Frequently Asked Questions

How can I volunteer with ABCGN?
Why is certification so expensive?
Is ABCGN’s certification program accredited by ABNS?
Do you have specialty certification examinations for those gastroenterology nurses whose focus is more limited than general gastroenterology/endoscopy nursing, i.e., pediatric GI, or hepatology?
What is an Item Writers Workshop?
Does ABCGN grade on the "curve"?
What should I study?
Will the test include questions on procedures not offered by my lab?
What is a scale score?
Why didn't I pass?
Does ABCGN still offer the LPN/LVN certification program?
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How can I volunteer with ABCGN?

Every certificant is now a voting member of the American Board of Certification for Gastroenterology Nurses, Inc. As a voting member you now have the ability to cast your ballot for the ABCGN Board of Directors. The ABCGN Board of Directors serves a vital role in setting the strategic initiatives, operational goals, and exam and recertification policies, qualifications, and standardization.Download a copy of the Leadership Brochure to find out more about the nominations and election process and how you can nominate someone you know to become a member of the Board of Directors. If you are intereseted in volunteering with ABCGN on the Board of Directors (elected position) or on one of our committees (appointed positions) please fill out a Willingness to Serve form posted on the Get Involved section of the web site.

Why is certification so expensive?

While the ABCGN Board and many of its certified nurses believe that certification is a reward in itself, most nurses seeking certification are looking for a credential which will be respected by others in the healthcare field and, sometimes, rewarded by their employer through reimbursement and/or differential pay increases. Hospitals or other employers sometimes question how meaningful is the CGRN designation and whether certification by ABCGN is equivalent to other more well-known programs.

ABCGN is accredited by the Accreditation Board for Specialty Nursing Certification(ABSNC), the standard setting body for specialty nursing certification programs. ABSNC offers a very stringent and comprehensive accreditation process. ABCGN provided extensive documentation demonstrating that it has met the 18 ABSNC standards of quality. Among the other nursing specialties accredited directly by ABSNC are American Board of Neuroscience Nursing, Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing, Council on Certification of Nurse Anesthetists, Medical Surgical Nursing Certification Board, and Oncology Nurses Certification Board.  Although a much smaller program, reflecting the smaller number of nurses in the specialty, ABCGN has met the same high standards, as the widely recognized and much larger certification programs and their certificants which also are accredited by ABSNC.

However, meeting high standards is expensive. For example, one standard requires that the program analyze, define and publish performance domains and tasks and use them to develop the assessment instruments. This is done through the process of a job analysis or role delineation. This process must be repeated every 5 years, depending on how quickly the profession is changing.
 
Standards also require that assessment instruments (examinations) are "consistent with generally accepted psychometric principles." Obviously, those on the ABCGN Board are nurses, not psychometricians, and while they learn much about the science of testing as Board members, they rely on the expertise of a testing company to insure the validity of the ABCGN examinations. This, too, is an expensive investment.

In order to answer questions of currently certified individuals and candidates, maintain the web site, process registrations and distribute certificates and pins to successful candidates, etc. ABCGN must maintain an office and staff. 

In short, despite every effort on the part of the ABCGN Board to keep costs down in order to make certification accessible to as many individuals as possible, offering a quality certification program is a costly endeavor. ABCGN's budget is approximately $400,000 per year. And, ABCGN must provide for such a program on a much smaller candidate population than many other certification programs in nursing.

The Board of Directors seeks to offset some of these costs through sponsorship, but to a large degree, candidate fees must pay the costs of the program. For those who cannot afford these costs, ABCGN has scholarships available. Information on our scholarship programs are available on our web site under Resources/Awards.

As in many things with regard to one's career, each individual must decide what they wish to invest and what they expect in return. Nursing school is costly. Seeking an advanced degree is costly. Attending continuing education sessions to stay current on developments in the profession is costly. And, yes, certification is costly. Each individual must decide for themselves whether or not they believe these achievements are worth their cost.

We believe that certification:

Validates your qualifications and your advanced competence.
Demonstrates your professional aspirations and your desire to improve the quality of patient care and delivery of services.
Rewards your continuing efforts to improve your knowledge and skills in your profession.
Reflects your commitment in time, effort and expense to gastroenterology nursing.
Assures professional recognition from your peers and colleagues.

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Is ABCGN's certification program accredited by ABSNC?

ABCGN is proud to announce that it received accreditation for its CGRN certification program from the Accreditation Board for Specialty Nursing Certification (ABSNC) in 2007. Accreditation status is granted for five years. ABSNC is the standard setting body for specialty nursing certification programs and offers a very stringent and comprehensive accreditation process. ABCGN provided extensive documentation demonstrating that it has met the 18 ABSNC standards of quality.

What does ABSNC accreditation mean for those interested in becoming CGRN certified or those already certified? It means that a nationally recognized accrediting body has determined that the CGRN credential is based on a valid and reliable testing process and that the structures in place to administer the examinations meet and even exceed the standards of the certification industry from a legal, regulatory and association management perspective. This is a testament to the public about the quality of an individual nurse's certification credential(s).

Certification, as defined by the Accreditation Board for Specialty Nursing Certification (ABSNC), is 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. ABSNC believes that the increasingly complex patient/client needs within the current health care delivery system are best met when registered nurses, certified in specialty practice, provide nursing care. This accreditation from ABSNC recognizes the value of our certification program and the CGRN credential.

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Do you have specialty certification examinations for those gastroenterology nurses whose focus is more limited than general gastroenterology/endoscopy nursing, i.e., pediatric GI, or hepatology?

Unfortunately ABCGN does not offer sub-specialty certification. ABCGN’s mission is to maintain and improve the knowledge, understanding and skill of nurses in the fields of gastroenterology and gastroenterology endoscopy by developing and administering a certification program. The current role delineation study for ABCGN was completed in 2012 and a classification system for the domains, tasks, and skills was determined. According to our most recent study, the three domains identified by those responding to our survey include:

General Nursing Care

Gastroenterological Procedures

Patient Care Interventions

ABCGN recognizes that many gastroenterology nurses have primary duties within a sub-specialty field of gastroenterology nursing, while other GI and endoscopy nurses have broader roles, including bronchoscopy, TEE, ureo dynamics, and possibly other therapeutic and diagnostic procedures from multiple disciplines. The role delineation, however, reflects the scope of practice in the general field of gastroenterology/endoscopy nursing. The examination based on that role delineation study contains, at most, four to five test items relating to any given sub-specialty. We could not attest to a certificant’s competency on the basis of a subset of such a few questions.

In order to administer a separate or additional certification examination in a specific sub-specialty, several things would need to occur. First, we would need to identify a large enough cohort of care providers in the sub-specialty to participate in a role delineation survey so that a test that measures current practice could be developed. Then, a large enough group of specialists would need to participate in item writing and on the ABCGN Board to insure that the needs and interests of the pool of potential certified nurses in the sub-specialty were represented.

This is not an inexpensive process; it is one that involves months of preparation and tens of thousands of dollars. The cost of ABCGN’s most recent role delineation, for example, was more than $60,000, and the cost of examination development is approximately $10,000 per version. The cost to perform a sub-specialty role delineation study and develop a sub-specialty examination is the same regardless of the number of candidates who might take the examination.

Unfortunately, there is a limited pool of nurses who consider themselves specialists in any particular area of gastroenterology. For that reason, it is unlikely that a sub-specialty examination would prove feasible based on the cost of developing and offering such an exam compared to the number of candidates likely to sit for sub-specialty certification. As GI nursing becomes more sophisticated, however, clear sub-specialties may develop or the scope of practice in the field may broaden or narrow. ABCGN regularly updates its role delineation survey and reconsiders the need for sub-specialty certification. In the meantime, ABCGN attempts to serve the needs of those nurses by developing self-study.

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What is Item Writers Workshop?

ABCGN invites all certified nurses to participate in developing the exam through the Item Writers Workshop. The involvement of representatives from across the country, from different worksites, from GI labs large and small, nurses of different age groups and levels of experience, helps to insure that the examination is truly representative.

The workshop, held each year during the SGNA annual course, is the first step in developing questions which eventually will be used on the examination.

During the workshop, ABCGN's Item Development Manager will teach participants how to construct examination items. Experienced item writers will mentor first timers. Participants will be given areas of content where new items are needed and will be provided with current texts to use for inspiration or reference. Participants will work in groups and independently. No previous experience is required.

Once questions have been drafted, they will be shared among groups and edited during the workshop. After the workshop, questions will be submitted to further review by psychometric professionals and entered into the item bank from which the examination is drawn.

The workshop is a great way to meet new people in a supportive, professional atmosphere while contributing to the certification process. In addition, continuing education contact hours are provided for participation.

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Does ABCGN grade on the "curve"?

The ABCGN examination is not graded on a "curve." Certifying bodies do not work to achieve a particular passing rate; what they are interested in is determining whether or not each candidate demonstrates a level of competency which promotes public safety and professional standing. Everyone who meets that standard passes. Such a "criterion referenced" standard may result in a higher or lower passing rate depending on the candidate population - are they more or less experienced, more or less prepared, more or less educated, etc.

The ABCGN uses a well-established psychometric method to establish a criterion-referenced passing score for its examination. This methodology is called the "Modified Angoff Technique," and is the most commonly used approach to setting standards on multiple-choice credentialing examinations. It relies on a panel of experts in the field to judge the relative difficulty of each item on a given version of the exam by asking the question "What is the probability that the minimally competent candidate could answer this question correctly?"

Exams are scored using a scale score. Scaled scoring allows for a common scale by which to compare exam results from one administration to the next. Scaled scoring is not a percentage of right/wrong answers, it is a way of putting all scores regardless of the version of the exam.

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What should I study?

The Core Curriculum is a good place to begin your study. However, it is not comprehensive. SGNA also offers a study guide. The SGNA Procedures Manual and position statements, recent articles from GI Nursing, drug handbooks, GI Disorders (from Mosby's nursing series) and other similar references also represent good sources for study. These references are used by Item Writers in developing questions for the exam. A bibliography of all texts used by Item Writers at their most recent workshop is included on this website; however, even it is not a comprehensive list of all possible references.

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Will the test include questions on procedures not offered by my lab?

The ABCGN examination is designed to measure competency in the field of GI nursing against a standard established by experts in the profession with the help of experts in the field of testing and measurement (psychometrics). The content is established by a role delineation study. See the handbook for a more detailed explanation. The goal is to define the full range of content representing competence in GI nursing.

There is no question that the GI departments in some facilities may do procedures not covered (i.e. bronchoscopy) or may not do some of the procedures covered. However, to meet the standard of Certified Gastroenterology Registered Nurse, a candidate must demonstrate competence across the entire profession, not just across the part of that profession represented by his or her current employment. Who knows whether the next place the candidate works will do some other tested area that his/her current lab does not offer? ABCGN must certify the candidate in the profession, not just in his/her current job.

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What is a scale score?

A scale score is a mathematical conversion of a raw score, expressed in such a way that the range of scores is from 200-800 with a mean of 500 and a standard deviation of 100. ABCGN uses a scale score so that it can publish a passing point. The raw score passing point differs slightly from one version of the test to another and, therefore, cannot be published until the specific verison of the test to be administered has been completed and the passing point determined. The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and other well-known standardized tests also report their results as scale scores.

For the RN examination, a scale score of 450 is required to pass.

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Why didn't I pass?

Many individuals express frustration because they don't pass the ABCGN certification exam on the first try. They've been in GI for years. They studied the Core. They took a course. Why, then, didn't they pass?Each individual is different and neither ABCGN nor anyone else can tell you what you must do to be successful. One clue, however, may be the scope of your day to day practice. The ABCGN examinations are based on role delineations, one for registered nurses and one for associates, which define the scope of practice. The exams cover a broad overview of material encountered in the practice. Therefore, you must be well prepared not only concerning the things you do every day, but the full scope of gastroenterology nursing practice. The more limited the breadth of your daily work in GI, the more preparation you may require. If, for example, you do not work with pediatric patients, you must study pediatric GI, because there may be questions relating to pediatrics on the test. Don't do motility studies in your lab? It doesn't matter. To be certified in GI, you still must demonstrate knowledge and skill in motility.Another factor may be the number of years you have been out of school. On one hand, more years of experience are an advantage. On the other, study skills and test taking strategies are lost as you get farther and farther away from the academic environment. If it's been years since you've taken a major exam, studying test-taking materials, such as preparation materials for the SAT or nursing licensure exam, may remind you of general preparation and test taking skills.The amount of preparation you will require to pass the ABCGN exam also depends upon your formal education, practice setting, academic aptitude, retention ability, quality and quantity of on-the-job training, and many other factors. Certainly, studying the Core Curriculum and participating in review courses are good ways to study, but they may or may not be enough. Other possibilities include attending SGNA national and regional meetings, reviewing the literature, using ABCGN's bibliography, participating in study groups, studying other reference materials such as SGNA monographs, current gastroenterology texts, current pharmacology texts, SGNA's Procedure Manual., etc. No one can tell you how much preparation you need or which type of preparation is best.What is important to understand is that success is the progressive realization of challenging goals. Certification is one such goal. For some candidates, success comes easy. For some, it takes more effort. Who would want a certification which wasn't rigorous?

Many candidates sit for the examination more than once, becoming better and better prepared with each effort. The ABCGN Board and the fellowship of certified individuals encourage all GI nurses who want to become certified to persevere. Do not be discouraged by one or more unsuccessful attempts. Certification is a goal within your reach if you are willing to work for it.

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Does ABCGN still offer the LPN/LVN certification program?

The ABCGN Board made a very difficult decision in June, 2006 to discontinue offering the CGN exam and maintaining the CGN credential. The last LPN/LVN certification examination was offered in October, 2006. Those whose certifications expired on 12/31/2006 were able to recertify in 2006 with their certification extending to 2011.

This was not a hasty decision, but made following thorough research and discussion. In 2006, the CGN exam had been offered for 15 years with 158 CGN’s representing approximately 4% of the total ABCGN certificants. The number of CGN’s had remained consistently low, both in examinees and recertification. For several years, ABCGN and Castle Worldwide Testing Corporation had been closely evaluating the statistical data for the LPN/LVN exam. In order to offer a valid exam (one that is statistically sound), there has to be enough exams taken to validate the questions, answers and results.

When ABCGN received notification from the testing company in 2006 regarding the potential invalidity of the exam, ABCGN began conducting market research on the trends in the role of LPNs/LVNs in the gastroenterology setting. The results concluded that many hospitals are no longer hiring LPN/LVNs and that ambulatory surgical centers are still using LPNs/LVN/s but are not looking to increase their hiring. Both the market research team and the Board concluded that at the very least the LPN/LVN gastroenterology community would not be increasing over the next five years.

ABCGN then reviewed the financial implications of the exam. For an exam to remain valid, there needs to not only be a certain number of examinees each year, but a role delineation research study must be conducted a minimum of every five years. The role delineation study validates the knowledge necessary and areas of job responsibility

for the gastroenterology nurse to be tested on the certification exam. A new role delineation study for the CGN would have been due in 2006. This would entail a financial commitment of over $20,000, plus the approximately $17,000 in annual expense for offering and maintaining the CGN exam.

As a certifying board, ABCGN was first concerned with offering a valid test. With such a small audience for the test, the exam could not be validated nor could it sustain itself financially. The Board studied this issue from every angle before making this extremely difficult decision.

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Important Dates - Home
Recertification Deadline: December 31, 2017
2017 Spring  Exam Testing Window : May 1, 2017 - May 31, 2017 
2017 Fall Exam Registration Window : June 1, 2017 - August 15, 2017 (only for 2017 Fall Exam Registration)
Select your testing time and location through Prometric: Available after registration window closes