An overview of certification

How to become certified

Certification requires the following steps*:

  1. Review certification goals and standards
  2. Meet the qualifications for certification
  3. Apply to take certification exam
  4. Upon approval, register for the exam
  5. Study for the exam
  6. Take the exam

*Detailed instructions for each of the six important steps in the certification process are located on the individual pages.

Renewing your certification

Once you achieve certification, you must maintain your certification status by renewing it every two years. Additionally, certification as a CDDN or DDC requires that you maintain your membership in DDNA during your entire certification period. Membership in your specialty association is required of a nurse certified in the specialty of IDD. If your membership in DDNA expires, you may not use the CDDN or DDC recognition until your membership is renewed. For details and renewal forms, visit the certification renewal page.

The value of specialty certification

For Nurses:

To be certified means that you are competent in your chosen field and have a recognized level of achievement. You understand and comply with the standards of your professional organization, live by those standards professionally, and set an example of excellence. Certification attests to your knowledge in your chosen specialty area of nursing practice. Certification provides a way to demonstrate your experience, competence, and proficiency beyond that required for nursing licensure. As a nurse practicing in the field of developmental disabilities, certification also documents that you possess special knowledge and gives you access to expanded career opportunities and advancement. As a certified nurse, you also benefit the profession of nursing, the specialty of developmental disabilities, and the people for whom you care.

For Employers:

When you hire an RN or LPN/LVN who is certified in IDD nursing, you can be assured that the certified nurse has experience in working with persons with IDD, has demonstrated a high degree of expertise in the field of IDD nursing, and maintains that level of expertise by completing ongoing continuing education specific to the field of IDD nursing. Clients generally leave programs or facilities for one of four reasons: dissatisfaction with services, needs that exceed program capabilities, decline in health, or death. By having a certified nurse on staff, you can increase your clients’ satisfaction with services, meet their complex nursing care needs, and help to ensure their health and quality of life. Having a CDDN or DDC makes the difference!

One nurse’s journey to certification

One of DDNA’s members who successfully passed the CDDN certification exam on her first try has written an excellent first-person account of her studying process and the efforts that she took to accomplish her success. She provides suggestions and recommendations for how to study effectively and describes how she increased her knowledge and grew professionally as a nurse through the certification process. Read this article here.

Certification programs offered by DDNA

Registered Nurse Certification Program:

The Registered Nurse Certification in Developmental Disabilities Nursing (CDDN) was initially developed in 1995 in collaboration with the National League for Nursing, was updated in 2003 by Health Education Systems, Inc. (HESI), which has since been purchased by Elsevier Publishing, and was updated again in 2008 by DDNA in collaboration with Elsevier. It is the only certification program for registered nurses specializing in the field of developmental disabilities.


Licensed Practical Nurse/Licensed Vocational Nurse Certification Program:

Developed in 2002 and updated in 2008, the LPN/LVN Certification Program (DDC) provides the only specialty certification for licensed practical/vocational nurses in the field of developmental disabilities. DDNA worked closely with Health Education Systems, Inc. (HESI) to formulate this specialty certification examination. HESI, a nationally recognized company known for its expertise in developing tests for nursing schools and regulatory agencies, was recently purchased by Elsevier Publishing, which currently distributes the exam.