What Is RN-BC?

Board certification highlights a nurse's dedication to her specialty.
i Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images

When you see the initials RN-BC after someone's name, it means that the person is a registered nurse who has achieved board certification in her specialty. Her professional nursing practice may involve patient care or another aspect of nursing. Board-certified registered nurses can be found in hospitals, nursing homes, physician offices and other locations.

Registered Nursing

    Registered nurses have completed a program in professional nursing that includes both classroom and clinical instruction. Nurses are taught basic medical information in all specialties, from obstetrics to psychiatry. Most graduate from a 2-year program with an associate's degree, a 4-year program with a bachelor's degree or a 3-year program with a diploma. After graduation, they take an exam called the NCLEX-RN, to determine that they are ready to be nurses. Their state board of nursing considers their credentials and awards them a registered nursing license if they meet all the requirements.

Types of Board Certification

    According to the American Nurses Credentialing Center, registered nurses may become certified in the following nursing specialties: psychiatric-mental health, ambulatory, pain management, cardiac-vascular, pediatric, community health, case management, professional development and informatics. Registered nurses may also hold board certification in a specialty that has been retired. The American Nurses Credentialing Center, which awards the RN-BC designation, is a subsidiary of the American Nurses Association.

Board Certification Eligibility

    Eligibility requirements vary, but generally include 2 years of experience as an RN, 2,000 hours working in the specialty and 30 hours of continuing education. A fee must be paid and a test of approximately 175 questions taken and passed. Board-certified nurses must renew their certification every 5 years. Requirements for renewal include continued practice in the specialty, continuing education and/or retesting; there is a renewal fee. Only nurses who maintain current eligibility and renewal may use the title RN-BC.


    Board-certified registered nurses stand out from their peers. They may enjoy an increased hourly wage, a leg up at job interviews and career opportunities not available to non-certified nurses. Board certification also helps nurses establish trust with their patients, respect from physicians and honor among their peers.

Getting Started

    To get an RN-BC after your name, choose a registered nursing school and apply for admission. During nursing school, you will be exposed to many different specialties, some of which you will no doubt enjoy more than others. Once licensed, begin working in your favorite specialty and apply for board certification as soon as you are eligible.

the nest