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CNA Certification Program

“Certification really gives that extra knowledge that makes a difference in your nursing care.” Read what certified nurses say about the value of their credential.

Opening of application system delayed

This is an important notice for those planning to apply to write a certification exam or to renew their certification: the application window will not open on January 9, as previously advertised. We anticipate the window will open on January 20 or soon after. Check back here in the coming weeks for a confirmed date.

Why is the application window delayed? CNA is making several improvements to the online certification application system. We require additional time to ensure the system is running smoothly for certification applicants. CNA thanks you for your understanding.

Missed your 2019 renewal? Please contact the certification team to discuss your options.

What is certification?

CNA certification is a nationally recognized nursing specialty credential for nurses. In 2019 we introduced our first certification for licensed/registered practical nurses.

To become certified, you must pass a rigorous computer-based exam. There are two exam windows annually (see important dates). Your exam preparation will be unique, depending on what you already know in your specialty. We offer many exam preparation resources, as do many nursing specialty associations.

If you become certified, your credential will be valid for a five-year term. At the end of five years, you can renew by submitting a record of continuous learning hours or rewriting the exam.

New exams in 2020

Starting in January, registered psychiatric nurses can apply to write their nursing specialty certification exams in gerontology as well as in psychiatric and mental health.

The first exam in medical-surgical nursing for licensed/registered practical nurses will take place during the November 1-15 exam window. Please note the application period for the new exam will start on June 1.

Registered psychiatric and licensed/registered practical nurses: CNA membership is now available to you — visit our membership webpage for fees, benefits and instructions on how to join. Members receive a significant discount on their certification application.

Retired exams in 2019

For a certification exam to be feasible there needs to be enough nurses practising in the specialty. This ensures a minimum number of exam writers annually. Five certification exams – gastroenterology, neuroscience, orthopaedic, perianesthesia and rehabilitation – were considered no longer sustainable for CNA. After much consultation with the respective nursing specialty associations, CNA has decided to retire these exams effective November 2019.

Please note: Nurses certified in any of these five specialties can maintain their credential by renewing every five years through continuous learning only. Renewal by exam is no longer being offered.

Care to Be the Best

The first certification exam, offered in 1991, was in neuroscience nursing. Today, more than 16,000 nurses are CNA certified (see breakdown by specialty and province/territory).

Certified nurses are…

  • Recognized nationally for their practice excellence and commitment to lifelong learning
  • Valued by employers, because their certification demonstrates specialized knowledge and brings many benefits to organizations
  • Viewed as having enhanced professional credibility

Important dates


2020 Poster [PDF, 268.1 KB]

Initial or renewal by exam

Application window Exam window Results
Spring Jan. 9 – March 2 (delayed) May 1 – 15 June
Fall June 1 – Sept. 10 Nov. 1 – 15 Dec.

Renewal by continuous learning (CL)

Application window
Renewal by CL

Jan. 9 – Nov. 1 (delayed)

Please note:

  • All certifications set to expire in 2020 are due to renew.
  • Certified nurses in gastroenterology, neuroscience, orthopaedic, perianesthesia or rehabilitation can maintain their credential by renewing through continuous learning only. Renewal by exam is no longer offered.