RSSAll Entries Tagged With: "certification"

Summer Reading: Tips for preparing for the CCDS exam


Fran Jurcak, MSN, RN, CCDS

By Fran Jurcak, MSN, RN, CCDS

Once you have met the two-year minimum work experience requirement required to sit for the Certified Clinical Documentation Specialist (CCDS) credential exam, it’s time to study. Start by reviewing CCDS Exam Candidates Handbook for information on applying to sit for the exam as well as the process for taking the test. The following are a few additional tips that many successful candidates have used to earn their certification:

  • Discuss with peers and supervisors
  • Join a study group
  • Visit the CCDS discussion board on the ACDIS Forum
  • Start studying early like a few months prior to sitting for the exam
  • Review a new content area each week
  • Spend extra time studying areas where you feel less confident
  • When reviewing practice questions multiple times, make sure you understand the concept and don’t just memorize an answer
  • Take a day or two to prepare your mind and body for the exam
  • Get a good night’s sleep and eat a good meal before taking the exam
  • Leave plenty of time to arrive for the exam

Once you are set to begin the exam, take a deep breath, exhale, and let your knowledge and experience guide you through successful completion of the certification.

Editor’s note: This article is an excerpt from the “CCDS Exam Study Guide,” by Fran Jurcak, MSN, RN, CCDS. To read more about certification, visit the ACDIS website, here.


Book Excerpt: CCDS exam format


Fran Jurcak, MSN, RN, CCDS

By Fran Jurcak, MSN, RN, CCDS

The CDI specialist role is complex and multidisciplinary, suitable for clinically knowledgeable professionals who are proficient in analyzing and interpreting medical record documentation and capable of tracking and trending their CDI program goals and objectives. These professionals possess knowledge of healthcare and coding regulations, anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and pathophysiology. Furthermore, such professionals possess the valuable ability to engage physicians in dialogue and educational efforts regarding how appropriate clinical documentation benefits patient outcomes and the overall well-being of the healthcare system.

Therefore, the CCDS exam content stems from:

  • Analysis of the activities of clinical documentation specialists in a wide range of settings, hospital sizes, and circumstances
  • Input from ACDIS member surveys
  • Input and research of the CCDS advisory board comprised of experienced clinical documentation specialists

The examination is an objective, multiple-choice test consisting of 140 questions, 120 of which AMP uses to compute the final score. The exam questions have been designed to test the candidate’s multi-disciplinary knowledge of clinical, coding, and healthcare regulations, as well as the roles and responsibilities of a clinical documentation specialist. Choices of answers to the examination questions will be identified as A, B, C, or D and consist of the following question types:

  • Recall questions test the candidate’s knowledge of specific facts and concepts relevant to the day-to-day work of CDI professionals. The examination is an open-book test; candidates may use reference resources in answering recall questions, as this is the manner in which accreditation professionals frequently carry out their responsibilities.
  • Application questions require the candidate to interpret or apply information, guidelines, or rules to a particular situation.
  • Analysis questions test the candidate’s ability to evaluate and integrate a range of information in problem solving to address a particular challenge.

According to the CCDS Candidate Handbook, approximately 40% of the questions can be classified as the recall type, 40% as application type, and 20% as analysis type.

Editor’s note: This article is an excerpt from the “CCDS Exam Study Guide,” by Fran Jurcak, MSN, RN, CCDS. To read more about certification, visit the ACDIS website, here.

Note from CCDS Coordinator: Do you really need the CCDS certification?

CCDS certification

I received an interesting question recently from someone contemplating Certified Clinical Documentation Specialist (CCDS) certification. She asked:

“I am wondering whether obtaining the certification gives the CCDS holders any special privileges? Are they able to perform duties that they otherwise would not be able to if they did not hold the certification (not by knowledge, but by law)?”

In my five-plus years with ACDIS no one has ever asked this question. Obtaining the CCDS credential does not give the holder any additional rights, privileges, or responsibilities. It does not legally empower the holder to perform any duties.

What the CCDS credential does, however, is recognize individuals who have an advanced level of CDI knowledge and who have the proven ability to work as clinical documentation specialists. Candidates for the CCDS designation are required to have at least two years of experience in the profession.

The CCDS demonstrates an accomplishment that captures both experience and knowledge in the field, and many facilities suggest or require their CDI staff hold the CCDS or earn it following the two-year minimum requirement to sit for the exam, after hire. Facilities often hire individuals with nursing (clinical) or coding experience for the clinical documentation team and train them to become proficient. It is the decision of the individual facility to determine who to employ as a CDI specialist and what responsibilities are given to individuals who perform the CDI role, which may differ depending on whether or not they hold the certification.

What I didn’t tell the writer is that, for a lot of people, CCDS certification is a matter of pride. In the fall of 2016, ACDIS conducted a survey of CCDS holders and asked them what they see as the value of their credential. Their responses included:

  • The credential differentiates me as a leader
  • I am set apart as the CDI who went the extra mile to prepare for and achieve the certification for my very specialized profession
  • I am the go-to-person for others to come to with questions for assistance
  • The credential demonstrates that I put forth the effort to be knowledgeable about the work I perform
  • Professional certification is about promoting the highest standards in our industry
  • Personal satisfaction
  • It shows I take my job seriously and intend to stay on top of the knowledge I need to do the job well
  • It shows I have the experience of clinical chart review for appropriate diagnoses and the clarification/query process to physicians
  • The credential sets me apart—I have skills and knowledge
  • It’s proof that I value this job, want to continue to do it, and want to improve myself; I feel it’s a definite plus and shows that I take pride in what I do.
  • It adds much credibility with the physicians in my institution—I think I am perceived as being more professional and more knowledgeable in my role

From the same survey, several managers told us:

  • Certified individuals are viewed as more knowledgeable about coding guidelines and best practices. They are more committed to their work, better trained, and have better understanding of the role and what is required to do the job well. And because of recertification requirements, they stay current with changes in the industry.
  • Certification holders often serve as team leads, help with new staff orientation, and staff education.
  • It communicates a commitment to their craft. Requirements are such that they have to stay current with on-going changes that are occurring. It helps when interacting with their “customers,” as they really are trained and understand what they are doing.
  • Identifies that you have attained increased knowledge related to your daily practice.

What will drive you to seek CCDS certification? Whether personal pride, or a suggestion or requirement from your employer, we are here to encourage your efforts and cheer your accomplishment.

Visit the ACDIS website and download the Exam Candidate’s Handbook for more information about certification.

Editor’s note: Penny Richards is the CCDS Coordinator for ACDIS. If you have any questions regarding the CCDS credential or exam process, contact her at

A quick Q&A about CCDS recertification

Changes took place.

Everything you need to know about how to recertify.

Q: How far in advance can I renew my CCDS certification?

A: Please submit no more than 60 days prior to expire date. Your expiration date is every two years from the date you took the exam. That date is on your certificate and on the score sheet you received when you took the exam.

Q: What do you recommend as the best way to submit my recertification?

A: Complete and submit the application that is available on the ACIDS web site.

Q: I don’t see a way to do it online but do see a fax number.

A: There is no online application option offered.

Q: Do you recommend faxing the form, e-mailing it to you, or putting it in the mail?

A: Return it in whatever way you wish. Instructions are on the form.

Q: Is it ok to submit more than the required 30 or should I just stop once I reach 30 hours.

A: You only need to submit 30 hours. All CEUs must have been earned in the time you held the certification. Remaining CEUs cannot be used for a future recert. Note the restrictions outline on the form (not more than 10 CEUs for any single event other than certain HCPro-sponsored programs).

Need more information? Visit the recertification page on the ACDIS web site or email CCDS Exam Coordinator Penny Richards.

Happy Health Information Professionals Week and Certified Nurses Day!

Celebrate spring and professional achievement too!

Celebrate spring and professional achievement too!

Maybe it’s the promise of spring that has everyone in the mood to celebrate, after all tomorrow is the first day of that blissful season. Regardless, ACDIS stands at the ready to raise a toast to the two sets of professionals who support CDI efforts all year long.

First, this year’s Health Information Professionals Week takes place March 16th-22nd. This week provides an opportunity to showcase the thousands of HIM professionals who perform their duties throughout the year. ACDIS joins with AHIMA in its 25th anniversary celebration “Transforming Healthcare with Information.”

“The work HIM professionals do to ensure the integrity of health information is imperative to clinical and administrative decision making. Access to accurate information helps all of us make important decisions and leads to a healthy society,” said AHIMA CEO Lynne Thomas Gordon, MBA, RHIA, CAE, FACHE, FAHIMA, in a press release.

AHIMA kicked off its celebrations earlier this with “Hill Day” where HIM professionals visit Washington D.C. for lectures and set aside time to meet with their Congressional representatives to talk about the importance of the role of HIM in today’s healthcare landscape.

Secondly, Certified Nurses Day takes place today Wednesday, March 19, as a national day to honor and recognize the important achievement of nursing specialty and subspecialty certification. Obtaining certification represents a milestone of personal excellence along one’s professional journey and we at ACDIS are proud to join our fellow professional organizations the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN), among others, in congratulating those nurses who go the extra mile to earn certification in their areas of specialty.
How many professionals from your state hold the CCDS certification?

1,800 hold the CCDS certification–are you ready to get yours?

Those who have chosen to sit for the Certified Clinical Documentation Specialist exam to obtain their CCDS credential understand the value of certification. Proudly displaying your CCDS pin and certificate not only demonstrates pride in your achievements but also illustrates to the world a personal dedication to industry standards and professionalism.

According to data collected by the American Board of Nursing Specialties in 2013, nurses in the U.S. and Canada held more than 683,684 certifications, an increase of more than 87,111 certifications compared to 2012 survey data. These certifications were granted by 27 different certifying organizations, and 122 different credentials designate these certifications.
For ACDIS’ part, the first CCDS exam was held in May 2009 and 39 months later, in August 2012, the 1,000th person passed. Just a few months later on November 22, the 1,500th person earned the CCDS.
Today, there are nearly 1,800 CCDS credentialed CDI professionals in the country more than 400 others registered to sit for the exam. A majority of CCDS holders are RNs, but ACDIS is proud to count many HIM professionals, as well as quality improvement personnel and physicians, among those who have earned the CCDS.
Whether you have your CCDS or another credential, ACDIS salutes you for professionalism and honor you for taking those next steps to demonstrate your commitment to the healthcare profession.
As a reminder, our parent company HCPro offers a number of ANCC-approved webinar programs including several which are also approved for CCDS, AAPC, and AHIMA credits. To learn more, visit
Upcoming programs include:






ICD-10 Coding Proficiency for Home Health: Coding Neurological Diagnoses, Circulatory Diagnoses, and Wounds – Part 3



ICD-10 Coding Proficiency for Home Health: Implementing an Action Plan – Part 4



Alternative Sanctions and CoP Compliance (WT)



Principal Diagnosis Selection: Essential guidelines for ICD-10 implementation  (WT)



Query Compliance: Tools to Identify Query Successes and Opportunities (WT)



Face-to-Face Physician Encounters: Strategies for Compliance (WT)



Quality Improvement Strategies (WT)



Management of Chronic Conditions in Homecare (WT)

Reminder: CCDS eligibility requirements change January 1

How many professionals from your state hold the CCDS certification?


Effective January 1, 2014, candidates who apply for the Certified Clinical Documentation Specialist (CCDS) exam must have a minimum of two years of documentation specialist experience to qualify.

  • Candidates must have at least two years of experience as a documentation specialist experience or equivalent.
    • Once a candidate has accumulated the time, it does not expire.
    • Work experience requirements must be met when the application is submitted.
    • Applications may be audited to verify work history and educational background.

Candidates must demonstrate that they meet one of the following requirements:

  • An  RHIA®, RHIT®, CCS®, CCS-P®, RN, MD or DO and two (2) years experience as a concurrent documentation specialist.
  • An associate’s degree (or equivalent education) in an allied health field and three (3) years of experience as a concurrent documentation specialist. The education component must include completed coursework in medical terminology and anatomy and physiology.
  • Formal education (accredited, college-level course work) in human anatomy and/or physiology, plus medical terminology, and disease processes, and a minimum three (3) years experience as a concurrent documentation specialist.

Applicants who qualify for the exam under current requirements may apply by December 31, 2013. Current qualifications are listed on the ACDIS web site ( and in the exam candidate’s handbook (available for download on the ACDIS web site,

Applicants have one calendar year from the date their name is submitted to the exam company to schedule and take their exam.

Please direct questions to Penny Richards.


CCDS Credential: Class of 2013 First Quarter

How many professionals from your state hold the CCDS certification?

How many professionals from your state hold the CCDS certification?

Congratulations to the 91 people who earned the Certified Clinical Documentation Specialist designation in the first quarter of 2013 (January through April). Of that number 15 were from Texas!

Click this link to see if you know anyone on the list. If you do, send them a congratulatory note!

There are currently 1,239 people who hold the CCDS. Here are the latest figures on just where the CCDS-ers are located:

  • California leads the pack with more than 100.
  • Texas and New York each have more than 80
  • Florida has more than 75
  • North Carolina has 60-plus
  • Ohio has more than 50
  • No one in Wyoming, North Dakota, or Nebraska holds the CCDS.

You might want to remember where you saw these numbers. There just might be a quiz at a future date!

Update on CCDS CEU requirements

The CCDS credential requires regular re-certification.

We’ve made some changes to the list of items accepted as continuing education units (CEUs) toward your CCDS re-certification.

The major change is that you may submit no more than 10 CEUs for a single activity. There are two exceptions—the ACDIS Annual Conference or the HCPro CDI Boot Camp or ICD-10 for CDI Boot Camp—you may submit all of the CEUs for either of these activities toward your re-certification.

You still need to submit 20 CEUs for re-certification.

You may still submit CEUs for taking college courses relevant to healthcare/healthcare management, CDI, or clinical coursework for credit or degrees (10 CEUs for each credit earned). But you’ll need to submit another 10 CEUs for other activities to reach the 20 CEU requirement.

Click here to see the CEU PDF on the ACDIS site.

If in doubt about whether a program offers applicable credits, email the ACDIS office with program details. We’ll ask you to submit the program agenda or synopsis, so you can save yourself time and attach the agenda with your inquiry.

Don’t wait until your re-certification is due to find out whether credits will be accepted toward your CCDS re-certification. We’re here to help.

1,000th CDI professional passes CCDS exam

Elizabeth Soule became the 1,000th person to earn the CCDS credential in September.

by Beth Soule, RN, MSN, CCDS

After being in the CDI field a little over a year, I ordered The CCDS Exam Study Guide and signed up to take the Certified Clinical Documentation Specialist (CCDS) exam. I remember wondering if my seven years as a case manager or my clinical experience as a cardiothoracic surgery and ICU nurse would help me pass the exam. I also wondered if my career as a heart transplant coordinator at Duke University Medical Center would be helpful, too.

As I continued to contemplate scheduling the exam date, my thoughts wandered to my favorite vacation spot on the N.C. Outer Banks on Ocracoke Island and other things I enjoy doing like playing with my five cats, listening to  audiobooks, watching movies with my husband, lounging with an excellent cup of coffee, or cooking my favorite meal
of spaghetti and garlic bread.

I grounded myself by remembering why I chose to become a CDI specialist—to improve my understanding of the reimbursement and compliance side of healthcare, and to tackle the challenge of starting a new program. I love a challenge! So why was I hesitating about my exam date?

At work, my colleague would question me daily on my studying efforts and exam prep progress. “Go ahead and take
the test,” they prompted. Their comments rang louder with each passing day. So, finally, I scheduled the exam date for
the following week.

In the meantime, I studied.

Taking the exam took all of the three hours allotted. I was down to answering the last two questions in the final seconds. But I found that the questions validated my everyday work routines, our report analysis process, and echoed the information in sources I frequently refer to for additional information.

On leaving the testing center I was again lost in thought. Only this time my thoughts were, “Wow! I passed!” It is truly an awesome reward to be a nurse stepping into a new specialty, which allows me to learn something new every single day. My case management colleagues comment almost daily that I have found my nursing niche. Certification solidifies  current best practice and adds credibility to my daily efforts and to the field as a whole. So what are you waiting for? Take the test!

Editor’s Note: Soule is a clinical documentation analyst at Duke Raleigh (N.C.) Hospital. In September, she became the 1,000th person to pass the CCDS exam. Contact her at This article first published in the October edition of the CDI Journal.

Your CCDS isn’t tied to your ACDIS membership

I’ve been reaching out to people whose CCDS credential expired in 2011. Most of these folks are among the first who

I wonder who else will be wearing a purple hat in San Diego.

earned the credential, and knowing how hard they worked to earn it, we hate to see them lose it.

In the course of chatting with people, a few were confused about the relationship between their CCDS credential and their ACDIS membership. They thought that renewing their ACDIS membership each year automatically translated to the CCDS credential.

One has nothing to do with the other. You become an ACDIS member when you pay the membership fee. There is no exam required.

The CCDS credential has strict educational training and experience requirements. Additionally, those who wish to earn the credential must pay a fee, pass an exam, and then renew the credential every two year by submitting proof of 20 continuing education credits and paying a renewal fee.

To summarize:

  • Anyone can join ACDIS
  • ACDIS members may be qualified to take the CCDS exam
  • CCDS holders may be ACDIS members

(That list reminds me of those awful logic problems from middle school. Remember those? Here’s one: Penny, Melissa, and Brian went to the ACDIS Conference, one by plane, one by train, and one on horseback. One carried a suitcase, one carried a newspaper, and one carried a laptop. Who wore the purple hat?)

You don’t need to be an ACDIS member to hold the CCDS. Plenty of stuff is free on the ACDIS site, like this blog. So, why join ACDIS?

(Here comes “the pitch”). Your ACDIS membership connects you on a deeper level with other CDI professionals, products, and services. You get:

  • Free participation in quarterly conference calls and in the ACDIS e-mail group CDI Talk
  • Free full access to the ACDIS web site, including the online Forms & Tools Library full of documents you can download and customize, and archives of featured articles
  • A free subscription to the quarterly electronic CDI Journal
  • Free access to the ACDIS elearning library for online courses that offer CDI, coding, and case management continuing education credits
  • Member-only discounts for the annual ACDIS conference, CDI products, and the CCDS exam and/or re-certification

ACDIS membership is well-priced at $129 a year. (Members of local ACDIS chapters receive a discount on National membership which brings that cost to under $100. Talk to your local chapter leaders to learn more. Take advantage of the discounts and it will more than pay for itself every year.  For instance, you can earn free CEUs for your CCDS and save $100 on the CCDS renewal fee. (End of “the pitch”.)

When does your CCDS expire? Are you ready with at least 20 CEUs? Got a renewal question? E-mail me at I’m here to help.

I’ll be the one in San Diego in the purple hat.