In honor of Certified Nurses Day (on March 19), Minority Nurse interviewed Katherine Houle, MSN, APRN, FNP-BC, CNN-NP and executive director of the Nephrology Nursing Certification Commission (NNCC) and Sandy Bodin, MA, RN, CNN and president of NNCC, to find out why certification is such an essential component of career growth and excellent patient care.
Certification helps nurses achieve an expertise level of understanding of a specialty topic. Whether it’s a nursing student planning out a long career or an experienced nurse who wants to advance to a new level, understanding the benefits of certification is part of a nurse’s career journey.
“Nurses are first introduced to the importance of certification in their nursing program at college when they are taught about the concepts of life-long learning and professionalism,” says Houle. “Typically, as nurses begin their careers, they tend to gravitate toward a specialty. As they become more proficient in that specialty, they often choose to become certified.”
Nurses may choose certification in more than one specialty as each shows a commitment and a proficiency to their roles and their patients. The credential is also a way to outwardly acknowledge a nurse’s advanced skill set and knowledge in a particular area. That easy-to-see credential is valuable to anyone the nurse may interact with–patients, peers, leadership, and the wider nursing community. “This certification enables nurses to demonstrate their expertise in that specialty and validate their knowledge to employers and patients,” says Bodin.
Because certification is confirmation of a nurse’s proficiency in a specialty, patients find credentials signal professional expertise. And nurses take pride in knowing they are taking extra steps to provide the most advanced and up-to-date patient care possible. “Researchers have found a positive relationship between nurse certification, patient satisfaction, and patient outcomes,” says Houle. “Certified nurses report increased confidence, competence, credibility, and control.” And fellow nurses also look to their certified peers as leaders and experts in their specialty. That expectation can open the doors to professional opportunities and collaborations that benefit the nursing industry as a whole.
Nurses are also aware that as a whole, the more certification among a team, the better patient outcomes will be. “The purpose of certification in nursing includes protecting the public from unsafe and incompetent providers, giving consumers more choices in selecting health care providers, distinguishing among levels of caregivers, and giving better-trained providers a competitive advantage,” says Bodin. “Certification has been shown to positively affect patients and nurses.”
The process of becoming certified does take work, and nurses may find taking on extra work daunting, especially when their work is demanding. But many nursing leaders want to remind nurses that the certification exam requires a certain amount of real-world experience before it can be taken. By that point, nurses known the information as they are likely doing the work every day. “Most certification programs require a certain number of hours worked in the specialty prior to applying for certification,” says Bodin.
Nurses dedicated to the credentialing process understand that they need to dedicate some time to the process. “There is a significant commitment in time and effort to become certified,” says Houle. “It takes time to gain expertise in the nursing specialty and an effort to obtain advanced nursing knowledge to demonstrate the skills needed for certification.” Like many other credentials across different industries, once nurses are certified, they should plan to renew that credential as required (the length of time a certification is valid differs by specialty). “Continuing education hours, along with current, ongoing work experience is needed to maintain certification,” she says. “This ensures that the nurse is keeping up with rapid changes in the field.”
When nurses look at long-term career growth, certification offers many benefits. Like a degree, certification isn’t tied to a certain role or organization. As a nurse changes jobs, that certification continues to signal a commitment to professionalism and providing the best patient care. A certification may not bring an instant salary boost, but it can be used as leveraging power during a review or when applying for a different position.
Many organizations also celebrate nurses as they earn their certification as a way to show public recognition of and appreciation for the extra work that a certification requires. This week’s Certified Nurses Day is one way to recognize all that extra work.
This week’s celebration of Pediatric Nurses Week (October 4-8) is a reminder of the specialized work these dedicated nurses offer to their young patients.
For anyone interested in a career as a pediatric nurse, it’s helpful to know the responsibilities of this job. Nurses who work with children are the biggest advocates for their young patients. From toddlers to teenagers, pediatric nurses will become familiar with, and fluent in, the issues facing these ages.
Nurses who work with children will have an understanding of everything from toilet training and toddler play habits to social media and adolescent decision making habits. Pediatric nurses will see children for well visits, minor illness like a stomach flu, and life-threatening diseases including cancer.
Because of the range of ages, potential conditions, and situations, pediatric nurses have to know myriad relevant medical information and also how any issues or concerns will impact the family. Working with so many different families while focusing on a young patient can be challenging for pediatric nurses. Families are also the best advocates for the child and so creating a good working relationship with families is especially helpful. Compassion and understanding go a long way, but calling attention to concerns is also a pediatric nurse’s responsibility.
The Society of Pediatric Nurses is an excellent resource for nurses who work with children and their families. It offers guidance on education, advocacy, and clinical information to cover the needs of just about any pediatric nurse.
Nurses in this specialty are in high demand and can find a satisfying career in one office or by changing the focus of their career. They can find work in a family practice, a specialty practice, a hospital, an outpatient or surgical clinic, schools, or even rehabilitation centers.
By taking the exam, nurses are proving they have the most updated knowledge on evidence-based practices and on treating their young patients. This helps them give the best care possible as this specialty changes rapidly. Nurses who become certified are also demonstrating a specific commitment to being the best nurses they can and to gaining the tools necessary to make that happen. For a career move, this extra level is frequently noticed by your peers, supervisors, and organization. Nurses who are certified and keep their certification current are the nurse leaders organizations look for and depend on.
Certified Nurses Day falls on the birthday of Margretta Madden Styles, RN, EdD, FAAN, a nurse leader and educator who is considered the driving force in nursing certification. Styles was a pioneer in drawing attention to the importance of nurse certification and what is means for high-quality nursing practices and improved patient outcomes. A 1954 Yale graduate, Styles, who was known as Gretta, eventually served as the dean of the School of Nursing for the University of California San Francisco, and gained international acclaim for her advocacy for certification to advance the nursing practice. Styles died in 2005, but her legacy continues to inspire the certified nurses in the United States to this day.
Nursing certifications improve nurses’ skill sets, expand their employment prospects, raise their salary potential, and also elevate the nursing industry as a whole. Individually, nurses who are certified are recognized for the additional time and effort they spend to gain more knowledge in their specialty. And nurses are able to obtain many certifications—they are not limited to just one. Certification helps bring you the understanding you’ll need around practices and processes in whatever area you choose. For instance you may decide to obtain certification in adult gerontology, oncology, nurse leadership, gastroenterology, med-surg, wound care, or diabetes care. The dozens upon dozens of choices available will likely meet whatever interest or specialty you’d want.
To become certified, you’ll need to be a licensed RN. Depending on the certification you are going for, other prerequisites vary by program and by state. In some instances you’ll need to have an advanced degree or a certain number of practice hours in that specialty. Each certification will cost a fee to take, and some employers will cover this fee, or part of it, if you ask. And because certification is based on the idea that having up-to-date knowledge is crucial to excellence in nursing, you’ll need to renew your certification periodically (and that also varies with the specific certification).
Lots of nurses worry that certification is a long process or that they could suffer professional backlash if they don’t pass the exam. As a nurse, you can choose to seek certification without your employer knowing your plan, so you won’t have to worry about telling your supervisor the results. On the other hand, oftentimes the encouragement you’ll receive from your colleagues can inspire you to continue on this path and get through the hard times. And lastly, when you are taking a certification exam, you’re being tests in areas that are already familiar to you.
As a nurse, certification boosts the knowledge you already have and sharpens your skills so you’ll improve your own nursing practice on a daily basis. In the larger picture, as a professional, you’ll gain specific expertise in your area of practice and thus you’ll be looked to as a leader in that area. As you gain a higher professional standing, more opportunities for additional responsibilities and leadership positions may open up for you as well.
On this year’s Certified Nurses Day, celebrate the efforts of nurses who have become certified and have improved their work and their patient outcomes each day. If you’re thinking of becoming certified but are delaying starting the process, the best time to begin is now.
Milestones are a big deal, and they are often times of celebration. Throughout July, that’s exactly what the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing (BCEN) has done. This month marks the 40th of the Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN) as well as of the emergency nursing specialty certification. What makes this all even more significant is that the CEN was the first emergency nursing specialty certification offered anywhere in the world.
“As emergency medicine was becoming recognized as a specialty, emergency nurses formed the Emergency Department Nurses Association (today’s Emergency Nurses Association) and in the mid- to late-1970s recognized the need for a certification program for emergency nurses. Thanks to the forethought and efforts of the association and some extraordinary nurse-pioneers, the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing (BCEN) came into being and several years after its creation was purposefully separated from the professional association to become a fully independent certification body,” explains Janie Schumaker, MBA, BSN, RN, CEN, CENP, CPHA, FABC, the Executive Director of BCEN, which is based in Oak Brook, Illinois.
Taking that first CEN exam was much different than it is today. “During BCEN’s first full year of operations in 1980, the very first emergency certification exam was offered on July 19 at over 30 sites around the country, including Alaska,” says Schumaker. “More than 1,400 RNs took the four-hour, 250-item, pencil-and-paper exam. After waiting several weeks for notification by mail, 1,274 nurses received the news that they had passed and became the first RNs to earn the Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN) credential.
“While BCEN has operated independently from ENA for many decades, we support each other and strongly believe professional membership and board certification are both important for RN success and to advance nursing excellence across every nursing specialty.”
Two years later, in 1982, that number of nurses who held the CEN had increased to 6,000. By 2005, 23,000 nurses held a CEN. By the end of 2020, BCEN expects to have 40,000 CENs.
“As the years went by and emergency nursing knowledge and patient care needs evolved, for instance with the introduction of medevac flights and taking into the consideration the unique physiology of pediatric patients, BCEN developed and introduced certification programs for flight nurses, the Certified Flight Registered Nurse (CFRN®) in 1993, the Certified Transport Registered Nurse (CTRN®) in 2006 for critical care ground transport nurses, and the Certified Pediatric Registered Nurse (CPEN®) in 2009. BCEN’s newest certification, introduced a little over 4 years ago (in 2016) is the Trauma Certified Registered Nurse (TCRN®) for nurses who practice across the trauma continuum from prehospital care to rehabilitation and including injury prevention. This is our fastest growing certification program, which is not surprising given that trauma is a major public health issue affecting people of all ages,” says Schumaker.
And BCEN keeps making sure that nurses can learn more. This past May, it began offering its first certificate program BCEN EDvantage.
Schumaker, a certified nurse, says that she is sure the skills she learned through becoming certified saved lives. “Once the connection between my knowledge, the care I was providing, and the correlation to studying for the Certified Emergency Nurses exam was clear to me, I became a lifelong certification advocate. I have since become certified in other areas of practice that have been a part of my career. Certification has helped ensure I have the knowledge and expertise to do the best possible job in my given role,” says Schumaker. “To me that is huge because I want to be a strong contributor and make a difference.”
Advance Your Career and Become a Certified Emergency Nurse!
As a certified emergency nurse, you will work in a fast-paced hospital-based or standalone emergency department, providing urgent care to patients who need immediate medical attention for a variety of conditions including injury, trauma, or illness.
If you want a promotion, you need to be ready for one. As you move through each step of your nursing career, change is the one constant companion. Your job will change, your patients change, technology and evidence-based practice will change. Being ready for those fluctuations is the best way to have a successful career.
If you plan for change and actually take steps to make sure you’re prepared to move your career in the direction you want, your choices will be more on target.
Because promotions are the way to increase your pay, assume more responsibility, and move you toward your career goals, you have to be an active participant in the process. Waiting for a promotion doesn’t always mean it’s going to come your way—even if you deserve it.
Here are some ways to actively plan for having a chance at getting that promotion.
Position Yourself for Leadership
Whether you want a promotion that is an advancement or a lateral move that gives you new skills, making sure your superiors know you’re open to something new is your first step. This one is important—don’t assume people know what you want.
Take on Responsibility
Seek out ways to take on more responsibility at work. If you don’t see anything obvious, find it. Ask your supervisor if you can help in a different area or ask what’s needed to advance in your organization. Become knowledgeable about a specific practice so that people on your team begin to rely on you for that task.
Getting certification shows the leaders in your organization that you’re serious about being the best nurse you can be. The time and effort it takes to get certified isn’t just a minor thing, so the work you’re putting in is for your own professional development. Becoming certified is a clear signal that you want to remain at the top of your nursing specialization and that you’ll take steps to achieve that goal.
Become Prominent in the Community
Join a professional organization and become an active member. You won’t gain anything by just joining—you really have to become involved. Lead a committee or speak at a conference. Offer to mentor a new nurse or seek out a mentor for yourself. Actively connect with the available networks and become someone who has something to offer, not just to seek out something.
Document Your Success
Keep track of your successes so when it’s time for your next review and potential promotion, you will have it all available. It’s easy to forget what you have done or when you were praised for a job well done, so keeping track of it all means nothing will slip through the cracks. You want to come to your review prepared to tell your story of how well the year went, where you want to go, and in what ways you’ll continue to work to make your efforts worthwhile to your organization.
With some strategic goals and actions on your part, you’ll be ready when the next opportunity comes up.
When you’re thinking of career development and professional advancement in a nursing career, becoming a certified nurse sets you apart.
With today marking 2019’s Certified Nurses Day, certified nurses in every specialty can appreciate and understand the benefits gained from certification. From critical care to various women’s health to oncology, certification is available is a wide range of specialties.
Nurses become certified when they continue their nursing education with additional studies that culminate with passing a certification exam. Many nurses will try for certification when they have worked in a specialty or sub specialty and have a desire to learn more. They may also choose to become certified if they want to advance in their careers, gain more professional standing, or to better serve the patients and families they work with every day.
Although the exam might be a little easier if you already work in the specialty and understand the complexities of the standards and procedures, many nurses also choose to become certified in areas where they work only occasionally. Nurses may obtain as many certifications as they want, but choosing carefully to help enhance your job performance, your patient base, and your desire to know more about a certain topic will reap the biggest gains.
One of the biggest issues nurses might find with certification is the exam itself. But, as many certified nurses will say, your basic knowledge and extra studying on the most current updates will likely be enough to help you pass. If you are going for a certification that is just outside your normal area of expertise, you’ll need to put in more effort and extra hours studying, but the end result will be worth it. You’ll gain a deeper understanding of this particular nursing practice, and you’ll also elevate your professional standing. In addition, certified nurses show they care about their jobs and their careers enough to become better nurses with this extra effort.
As nurses progress through their careers, gaining certification reaffirms the reasons why they entered the profession. Nurses, even those who have been in practice for decades, know there is always something else to learn. As technology and medical advances continue at a rapid rate, certification helps provide that national standard of nursing care and expectations of practice.
If you’re interested in obtaining certification, begin looking at the American Nurses Credentialing Center for more information about how to prepare, how to get started, and what to expect. If you are already certified in a specialty (or more than one!) congratulations on joining an expert army of nurses who have gone beyond requirements to become the best possible nurses.