How To Become a Certified Addiction RN in 5 Simple Steps

From Unbecoming A Nurse to Overcoming Addiction

What is a certified addiction RN?

A certified addiction RN is a registered nurse who focuses on preventing, treating, managing and intervening with patient addiction disorders. Certified addiction RNs often have to meet requirements beyond those needed for standard nursing credentials. Because of this, their credibility and value to their field can be very high. Certified addiction nurses often understand specific standards of practice, ethical requirements and addiction-specific techniques that make them important resources to their patients and care teams.

Certified nurses can apply their knowledge in many settings. Some work directly with patients, others might choose to teach, research or work in academia. With a certification, nurses can ensure theyre able to offer the highest quality of care to their patients and elevate the field of addiction nursing. Certifications can also prepare nurses to support families and communities affected by addiction and succeed in leadership roles within the field.

How to become a certified addiction RN

If youre interested in becoming a certified addition RN, here are some steps you can take:

1. Become a registered nurse

To become a certified addiction nurse, you first have to become an RN. While there are some alternative routes to becoming an RN after completing high school, typically RNs need either an associates or a bachelors degree in nursing. Most employers require candidates to have at least a bachelors degree. You can also consider pursuing a masters in nursing. This can qualify you for more advanced certification offerings and improve the level of care youre able to offer substance abuse patients.

Following your degree, nurses need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination. Your state might also have specific requirements to practice legally, so be sure to research all the qualification requirements where you are.

2. Gain experience

Before pursuing certification, its important to gain experience working with substance abuse patients. You might choose to work in a specialty clinic, in an emergency setting with lots of exposure to addiction or in a classroom setting where the focus is specifically on addiction nursing.

There are two benefits to gaining additional experience. The first benefit is that it gives you a chance to see what addiction nursing is like. This can help you decide if specializing in substance abuse and addiction nursing is the right choice for your career. The second benefit is in preparing you for your certification. The most popular certification offerings require RNs to have at least a year, or 2,000 hours, of experience working with substance abuse patients.

3. Research certifications

The third step to becoming a certified addiction RN is to research certification options. In your research, you can discover the qualification criteria and decide which certification option is best for you. Most certifications have education and experience requirements. You might need to work in a substance-abuse specific setting or pursue continuing education options before youre able to take the certification exam. The certification program you ultimately choose to pursue can depend on your existing experience and future goals. Consider talking to your employer or reviewing relevant job postings to discover which certifications employers find most valuable.

Here are some certification options you might consider:

Please note that none of the certifications or certification organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

4. Pass the certification exam

Once youre sure youve met all the requirements needed to take the CARN or CARN-AP exam, you can apply to take the test by supplying proof of your continuing education hours, work experience and active license. The certification exam is available year-round, so there arent any deadlines to worry about. To earn a passing grade on the exam, certification candidates typically need to answer about 70% of the exams questions correctly. It often takes a few weeks before exam-takers receive their results.

5. Update your resume

After passing your exam, you can update your resume to reflect your new credential. Certifications can be a great way to grow your knowledge, gain credibility and qualify for more advanced career opportunities. If youre applying to specific positions as an addictions nurse, use job postings to update your resume with specific keywords. This can help you differentiate yourself from other candidates and draw employers attention to your relevant skills.

6. Apply for positions as an addiction nurse

With your updated resume, you can apply for positions as an addiction nurse. Your certification can qualify you for unique opportunities and assure employers youre a qualified and educated candidate. While studying for the exam, nurses can learn valuable skills that make them capable of delivering high-quality care to their patients. Your commitment to learning and growing in your specialty can show employers and patients youre a dedicated nurse whos committed to professional development and delivering the best possible care.

You might look for in-patient settings or treatment programs that allow you to assist substance abuse patients directly. You might also apply your skills to research or academic settings, helping train other nurses in addiction best practices so they can promote quality patient and community care.

7. Renew your certification before it expires

If you pursued the CARN or the CARN-AP certification, keep track of the certifications renewal requirements. The certification usually lasts for around four years and you can apply to renew it. If you wait longer than four years, however, you may have to take the exam again in order to re-obtain your certification.


What is an addiction nurse called?

A Substance Abuse or Addiction Nurse helps patients who are addicted to drugs, alcohol and other substances.

What is a Carn certification?

The Certified Addiction Registered Nurse (CARN) is for RN’s who have a minimum of 2000 hours (one year) of nursing experience related to addictions as an RN. The Certified Addiction Registered Nurse – Advance Practice (CARN-AP) is for RN’s who have a Master’s Degree in Nursing.

What do addiction nurses do?

A substance abuse nurse provides direct patient care to individuals struggling with substance abuse and addiction. They assist physicians in developing treatment plans, perform patient assessments, monitor a patient’s progress and administer medications and pain management services.

How many questions is the Carn exam?

● CARN-AP Examination Fees

The examinations administered from October 2012 on include a total of 145 items; scores are computed on 120 items specified by the content outline and the remaining 25 items are unscored pretest items.

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