When you earn a nursing degree — an ADN, BSN, MSN, or beyond — you signal to the world that youre a professional who values education and advancing your career. Consistently reaching for increased expertise is a goal for individuals working in almost any discipline, and nurses are no exception.advancing-your-nursing-career-through-certifications

Beyond your formal education, you have other opportunities to expand your knowledge, and certifications are one such avenue for demonstrating dedication to having the most up-to-date, evidence-based information possible in your area of nursing practice.

Why Get Certified?

If you havent yet pursued nursing certifications, now may be the time to consider the possibility. Certification can serve many purposes, each of which holds value for you and your career.

Validated commitment to mastery: Your potential capacity to grasp the subtleties of your chosen nursing specialty is limitless. Theres no end to how much you can learn by digging deeper and deeper into the nuances of a particular branch of nursing and the clinical judgment that comes with it. Many certification processes are no walk in the park, and if you want validation of being the best you can be, certification can accomplish that goal.

Enrich your marketability and earning potential: In the job market, you need every advantage to stand out from the crowd. Certification shows a potential employer that you’re serious about your career and have gone above and beyond. Being certified could be the thing that gets your resume noticed. You may also enjoy increased earning potential.

Augment your sense of pride and empowerment: Some nurses rest on their laurels, others keep learning, and your accomplishments say a lot about your ambition to be the best you can be. As you gain knowledge, skill, and expertise, you can be proud of who youve become, and having those extra letters after your name is something you earned by going the extra mile.

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Other benefits of certification include the respect of your colleagues and the benefits experienced by patients in the care they receive.

Popular Certifications

Theres an enormous and growing list of certifications available to nurses. Remember that to sit for certification exams, youll need to have logged a certain amount of clinical experience in that specialty, so research is essential.

Here are a few popular certifications for your consideration:

Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) can be attained through the American Heart Association, the Red Cross, and several other organizations.

Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN) is available through the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing (BCEN). Two years of emergency experience is recommended but not required.

Critical Care (CCRN) from the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN) is geared towards those working as intensive care and critical care nurses. There are specific clinical hour requirements in direct critical patient care before sitting for the exam: 1,750 hours during the previous two years, with 875 of those hours in the most recent year, or 2,000 hours in the last five years, with 144 of those hours in the most recent year.

Oncology Certified Nurse (OCN) requires a minimum of 2,000 hours of adult oncology nursing practice (clinical, administration, education, research, or consultation) in the previous four years, two years of experience as an RN, and 10 hours of continuing education in oncology in the last three years.

Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing Certification (PMH-BC) offers specialized expertise and knowledge. Applicants must be an RN with at least two years of experience, 2,000 hours of psychiatric-mental health experience in the last three years, and 30 hours of specialized continuing education in the previous three years.

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Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES) is a specialization that gives the successful applicant the tools to work with patients facing the challenges of life with diabetes. Applicants must have two years of RN experience, at least 1,000 hours providing diabetes care and education in the previous five years, with 20% of those hours in the most recent year.

At this point, its important to note that all areas of advanced nursing practice (family nurse practitioner, pediatric nurse practitioner, adult-gerontological nurse practitioner) are considered specialty certifications, and NPs trained in one area of practice can take an exam and receive post-graduate certification in another advanced practice discipline at their discretion.

Its also prudent for nurses to note that newer nursing certifications are periodically introduced. Board Certified Nurse Coach: NC-BC and Board Certified Holistic Nurse: HN-BC are relatively recent additions.

The Certification Train

Since many certifications require significant experience in the designated specialty to sit for the exam, some employers will support and pay their nurses to become certified once they have sufficient experience. Certain employers may even make pursuing certification within a set period a part of your contract.

Of course, paying for your certification and recertification is a significant benefit, although paying for the process yourself wouldnt be the end of the world. Nothing stops you from getting the certification if you want to demonstrate your commitment and sharpen your expertise. Train yourself in the interest of your professional development and career.

The nursing certifications list is long, and you can decide what makes sense for you. The validation of your expertise that certification confers is real, as is the increased marketability. Certification is a powerful avenue to accomplishing that goal if you take pride in your nursing specialty and want to take your knowledge and skill as far as you can.

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Keith Carlson
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