Hello all! This post is for all my ER or ICU nurses who want to obtain their Trauma Certified Registered Nurse certification offered by BCEN. I recently passed the exam and I wanted to share my easy five-step process to pass. This blog post will be an extensive guide for those preparing. Keep reading for more!

Disclaimer: All thoughts and opinions are my own. Anything stated does not reflect the entirety of nursing. Take any advice at your own risk.


The TCRN is a professional certification a nurse can obtain. The focus of the exam is primarily based on direct care of the trauma patient in the emergency room. Taking and passing the exam, helps show your comptetence of care for the trauma patient specialty. You can find more specific information on the BCEN website and cost information here. I will not be going into the fine details of the exam, as I plan on focusing on passing the actual exam.

I just want to insert a quick note here about cost. The exam is expensive, but reach out to your manager to see if they offere BCEN vouchers. This would allow you to test for free. If not, save up or work an extra half shift to pay for it.


If you work at a trauma center or in a system that has a major trauma center, you will be required to take the Trauma Nursing Core Course (TNCC) usually around a year after you start. I strongly recommend beginning to prep for the TCRN after taking and passing this course. The information from TNCC spills over into the TCRN, making it a smooth transition. Check out my post here on How To Pass TNCC.


The first thing I did was print out the TCRN Exam outline from the BCEN website. I made sure to go over the exam content to get a generalized idea of what I would be studying for a month. I also went ahead and wrote each section and how many days I wanted to devote to studying. My favorite tip that I have used for every major exam so far is to print out a two month calendar and jot down my work schedule. I work nights, so I made sure to spread my study days out to my nights off.


You do not need to purchase many materials to pass the TCRN! The biggest resource you probably already have is your TNCC book. The content on the TCRN primarily comes from these three places: TNCC book, ACS: Resources for Optimal Care of the Injured Patient and the Advanced Trauma Life Support Course (ATLS). I have not taken the ATLS course, but there are many free resources out there to help. I have provided a list here of resources and costs if not free.

What I Used
  • TNCC book
  • American College of Surgeons: Resources for Optimal Care of the Injured Patient 2014
  • BCEN Online Practice Exam $50.00
  • Pam Bartley Study Guide
  • STN Flashcards (loaned by job, $50.00)
  • Pam Bartley Blog – lots of really informative posts and testing pointers
  • ATLS Prep Videos
  • Types of Shock

I know the BCEN practice exam costs money, but I would highly recommend investing and taking it. You want to take it before you begin your studying. This provides you with a starting point. Your results will provide with you scores based on the section. I recommend writing down the answers and references for the questions you miss. Determine your weakest section and start there!


Study seems like such a vague word sometimes, but after taking the practice exam and figuring out my weakness I started studying. I tried not to study more than an hour at a time. Here is what I would like to do is read relevant sections in TNCC book and write down general points and facts (definitions of diagnosis, complications, interventions, formulas). Another random fact is to pay attention to the pop up boxes in the book. There is a lot of good information in there (hint, hint). I also would try to complete practice questions from each section of the test on the nights I had to work and every morning I did not work. Ten to twenty questions total should do the trick!


Sometimes there are live review courses you can take to help review. I took one for my first try of the exam, but I felt it did not help. I felt more stressed afterwards. During my second attempt, I felt much more relaxed without a review course and just the study manual.


The last step once you have run through all the sections, done your practice questions, etc re-take the same practice exam. You want to receive a passing score. If you receive a passing score, you are clear to test! If not, re-focus on your weak points, complete more practice problems and try to take the practice exam again in a week.


You can schedule the exam by creating an account on the BCEN website and following the instructions. If you have a voucher, make sure to have that code with you. As far as the timing for scheduling, it really depends on you. Some people like to schedule before they begin studying. I decided to schedule during my last two weeks of studying. This option was less stressful for me. Make sure you schedule at a time that works for you!

  • Do not study the day before.
  • Don’t tell anyone you are studying for/taking the exam, this will help decreased the pressure.
  • If you feel like you are tired of studying around three to five days out, just stop! (That is what I did!)
  • Get a good night’s sleep before taking the exam.
  • Do not take the exam after working the night before.
  • Eat a balanced meal before driving to the testing center.
  • Make sure you are hydrated!
  • Don’t bring anything into the exam center except for your ID.
  • Take deep breaths.
  • Jot down your formulas/values in the corner on your stratch sheet of paper (MAP Calculation, Shock Severity, Parkland Formula, Rule of 9’s, etc.)
  • Take your time during the test. You have more than enough time, so don’t rush.
  • Read the question slowly and completely. Pay attention to words like always, never, except.
  • Take a break at the haldway mark. Once you hit around questions 86, I got up and took to the restroom. That three minute break did wonders for me!

There we go! My ultimate guide to passing the TCRN! If anyone has any questions, comments, concerns feel free to drop them below. Make sure to follow my blog for more helpful nursing and lifestyle content!

Thanks for reading!


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