise.”
Steinmann said that the organization’s next major task was to conduct its next pediatric emergency nursing role delineation study later this year, as part of maintaining the Certified Pediatric Emergency Nurse (CPEN) certification.