June 15, 2011, 5:00 am

CEN – That’s Me!

Be careful what you wish for.

When I said I wished I could wear my nursing cap, this was not what I had in mind!

Behold the latest in Respiratory Isolation fashion – to be worn when your patient is undergoing an aerosolized treatment. First, you put on a cap to cover your hair. Then, you zip a disposable lining into the white hard hat. A motor blows cool filtered air in your face.

You can hear yourself breathe like Dave in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Nursing is not for the vain – you should have seen my hair when I took this contraption off. The N95 respirators take care of any make-up I might wear. So much for my cover model image : / Guess the folks at Glamour will have to wait.

Funny, I feel a strange connection to this fellow…..


Be sure to check out Dr. Val’s new radio show, Healthy Vision with Dr. Val Jones! It’s available on iTunes, and can also be heard on Better Health by clicking the widget to the far right on the sidebar. Listen in as she interviews experts on regular eye exams, contact lenses and UV protection for eyes (something I wasn’t aware of until recently!)


Well, I went and did it!

I took, and passed, the CEN exam!

Which is a little ironic, given how I was so sure that my career in emergency nursing was coming to a close last month.

And it might have, had “Thrive” Permanente seen any potential in an RN with 33 years of experience for their dermatology clinic.

(In addition, I was passed over for someone with, and I quote, “a higher level of experience” for their chronic disease clinic, too. Seriously. That nurse must have trained with Flo Nightingale, herself! Mind you, this was all via computer. No one ever talked to me. I’m starting to get a complex…)

And so I remain firmly ensconced in the ER milieu, surrounded by the infarcting, the exsanguinating, and the lacerated; the migraining, the febrile, and the vomiting; the sprained, the concussed and the drug seeking.

My people.


I’m proud of this CEN.

Didn’t change my work status. Didn’t change my paycheck.

But it does mean that I meet the core knowledge requirements for emergency nursing as established by the Emergency Nursing Association.

It feels good to have that verified.

I did get a new name tag with three new letters after my name.

I figure when the newness wears off, I’ll stop looking at it every ten minutes.

I did the same thing after my BSN.


I’d like to say I worked my butt off for the certification. And I did.

But I also walked my butt off for it, too!

The testing station was in San Francisco, about 1.5 miles from the BART station; I figured I would walk. Could have taken the MUNI, but the level of intimacy required due to the number of persons aboard was more than I was willing to share.

I started up Van Ness Avenue. Which is uphill. You don’t think it is, but it is. Trust me.

By the time I got to the location, I was sweating, out of breath and dying for water.

(Actually, I was dying for a margarita – I had passed two bars and a Chevy’s on the way…)

This turned out to be a blessing in disguise. When I sat down to take the test, I had zero anxiety. None. All that exercise must have cleared my head and left me with endorphins, because I hit the keyboard running and did 175 questions in a little over an hour (about 75 minutes).

Passed with a 90%. You find out immediately.


Decided on a Grande Caramel Frappucino with Extra Caramel and an Add-Shot from Starbucks on the way home instead of a margarita. Given that the temperature had dropped twenty degrees while I was taking the test I was sorry I had not gotten an extra-hot latte.

But San Francisco never looked as beautiful as it did on that walk back.

Guess I’ll be hanging out in the ER for awhile…



  • Wendryn

    June 15, 2011 at 5:23 am

    I generally just lurk, but this is worth sticking my head in – congratulations! Three extra letters after your name may not change anything, but there is satisfaction in having achieved that. I’m very happy for you! 🙂

  • Candy

    June 15, 2011 at 6:11 am

    Way to go! You are entitled to be proud of all your accomplishments — you worked hard for them! I bow in your general direction and salute you!!

  • RehabRN

    June 15, 2011 at 8:43 am

    Hooray! So happy for you! (I’ve been on Van Ness in my time in SFO, so I can see it in my head! What a walk!)

    I’m selfish, but I like the letters I have earned. It’s validation of my own to prove that I CAN do it. It’s nice a national certification body says I can, too.

    And it is worthwhile if you ever venture out into the world…you can legitimately say, “I am a certified registered nurse.”

    You worked hard for it, and you have a right to be proud of it.

    I’ll lift a cup for you in your honor…at my local Starbucks today.

    Cheers from RehabLand.

  • Dr. Val

    June 15, 2011 at 11:27 am

    Congratulations, Kim! I’m about to complete my board certification process myself – quite a long journey. And thanks for the shout-out about my radio show!

  • Gina

    June 15, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    Congrats, Kim! Great accomplishment. 🙂

  • Michele Roberts

    June 15, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    Congratulations! I passed my CEN last summer after 17 yrs as an ER nurse – and I was only motivated to take it in order to compete with the young -uns who were all clamoring to take it (and who, BTW, did not pass!) I am so glad they “got into my head” they way they did!!!
    Don’t shortchange yourself – it makes a world of difference in terms of the dedication that you have shown to your profession – anyone can work in an ER – I have witnessed that many times over in my career, it is just the happenstance of the situation – some people click with a manager and get hired, barely get through their probation and then end up hanging around because of the timme and money that was invested in them – but not everyone can pass that test!!!
    I am glad you are remaining an ER nurse!

  • Sean

    June 15, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    Congratulations Kim, not that I doubted you would not pass.
    Kudos to your validation and your continued efforts of being a leader.

  • Anthony Phipps

    June 16, 2011 at 9:05 am

    Way to go Kim!

  • Miriam

    June 16, 2011 at 11:45 am

    Congrats on the certification — I liked getting mine too (CHPN)

    If you’re still thinking about other jobs, one thing I have learned is that, with the ubiquitous computer-based application process, what’s important is, after you have submitted you stuff, CONTACT THE NURSE RECRUITER!! Either in person (best) or by phone, an opportunity to talk to a real live person and present your history, knowledge, skills, etc is invaluable. It’s also a way of finding out why you keep getting weeded out.

    Just a thought.

  • NPs Save Lives

    June 21, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    Congrats Kim! I submitted a little something for COS whenever you get time again. See ya!

  • RonCRNA

    June 21, 2011 at 11:45 pm

    Congrats on the CEN!! That’s a big accomplishment!
    I remember when I got my Critical Care Certification (CCRN), I felt a sense of accomplishment. For me, I was trying to prove to my colleagues that I had what it took to be an ICU nurse. The funny thing is that even though I knew the ‘book’ knowledge, the nurses who have been in the unit longer than me had the ‘bedside’ knowledge that is not taught in the classroom.

    Experience is a great teacher in nursing!


  • Chris

    June 23, 2011 at 6:21 pm

    Congratulations ! You are my hero……that’s exactly what I want to do after my degree…

  • Brenda

    June 29, 2011 at 10:50 am

    What a great accomplishment! Congratulations on a 90% too.

  • em29bee

    June 29, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    I had a ROFL moment from your tale of being passed over. I have been having the same experience – I think they are actually looking for someone with 1 – 2 years experience so that they don’t have to “pay” for our experience. Congratulations on the CEN. I need to get busy and get my CCRN.

  • Cathy

    July 2, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    You and Marvin definitely look related. A first cousin maybe.

    Congratulations on passing your CEN exam! *confetti*

  • aunt melmel

    July 8, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    Congratulations! I’m a 10-yr veteran of the NICU, ashamed to say I’m afraid of taking the certification exam. While I don’t plan to be a NICU RN for more than 3 more years, you’ve inspired me to go for it. Sorry the dermatology clinic didn’t work out for you. I sometimes wonder if you’re a hospital-based RN for too long, you’re stuck.

  • Marsha

    July 19, 2011 at 10:16 pm

    Congratulations Kim! Awesome accomplishment! 🙂

  • suz

    August 6, 2011 at 8:23 pm

    congrats … just curious … did you take/use any study program … or just your experience? been in the ER about 5 years and thinking it might be time to get the 3 letters … but as a rural small ER i am sure there are many things i have never seen.

About Me

My name is Kim, and I'm a nurse in the San Francisco Bay area. I've been a nurse for 33 years; I graduated in 1978 with my ADN. My experience is predominately Emergency and Critical Care, and I have also worked in Psychiatry and Pediatrics. I made the decision to be a nurse back in 1966 at the age of nine...

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