Plan Ahead for Recertification

Deirdre Bauer, RN, CMSRN

Five years have quickly passed and your medical-surgical nursing certification is about to expire. While the Medical-Surgical Nursing Certification Board (MSNCB) takes fastidious care of you by sending several reminders, it is still crucial for you to plan ahead. In fact, as soon as you earn your Certified Medical-Surgical Registered Nurse (CMSRN®) credential, it is a good idea to educate yourself on recertification.

This article leads you through the process, helping you stay ahead of the curve, on top of deadlines, and well prepared.

Background and Requirements

Applicants are required to recertify every 5 years by meeting continuing nursing education (CNE) requirements or by taking the exam again. They are also required to have earned a total of 90 approved contact hours over the 5 years since they certified, and 68 (or 75%) of these approved contact hours must be designated as medical-surgical related. The remaining 22 contact hours may be in professional development or other nursing-related subjects.

A minimum of 1,000 hours of practice over the last 5 years in an adult medical-surgical setting is another criterion for eligibility to recertify.

A full list of eligibility criteria is online at

As you can see by the criteria, recertification is not a last minute decision, therefore it is vital you plan ahead so you meet all the recertification requirements in time.

Should you wish to recertify by exam, you must meet the eligibility criteria and test within the year prior to expiration of your current certification. Applications can be completed online or downloaded along with the exam guide, or you can request that a recertification application and guide be mailed to you.

Continuing education applicants who meet the eligibility criteria need to postmark their application no later than the expiration date of their certification, and it is highly recommended that they submit their application 90 days prior to their certification expiration date.

Contact Hour Options

During your 5 years of certification, you should review the contact hour requirements and make sure you have the necessary 90 contact hours. More information regarding the types of acceptable education activities can be found in the Recertification and Exam Exemption Application Guide (available on for free).

The number of contact hours or credits you earned from January 1 of the first year of your certification may be submitted for recertification. It is not necessary to send any certificates unless you are contacted to do so. Only those candidates selected for random audit will be asked to provide copies of their certificates or additional information regarding their medical-surgical contact hours and/or work experience.

An additional fact you may not know: MSNCB can help you track your contact hours. We have developed an Excel spreadsheet that will tally your contact hours for you. It is set up just like the MSNCB Contact Hour Documentation Form. When you are ready to renew your certification you can just complete the spread sheet and print it out. The sheet can be found at

To make it as easy as possible for you, MSNCB in conjunction with the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses (AMSN) has compiled a list of 10 ways you can earn credit. The list can be found at Activities include attending courses and workshops, getting involved in preceptorship/mentoring, publishing an article, or doing a research project. CNE articles are also provided in MEDSURG Nursing journal and MedSurg Matters! newsletter. Better yet, contact hours in these publications are FREE for AMSN members.

Grants are Available

AMSN also helps members afford recertification by offering CMSRN Recertification Grants through the AMSN Scholarship, Grants, & Awards Program. Grants are awarded semi-annually and cover the application fee at the member rate. If you are a member of AMSN, take advantage of this member benefit and apply.

Please note the dates and deadlines below:

  • Summer grant: Applications must be completed by June 1 annually, and applicants are notified by July 1.
  • Winter grant: Applications must be completed by December 15 annually, and applicants are notified by January 15.

Need More Time?

MSNCB does offer all certified applicants the opportunity to submit recertification applications up to 1 year after their certification expiration date. MSNCB provides this option to give applicants more time to earn the necessary contact hours they may need.

Within 1 year after expiration, the applicant should submit the application with payment, and include a $75 late fee. Upon approval, the certification expiration date will be extended 5 years from the original expiration date.

Please remember, if you chose to take advantage of this offer, you will be unable to use your CMSRN credential during the period that your certification is expired. No applications will be accepted after the 1 year date. There will be no exceptions or extensions of this time frame.

Advance Planning Pays Off

Your CMSRN credential recognizes that you have reached the highest level of medical-surgical nursing practice. You have validated your advanced knowledge, earned respect from your peers, and demonstrated to your patients how much you care. Please refer to this article, share it with other CMSRNs, and take these essential steps to protect your accomplishment and earn your recertification!

Deirdre Bauer, RN, CMSRN, is a Clinical Coordinator at Memorial Hospital North, Colorado Springs, CO.
She is the current chairperson of the Recertification Committee and a former MSNCB Director.