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CSSM: The Fast-Growing Surgical Services Management Credential

May 23, 2019


CSSM: The Fast-Growing Surgical Services Management Credential

CSSM certification strengthens and recognizes perioperative nurse leadership

An interview with James X. Stobinski, PhD, RN, CNOR, CSSM(E)

Why and when was the CSSM program developed? What was missing from other important credentials such as CNOR and CASC?

The roots of the CSSM certification examination go back to 2012 and the Surgical Services Management Certificate of Mastery (COM) previously offered by CCI (Competency and Credentialing Institute). CCI realized the unique role of the registered nurse working in a leadership role in the perioperative setting and began providing content in this area. These materials eventually led CCI to develop a certification for this nursing role.

The first CSSM certification examination was given in 2015, and the number of certificants has risen steadily since then. The CSSM credential covers a specific nursing role in the operating room, that of the perioperative nurse leader. The content covered with this certification is distinct from both the CNOR and the CASC credentials. All three credentials are accredited, and each can serve a group of nurses working in this area. The CSSM credential is the only certification which addresses the leadership and management responsibilities for nurses working in a diversity of settings including inpatient and ambulatory settings. Those holding the CSSM credential have titles ranging from Team Leader to Vice President of Surgical Services.

Who would benefit from the CSSM credential?

Any registered nurse working in a leadership or management role in the surgical care of patients could benefit from holding the CSSM credential. This certification provides a meaningful test of the knowledge needed to function in this role combined with a rigorous ongoing course of continuous professional development (CPD) through the course of a career. The ongoing professional development resources available to the nurse holding CSSM through CCI is a tangible benefit of holding the certification.

Describe the emphasis on management, and the areas that the program covers.

The CSSM credential is rooted in the findings of a nationwide job analysis process and reflects a consensus of nurses who function in the role of a perioperative nurse leader. The seven major subject areas covered by the certification are:

Communication and Relationship Management

Strategic Management

Financial Management

Human Resource Management

Operational Management




Describe the exam, and the eligibility requirements for it. What has changed lately?

The CSSM certification examination consists of 180 questions. It is a knowledge-based exam that assesses the knowledge (what a surgical services manager should know) and tasks (what a surgical services manager nurse should know how to do) with two years of managerial experience. The features of the exam include:

  • 180 multiple-choice questions
  • Computer-based test
  • Each question has four answer options
  • Only one answer is correct
  • No multiple answers, i.e. “A and C”; “A, C, and D”, “All of the Above”

To be eligible to take the CSSM certification exam you must meet the eligibility requirements, which are specified in the CSSM Certification/Recertification Handbook found at:

Candidates must meet eligibility requirements regarding RN licensure, educational preparation, and employment status. In addition, the candidate must complete CE or academic coursework related to the exam material in the two-year period prior to registering for the certification exam. A baccalaureate-level degree is required, but a BSN is not mandatory.

What is the course of study and test preparation? When and where are they available? What has changed in these areas, and what is the on-demand ability?

Candidates should allow a minimum of three months to study for the exam. Detailed instructions on how to prepare for the CSSM certification exam may be found on the CCI website at:

There are exam prep courses and a variety of test prep materials available to assist in preparation for the exam. Many of those resources are offered by CCI, but there is no requirement to use any CCI materials or products in preparation for the CSSM exam.

Is the CSSM certification growing in use? Are more facilities recognizing its value, and are more OR leaders earning the credential?

The CSSM credential is the fastest-growing credential administered by CCI and the second largest of our credentials. There are a little more than 300 CSSMs in the world at present, and 132 nurses tested last year. Two healthcare providers have been very supportive of the CSSM program, Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) with 17% of the certificants, and the United States Navy, which has hosted two CSSM Prep workshops. The CSSM credential was accredited recently, which significantly increased the visibility and knowledge of the credential.

Talk about the continuing education requirement for recertification.

The CSSM certification is good for a three-year period. Recertification of the credential requires either successfully passing the CSSM exam again or completing the individualized professional development plan. The requirements of that initial professional development plan are predicated on performance on the certification examination. Details on recertification may be found in the CSSM Certification/Recertification Handbook found at:

Hopes and plans for the CSSM program

CCI will continue to refine the CSSM certification and recertification processes based on certificant feedback. We will partner with organizations such as AORN, OR Manager, and ORTL, who support the certification to offer prep courses and educational materials for the credential. In 2020 we will repeat the CSSM job analysis to validate the foundational material supporting the certification/recertification process. In addition, we will continue to spread the word about how this certification may fit into the career path of a perioperative nurse.

James X. Stobinski, PhD, RN, CNOR, CSSM(E) is the CEO of the Competency and Credentialing Institute (CCI), which certifies more than 40,000 perioperative nurses and is an industry leader in nursing competency assessment.