Certification - Application & Exam Process
Practice (Work Experience) Requirement

To apply for certification, you must meet the following criteria for the Practice (Work Experience) Requirement.

  • A minimum of four thousand (4,000) hours of active developmental disabilities nursing practice as a Registered Nurse, Licensed Practical Nurse, or Licensed Vocational Nurse within the immediate previous 60 months (five years).
    • Practice experience hours prior to this will not be considered.  Please note:  If you have worked as an LPN/LVN and are now an RN and wish to sit for the RN certification exam, you must have 4,000 hours of active practice as an RN before you are eligible to sit for the CDDN exam.  Hours worked as an LPN/LVN do not meet this requirement of active practice as an RN.

The Practice (Work Experience) Requirement may be met with experience in the following roles:

  1. Practicing nurse in developmental disabilities in an institutional or community setting;
  2. Nurse administrator in a developmental disabilities program;
  3. Nurse educator in a developmental disabilities program;
  4. Nurse consultant in developmental disabilities;
  5. Nurse practicing in the expanded role in an IDD institutional or community setting, including nurse practitioners.

Special circumstances

The diversified role of the nurse in all facets of developmental disabilities practice is recognized by DDNA, and nurses practicing in any role other than those listed above will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Consideration will be given to information submitted by the applicant (in job descriptions and program brochures) to verify that the experience meets the DDNA certification practice requirement.

Please note: Caring for a family member with DD in the home, whether paid or unpaid, does not meet the work experience hours requirement.

Apply For the Exam

  1. Review all qualifications to apply (above).
  2. Download the Application Here.
  3. Review all instructions within the application.
  4. Submit all supplemental documents requested in the application.
    • ONLY original signatures will be accepted on forms requiring a signature.  Please DO NOT submit copies, faxes, scans of any signature page.


Documentation All documentation submitted is subject to verification and becomes the property of DDNA.

Fees All fees are non-refundable. Payment of application fees does not guarantee that approval to take the certification examination will be granted.

Period of Eligibility Once approved, candidate eligibility is valid for a period of two years. Candidates may choose when to take the exam within two years of being approved. After the two-year period, the candidate must submit a new application and fee. The certification approval expiration date will be listed on your letter of confirmation.

Recognition of certification Certification is voluntary. No governmental or other regulatory entity currently requires certification. Any value or credence given to certification by an agency, employer, or third-party insurer is entirely at its discretion. Such value or credence should be based upon knowledge of the certification standards and upon experience with CDDNs and DDCs. Individuals seeking certification choose to do so of their own free will and, in doing so, agree to accept the decisions of DDNA. The authority of DDNA is derived from those persons who are dedicated to service as practicing I/DD nurses and are, as such, those who are most affected by certification.

Credibility of certification The credibility of certification results from the standards established by DDNA, by the performance of the DDNA Board of Directors, Officers and Certification Committee, and most importantly, by the professional competence and integrity of the Certified Developmental Disabilities Nurse or the Developmental Disabilities Certified Licensed Practical Nurse or Licensed Vocational Nurse.

The role of DDNA Although DDNA encourages and promotes the work of other professional associations and other organizations involved in the various facets of providing services to individuals with DD, it is an independent body and seeks to remain free from any vested interest.


The following forms, documentation, and fees are required for the application:

  1. Form A – Applicant Information
  2. Copy of nursing license
    A photocopy of your current nursing license on standard 8½” x 11″ paper, marked void. Do not cut out the license. You may also print out a copy of your license from your state’s licensing website.
  3. Form B – DDNA Code of Ethics Agreement
  4. Form C – Employment Verification
    A separate form must be submitted for each place of employment specific to I/DD nursing at which you have been employed within the five-year period prior to applying for certification.  Some examples: Sally is employed at one facility for five or more years prior to applying for certification. Sally will submit one form. Brian has been working at his current facility for the last three years. Before that, Brian worked at a different facility for four years. Brian will submit two forms. Diane has worked at the same facility for ten years. During that time, she was promoted twice. Diane will submit one form.
    For independent practitioners: The Certification Committee has developed an alternative process to determine the validity and duration of work experience for independent practitioners, such as business owners, consultants, and direct care contractors. The Employment Verification form (Form C) must be completed and may be signed by a business partner, the representative of an agency to whom the applicant is contracted, or any professional who is in a position to verify the work involvement of the applicant. The applicant may sign his or her own job verification form onlyif the documentation of the hours worked is substantiated by contracts or service invoices, and the party affiliated with the contracts and/or invoices is not available to sign the employment verification form (Form C).
  5. Job description(s)
    To accompany Form C. The job description must be written by the employer. Each position documented must be specific to I/DD nursing. List each position, period of employment, and/or facility documented. If the job description is not I/DD specific, then an addendum written on facility letterhead and signed by a supervisor is required.
    For independent practitioners: For independent practitioners, the Committee will accept a job description, designed and signed by the applicant, if it specifically includes the I/DD aspect of the work responsibility.
  6. Brochure or program outline
    Include a brochure or program outline, if available, for each facility and/or program documented on the employment verification form(s)
  7. Copy of your current curriculum vitae, resume, or biosketch
  8. Application Fee (NON-REFUNDABLE) – Must be paid by check or money order.
    Submit only the application fee (see the certification fees page in your application for details). Do not include payment of exam fees at this time.

Approval process

Within 60 days of receiving your application packet, DDNA will notify you as to whether your application is approved or deficient. Be sure to include your correct email address and phone number on the application forms, as these may be used to contact you.

If your application is deficient:

You will be notified by email and given the opportunity to correct the deficiency. Common occurrences that cause an application to be deficient include: work experience not specific to DD nursing, insufficient DD-related work experience, illegible forms, forms that are faxed rather than mailed, incorrect fees paid, and inaccurate/missing contact information.

If your application is approved:

Once approved, you will be emailed a letter of approval and an examination registration form. Your eligibility to take the certification exam is valid for two years from the date of the application approval. The expiration date is on the letter of approval.

If you do not understand the Guidelines, Instructions, and Checklist, please email the Certification Committee at: [email protected]

Please visit our Exam Prep page for more information!

How to register for the exam

  • You must be approved to take the exam. Once your application is approved, DDNA will send you an approval packet that contains the notice of your approval and the exam registration forms for both the group and local exam options.
  • Follow the detailed instructions within the approval packet. You will choose either the group or local exam option, complete the exam registration form for that option, and mail the form and corresponding exam fees to DDNA.

Group Exam Option

Group exams are held once per year at DDNA’s Annual Education Conference.  Seating at the conference exam is limited, available in the order approved. If there is sufficient interest from a group of nurses at one location, DDNA may choose to offer a group exam at another designated time and location. To take the group exam, you must follow these steps:

  1. Apply for certification
    Your application must be approved before you will be allowed to register for the exam.
  2. Submit group exam form and fees
    After you have been approved, complete the exam registration form and mail it with the correct exam fees to: DDNA, 1501 South Loop 288, Suite 104 – 381, Denton, TX 76205.  Once you have paid the group exam fee, there are no additional sitting fees. The exam fee does not include attendance at the conference.
  3. Await confirmation
    Upon receipt of your registration form and payment, DDNA will email you a written confirmation of your registration and information about taking the test at the conference (or other designated group exam site).  If you do not receive this confirmation within two weeks prior to the exam date, it is your responsibility to contact DDNA to confirm your admission to the exam.
  4. Study for the exam
    See Exam Prep webpage for study guidelines, recommended materials, and related courses.
  5. Arrive prepared
    On the day of the exam, you must bring the written confirmation of registration letter, your current nursing license (not a photocopy), and official photo identification, such as a driver’s license or passport. Additional instructions will be provided by email.

Local Exam Option

Local exams are available, by appointment, throughout the year at select Prometric testing centers. To take a local exam, you must follow these steps:

  1. Apply for certification
    Your application must be approved before you will be allowed to register for the exam.
  2. Submit local exam form and fees
    After you have been approved, complete the local exam registration form and mail it with the correct exam fees to: DDNA, 1501 South Loop 288, Suite 104 – 381, Denton, TX 76205.
  3. Await confirmation from DDNA
    Upon receipt of your registration form and payment, DDNA will email you written confirmation of your registration and inform Elsevier (the company that distributes the exam) that you are eligible to take the exam.
  4. Await confirmation from Elsevier
    You will receive an email from Elsevier that provides you with directions for how to schedule your exam. IMPORTANT: DO NOT call any Prometrics Testing Center to schedule an appointment to take the test until after you receive this email from Elsevier.
  5. Schedule an appointment
    You must have a letter of approval from DDNA and a confirmation from Elsevier before you can schedule a testing time at a local Prometrics Testing Center. When you receive both confirmations, you may schedule your exam appointment time.  Do not contact any local testing center until you receive the confirmation notice and instructions from Elsevier.
  6. Pay sitting fees
    Prometric charges a sitting fee payable by credit card only, to take the exam at their testing centers. See certification fees information. Please note: This is not the application or the registration fee charge by DDNA. It is a separate fee charged by Prometric that covers administration of the exam at your individually scheduled appointment time.
  7. Follow Prometric’s instructions
    Carefully follow all directions provided to you by Prometric regarding your exam administration procedures. If you opt to take the exam at Prometric, you assume all responsibility for meeting their policies and requirements. DDNA cannot refund any monies paid by you to Prometric for your exam administration, and additional fees may be applied by Prometric if you re-schedule your testing appointment times.

Local test sites

Do not call the Prometric test site to register for the exam.

You will be contacted by the testing company after you have received a letter of approval from DDNA.

There are over 400 Prometric testing centers available in the U.S. and Canada.  To take the test locally, you must follow the steps outlined in the local exam option section (above) to register for the exam.

Period of eligibility

Once your application is approved, your eligibility to sit for the exam is valid for a period of two years. After the end of the two-year period, if you wish to take the exam, you must submit a new application packet (including the application fee).

Exam Locations

  • Group exams are held once annually at the DDNA Annual Education Conference. The conference location varies year by year.  
  • You may also take the exam at a local contracted testing center (Prometrics).  Prometrics Testing Centers are located across the United States and Canada.

Arrive prepared

On the day of the exam, you will need to bring:

  • The written confirmation of registration
  • Your current nursing license (not a photocopy)
  • Your current DDNA membership card
  • A government issued photo identification document, such as a driver’s license or passport.

Taking the exam

  • The exam is administered on a computer in a Prometric testing center.
  • In general, the exam takes between 45 – 90 minutes to complete, but you have up to 2 hours.

Important Note:  While taking the computerized exam, do not skip questions and expect to be able to go back and answer them later. Once you skip a question, you will not be able to return to that question to answer it. The skipped question will be counted as an incorrect answer.

You passed – what happens next

  • DDNA will email you a results letter and PDF document that contains your certification card and certificate.
  • You will have earned the right to use the credential of certification (CDDN or DDC). This credential will remain valid for two years, renewable by the last day of the month in which you sat for the exam.  
  • Please be aware that part of being certified in the specialty of IDD nursing is maintaining an active membership in your professional organization throughout your period of certification.

You didn’t pass – what to do next

If you did not pass the exam, you have the option of retaking the exam. The policy on reexamination for the CDDN/DDC credential is as follows:

  1. Exam candidate eligibility remains valid for two years from the date your application was approved. The expiration date is listed on your letter of confirmation.
  2. If you fail to pass the test on the first try, you may take the test one more time without further documentation or Certification Committee approval.
  3. If you do not pass the examination on your second try and wish to pursue certification, you must submit documentation of 30 hours of continuing education specific to IDD nursing. These education hours must have been acquired after the date of your second examination attempt. The education hours will be reviewed by the Certification Committee and, if the additional requirement is satisfied, you will receive a letter of approval for re-examination.
  4. As a re-examination candidate, you may repeat Step Three as often as desired within the two-year eligibility period, provided the continuing education requirement is satisfied for each repetition.
  5. Each examination attempt will require that you select the examination site, complete the registration form again, and forward payment of the applicable examination fee(s). See certification fees page.

After you take the GROUP exam at the conference: DDNA will email you your test results within 6-8 weeks after the conference. Please do not call DDNA or Prometrics for your score.

After you take the LOCAL exam: Notify DDNA that you have taken the exam by sending an e-mail to the following address: [email protected].  DDNA will email you your test results as soon as they are available (typically 4-6 weeks). Please do not call DDNA or Prometrics for your score.
Note: You may see a number on the computer screen immediately after taking the exam at the local testing center; however, this number does not necessarily indicate whether you have passed.

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