Advancing Your Nursing Career Through Certifications

Advancing Your Nursing Career Through Certifications

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.

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.

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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Recognizing GI Nurses and Associates’ Work

Recognizing GI Nurses and Associates’ Work

This week honors GI Nurses and Associates Week, the annual tribute to GI nurses that the Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates (SGNA) has celebrated for more than a decade.Eileen Duaz, GI nurse

Gastroenterology (GI) nurses treat and often diagnose patients who have symptoms and conditions related to the entire digestive tract. The spectrum of GI symptoms is nuanced and can have a big impact on quality of life for patients, so GI nurses listen carefully to help patients most effectively. They are also emotional sounding boards and supports for their patients as they cope with navigating their conditions.

SGNA Board President Eileen Dauz, BSN, RN, CGRN, CFER, CER recently shared some of her thoughts on being a GI nurse with Minority Nurse. In addition to her SGNA leadership, Dauz is a clinical nurse manager at  Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital.

How did you choose a career path as a GI nurse?
I knew from the time that I was very young that nursing was something I wanted to do with my life. However, it was not until about10 years into my nursing career that I found my niche in Gastroenterology (GI) and Endoscopy nursing. The catalyst for this change was after I observed a well-seasoned endoscopy team seamlessly and effectively work together to treat a patient profusely bleeding from a ruptured esophageal varix. This brought back memories of my childhood years living in a remote region of a developing country where people die from lack of access to advanced medicine. Upper gastrointestinal bleeding was one of the common culprits. This team ensured their patient would have a different outcome and saved his life. This experience inspired me to become a GI/endoscopy nurse.

What is especially fulfilling about being a GI nurse?
Being a nurse is one of the most challenging jobs someone could do. It is physically and mentally demanding at times. However, at the end of the day, I feel a sense of fulfillment and pride, knowing that I have influenced someone’s life for the better. It does not have to be patients all the time. It may be a patient’s family member, a colleague, or a visitor. The best part of it all is that I get many opportunities to repeatedly provide the best care every day that I work. Nursing is a calling. I love the culture of nursing in my endoscopy unit. Everyone is working cohesively together in an atmosphere of mutual support.

What are some of the latest developments in GI nursing that are exciting?
The technological advancements in gastroenterology and endoscopy have opened up new ways of achieving better patient outcomes in our field, effectively and efficiently. Our instruments and tools are becoming more innovative, allowing more minimally invasive procedures to be performed in the Endoscopy suite. An example is peroral endoscopic myotomy (POEM). This is a non-surgical procedure to treat swallowing disorders caused by muscle spasms in the esophagus. POEM uses an endoscope that is inserted through the mouth to cut and loosen muscles in the esophagus, preventing them from tightening and interfering with swallowing.

What do people not realize about this specialty?
We play a crucial role in maintaining our patient’s digestive health and addressing various gastrointestinal disorders from the mouth to the rectum. We are not pigeonholed into doing just one role in the GI specialty. In the hospital setting, you have the opportunity to work in the different phases of care. In some practice settings, nurses also assist the endoscopist directly with tools and gadgets during a procedure.

Do you have any advice for nurses who are considering the GI nursing career path?
My first and foremost advice for nurses who are considering the GI nursing career path is to do your research to learn more about what this specialty entails. GI nursing is not for the faint of heart. If possible, network with GI professionals in your Endoscopy unit and seek opportunities to shadow a case or two and follow a patient through the different phases of care. Some facilities offer GI nurse internships or residencies.

How has your SGNA membership helped your career?
My return on investment for the membership fees that I have paid SGNA has been exponential. SGNA has invested in my substantive leadership growth starting in the regional arena many years ago as chapter president, to where I am today as the national president. As a subject matter expert in this specialty, I was a nurse participant in the international endoscope expert hygiene meetings held in Amsterdam (2022), Baltimore (2023), and in Ireland for June 2024. As a clinical nurse manager, SGNA has empowered me to stay up to date on current evidence-based practices. Through SGNA, I have access to practice documents, educational and professional development resources that I can use for team on boarding, training, and learning events.

More importantly, my SGNA membership allows me to connect and network with approximately 5000 GI nursing professionals, associates, and industry representatives dedicated to improving their practice and advancing the GI specialty.

How Can Your HR Department Help You?

How Can Your HR Department Help You?

Nurses help people all day long. Whether it’s a colleague who needs a hand or a patient who needs support, a nurse will evaluate what’s needed and find a way to make that happen.

But when nurses need something, they are frequently reluctant to ask for help. But a nurse’s human resources (HR) department can help with professional help and often has extensive assistance available. One of the most important tasks a nurse can complete professionally is to have a thorough awareness and understanding of what an HR department offers. a stethoscope over a face mask and with a graphic heartbeat image for HR week

Here are a few things to consider when you need help from HR:

Know Your Benefits
Benefits are much more than health insurance and vacation time. Benefits encompass everything from short- and long-term disability to wellness reimbursements to parental leave policies. The HR benefits manual or explanations your organization has on file are worth reading and understanding. There could be hidden discounts that you aren’t aware of or nuances to emergency time off that you should familiarize yourself with. Your benefits can help you pay for additional education and might have excellent professional development resources you weren’t aware of.

Understand What Happens in an Emergency
Nurses know that life can change in a second. So if something happens in your own life that can impact your job attendance or performance, you shouldn’t have to scramble to find out what you need to do. Does your company have a waiting policy before you take any kind of disability? What happens if you need time to recover from a health emergency? If a family member needs your care, does your organization have any time available for you to take off to help? You’ll want to know about bereavement time as well.

Determine the Complaint Process
No one likes to have problems at work, and it’s a frequent reason that employees leave companies. Whether it’s a problem with a colleague, a supervisor, an annual review process, salary questions, or a scheduling issue, resolving it to your satisfaction is important. It might not always be possible, but understanding how your HR department deals with complaints is good information to have.  Is there an ombudsperson or a neutral mediator in your organization who can help?

Figure Out Retirement Options
Good retirement options are a key part of any benefits package, but it’s up to you to know what it includes and how it can best apply to your own situation. No matter how close to or far away from retirement you are, having a good understanding of what is offered will pay off in the long term. Does your company offer a retirement plan? Is there a retirement match and is there a minimum employee contribution required? What happens if you need help with making decisions? All of these are questions you can pose to HR to find out how any of the offered benefits can increase your own retirement savings. And if you are close to retirement age, it helps to understand the process for when you want to retire. If there are timelines involved or steps you will need to take as you ready for retirement, you will need to work with HR for a smooth transition.

HR departments offer so much information that employees might not be aware of. Take the time to find out what might be available for you.

Navigating the World of Long-Term Care: A Guide for Nurses

Navigating the World of Long-Term Care: A Guide for Nurses

In the vast and varied landscape of healthcare careers, long-term care is sometimes overlooked. However, this sector, which provides sustained assistance to individuals with chronic illnesses or disabilities, offers a unique and rewarding path for nurses.Navigating the World of Long-Term Care: A Guide for Nurses

The field challenges nurses’ medical expertise and calls on their deepest reserves of empathy and understanding. Clinicians who choose this path will find it as rewarding as it is demanding.

What is Long-term Care?

Long-term care (LTC) refers to a range of services to meet a person’s health or personal care needs for an extended period. These services help people live as independently and safely as possible when they can’t perform everyday activities on their own.

This care can be delivered through:

  • Home-based care: Having nurses or therapists visit patients in their homes is suitable for patients who prefer to receive care in a familiar environment or for those who find it challenging to travel to healthcare facilities. Home care is different from home health.
  • Community services (adult day care centers): Community-based facilities that provide care and activities for older adults, typically during daytime hours. They are for older adults requiring supervision and social interaction but not round-the-clock care.
  • Assisted living: Residential communities that offer a balance of independence and support. Residents are usually seniors who require assistance with activities of daily living but not intensive medical care.
  • Memory care: Specialized residential communities for those with memory problems who require intensive, specialized care.
  • Skilled nursing communities: Also known as skilled nursing facilities, these provide comprehensive, 24/7 medical care for individuals with complex healthcare needs. Residents often have chronic conditions, disabilities, or advanced age or diverse demographics, requiring nursing care and medical supervision.

What it takes to work in LTC

Clinical skills for long-term care nurses encompass a broad range of abilities and competencies tailored to the unique needs of elderly and chronically ill patients in long-term care facilities. These skills are essential for providing comprehensive care, promoting residents’ quality of life, and ensuring their safety and well-being.

LTC nurses must possess specific skills to care for residents with complex, long-term health needs. Here’s what’s typically required:

Clinical Skills

  • Patient assessment and monitoring
  • Medication Management
  • Chronic condition management
  • Disease-specific knowledge
  • Fall prevention and mobility assistance
  • Infection control
  • Dementia care
  • End-of-life care

Communication and interpersonal skills

  • Effective communication
  • Active listening
  • Cultural sensitivity
  • Conflict resolution
  • Empathy and compassion
  • Team collaboration
  • Respect for privacy and dignity

Organizational Skills

  • Time management
  • Record keeping
  • Multitasking
  • EHR knowledge and competency

Rewards and Challenges

LTC jobs can be gratifying, offering the chance to forge meaningful relationships and make a tangible difference in patients’ lives. However, they also present unique emotional and physical challenges that require resilience, empathy, and a strong commitment to patient care. Understanding this is crucial for anyone considering this field.

Rewards

  1. Meaningful relationships: One of the most rewarding aspects is the opportunity to develop deep, meaningful relationships with patients over time.
  2. Making a difference: Significantly improving patients’ quality of life is deeply satisfying.
  3. Professional growth: LTC offers diverse learning opportunities and the opportunity to broaden clinical knowledge and skills.
  4. Team collaboration: LTC often involves being part of a multidisciplinary team, offering collaboration and learning opportunities from peers in various specialties.
  5. Job stability: The demand for LTC care is steadily increasing, providing job security. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of home health aides is projected to grow more than 20% year over year. Similar projections are seen for other LTC professions like nurse aides and licensed practical nurses.

Challenges

  1. Emotional demands: Dealing with patients who have chronic illnesses or who are in the last stages of their lives can be emotionally challenging. It requires managing personal emotions while providing compassionate care.
  2. Physical strain: The job can be physically demanding, involving long hours assisting with patient mobility and other tasks.
  3. Complex care needs: LTC patients often have complex medical and personal care needs, requiring meticulous attention and patience.
  4. Dealing with loss: Handling patient loss can be emotionally taxing for caregivers.
  5. Burnout risk: Due to the high demands of the job, there’s a risk of clinician burnout, making self-care and stress management important.
  6. Navigating family dynamics: Working closely with patients’ families can be challenging, especially when navigating complex emotional situations or communicating about sensitive health issues.

How much do LTC jobs pay?

The average annual salaries for LTC clinicians range from $32,110 for personal care aides to $92,080 for occupational therapists, as shown in the table below. Demand is projected to grow rapidly, driven by the aging population and increasing need for LTC services.

navigating-the-world-of-long-term-care-a-guide-for-nurses

Long-term Nurse Salary Range

*Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. These approximate figures vary based on location, experience, and long-term care facility.

The strong demand for LTC jobs and the diverse range of career paths available make it a promising field for those seeking a stable and rewarding career.

Daily Life of LTC Nurses

The daily life of nurses in long-term care is varied and centered around providing comprehensive care to their patients. Their day typically involves a mix of medical and personal care tasks. This includes administering medications, monitoring vital signs, and responding to patient health changes. They also document patient care, update records, and plan care with other team members.

Beyond these clinical responsibilities, nurses engage in meaningful interactions with patients, offering emotional support and ensuring their comfort. They also communicate regularly with families, providing updates about their loved one’s care.

LTC jobs offer diverse work-hour options, catering to various lifestyles and preferences.

LTC nursing offers job security in various settings and the opportunity to develop meaningful relationships with patients and their families while delivering care.

A CRNA Career Path: Meet Bijal Chaturvedi

A CRNA Career Path: Meet Bijal Chaturvedi

Nurses considering a career in nurse anesthesiology know the role is complex and demands a high level of critical thinking and commitment. The career path, in which many certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) obtain a doctor of nursing practice degree, also offers a high salary and an upward projection of job openings. With a dynamic mix of clinical practice and the capability to work in many settings, nurse anesthetists find a rewarding career.CRNA Bijal Chaturvedi headshot in a black top

Bijal Chaturvedi, DNP, CRNA, GHLC is a member of the American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology (AANA) and gave Minority Nurse some insight into this career path.

How did your career path lead to nursing and becoming a CRNA?
During my final year in college, I battled severe bronchitis and sought help at the health clinic. The provider who attended to me was not a doctor but a nurse practitioner, displaying both kindness and extensive knowledge. This encounter sparked a conversation about her nursing career, introducing me to the world of advanced practice nursing. This pivotal moment inspired me to explore nursing as a career path.

Upon college graduation, despite my Indian parents’ desire for me to pursue medical school, I knew I wanted a profession that combined science, pharmacology, and interpersonal interactions. Armed with a bachelor’s degree in cellular biology, I promptly earned another Bachelor of Nursing within a year. Upon graduation, I entered the field of critical care nursing, working in the most acute critical care unit settings such as burn, cardiac, and transplant ICUs.  It was during my time at Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s Neurospine ICU that I witnessed the role of CRNAs. This experience solidified my decision to pursue a career as a CRNA.

I earned my Master of Science in Anesthesia Nursing from Rush University in Chicago in 2005. In 2021, I received my Doctorate of Nursing from University of North Florida, and in 2022 I received my Global Health Leadership Certification from Northwestern University. I have participated in numerous global mission trips and currently co-chair the AANA’s Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee. I am also the chair of the Illinois Association of Nurse Anesthesiology’s DEI committee. I am passionate about healthcare equity and access and have my own nonprofit called Citizens For Humanity which addresses social determinants of health.

Do you specialize in a certain area or population?
Numerous healthcare environments rely on anesthesia services, encompassing fields such as dentistry, podiatry, surgery, obstetrics, and pain management. In my professional journey as a CRNA, I have experienced diverse settings, including community hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, and plastic surgery centers, and participation in large teaching hospitals as part of an Anesthesia Care Team. The degree of autonomy varies across these settings, ranging from those with no supervision to those adopting a more interdependent model. I have experience working with diverse patient populations, including pediatric, low-income, and critically ill individuals.

What part of your job is particularly meaningful to you?
The profession of nurse anesthesiology offers a richly diverse and demanding path. In the clinical realm, you have the profound privilege of impacting individuals during their most vulnerable moments. A significant aspect of the gratification derived from administering anesthesia lies in the opportunity to support individuals through what may be the most daunting day of their lives. They grapple with fear of diagnosis, anticipation of pain, and uncertainties ahead. Your presence as a reassuring figure by their side during this critical juncture becomes paramount. While your expertise and competence in ensuring their safety throughout the procedure are undeniably vital, it is the compassion and humanity you extend that hold greater significance than any medication you administer.

Is there something or someone that helped you in your career that others thinking of this career path will find helpful?
My foremost recommendation is to shadow multiple CRNAs across various cases. This immersive experience will provide a comprehensive understanding of what lies ahead. Engage in conversations with current students to gain insights into the rigorous nature of anesthesia school. Recognize that anesthesia training demands significant dedication; therefore, it’s prudent to prepare financially by saving diligently.

Building a robust financial cushion alleviates stress and minimizes post-graduation debt, especially considering the constraints on working while in school. Enhance your academic foundation by enrolling in graduate-level courses in anatomy and physiology, pathophysiology, and pharmacology. This not only demonstrates your commitment but also strengthens your candidacy, particularly if your undergraduate GPA is subpar. While these courses may not be transferrable to most anesthesia programs, they serve to fortify your knowledge base and reacquaint you with the rigors of student life.

What would you like others to know about a being a CRNA?
I believe that aspiring RNs should possess a robust grasp of physiology, pathophysiology, and pharmacology prior to embarking on anesthesia school. Embracing challenging assignments, volunteering for cases involving the most critically ill patients, and delving deeply into the rationale behind every action are crucial steps in nurturing a profound understanding of patient care. This comprehension extends to the selection of medications and interventions, ensuring that aspiring CRNAs are well-prepared for the demanding journey ahead. The ability to think critically is paramount in the delivery of safe anesthesia.

CRNAs must excel as problem solvers and keen observers, interpreting data independently and making informed decisions that can profoundly impact patient outcomes. The weight of responsibility underscores the imperative of being both accurate and decisive, recognizing that lives hinge on the choices made in the operating room.

What is your advice for RNs considering a career as a CRNA?
Research various CRNA programs to find the one that best suits your needs. Consider factors such as clinical opportunities, cultural diversity, and program structure. Make an informed decision based on your personal preferences and goals.

Once enrolled in a program, maximize every educational opportunity, even if it seems insignificant. Graduate-level education requires proactive engagement, and your dedication will determine the quality of your learning experience. Learn from every case and practitioner, embracing the lessons they offer.

Collaborate with CRNAs who may be perceived as challenging, as they often uphold high standards and offer valuable insights. Maintain a positive attitude and remain open to feedback to maximize your learning potential. Avoid being labeled as unteachable, as it can hinder your educational progress.

Casey Green Talks About Critical Care Transport Nursing

Casey Green Talks About Critical Care Transport Nursing

As a sponsor of the annual Critical Care Transport Nurses Day on February 18,  the Air & Surface Transport Nurses Association aims to raise awareness of this nursing career path while simultaneously celebrating the nurses who work in dynamic critical care transport settings. Headshot of Casey Green critical care transport nurse

The critical care transport nursing specialty offers variations of work settings so nurses can work in settings including air transport, ground transport, and military transport. Critical care ground transport nurse Casey Green, BSN, RN, CCRN-CMC, CTRN, CFRN, CEN, TCRN, CPEN, CNRN, NRP says the skills and approach to nursing care in this specialty appeals to her.

“I really enjoy the autonomy of nursing care in the emergency department and the intensive care units, and transport nursing is a combination of using both skill sets to assess, monitor, and treat patients safely,” she says.

Because critical care transport nurses work in ambulances, helicopters, or on ships, they are often the nurses who reach remote areas, trauma situations on roadways, and work in areas that are unfamiliar. They could transport one patient to a hospital or be part of team that needs to transport many people out of an area. The challenge appeals to Green. “I like the variety of patients and just how complex their care is,” she says.

As with any nursing situation, things can change quickly and nurses have to be ready. But transport nursing poses additional challenges including vehicles, weather, and terrain. Green says that transport nurses need to be aware of any potential situation. “To prepare myself for this line of work, I took a lot of courses in patient care for all patient populations, especially those who are critically ill,” she says. “Each shift I work I refresh myself on equipment, medication, or a patient population that we may have not transported recently just to keep the information fresh in case we have a request during my shift.”

Nurses who are interested in this specialty should enjoy the physical challenges, fine tune their critical thinking, and have an ability to read and react to a situation immediately. “Two of my biggest takeaways are to develop strong assessment skills because they help guide your intuition if something feels or seems off during transport,” says Green.

As with other nursing career paths, transport nurses don’t operate in a vacuum even though their work is done outside of a typical hospital or health care facility setting. “Teamwork needs to be at the forefront of your mind when you step on a transport vehicle,” Green says. “Often, your team is all you have between hospitals, and all levels of patient care have a say in patient care during transport.”

Critical care transport nursing is an exciting career path, and Green says if a nurse is interested in pursuing it, preparation is key. “Get experience in the ICU and the ED and apply,” she says. “Don’t worry that you may not have what an employer is looking for; get your experience and develop strong critical thinking and assessment skills.”

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