The annual recognition of Certified Nurses Day on March 19 honors the nurses who go the extra step to achieve certification in their specialties. But the day also helps raise awareness in the nursing community about the importance of certification and the benefits it brings to a nursing career.
Certification is an excellent career advancing move; after all gaining more knowledge and skills in your nursing specialty is only going to help you be a better nurse. But many nurses overlook another important result of gaining certification–the confidence boost it gives you and the new peer recognition of your advanced knowledge.
Clara Beaver, MSN, RN, ACNS-BC, AOCNS, and president of the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC) says certification brings better patient care, but also changes a nurses relationship with patients. “The best part [of nursing] is the buildup of trust with patients,” she says, “and having certification shows you have that commitment to oncology and that you have that knowledge. You both care about it and you know about it.”
Each certification is different, so look into one that that matches your specialty area. For example, ONCC offers five certifications: Oncology Certified Nurse, Certified Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Nurse, Certified Breast Care Nurse, Blood and Marrow Transplant Certified Nurse, and Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner. Beaver says the bone marrow and breast care certifications are newer and were industry driven as a result of many nurses specializing in oncology subspecialties.
Some nursing specialties are starting to require certification as the advanced and most current skills are required for patient care. Many Magnet hospitals require certification for some nurses as do many cancer centers.
“We’re always trying to find the value in increasing knowledge and commitment,” says Beaver. “Certification says to the community that those nurses are staying up-to-date on what’s going on and their skills may be higher.” Beaver says when she became certified it made her think about patient care differently. “I looked at my patient differently because I had increased knowledge,” she says. :I looked at the entire background and not just at the task in front of me.” With certification, Beaver says she understood more of how things worked and could explain what was going on to the patient a little more.
Nurses who are certified are proud to show their certification, says Beaver, because it is instant recognition that you’ve gone above and beyond what’s required. “I feel like certification takes you up a little higher and they become like the informal leaders. They have raised confidence.” And their success with becoming certified shows other nurses that they can also achieve the same thing.
Nurses do find one of the biggest roadblocks to certification is test anxiety. “Nothing is as bad as the NCLEX,” says Beaver with a laugh. Before each of her three certification exams, Beaver says she had to overcome major test anxiety, so she understands why it can be a deterrent. “I just had to remember this is what I do every day,” she says. “Test taking is scary.”
Before each exam, she studied the test blueprints. She also pulled all the resources that were referenced to study those as well. That’s what the questions are based on, she says, so review all that information carefully. “Pull the statistics and the references,” she says and find out your weakest areas so you can focus on those places intensely. Reading information out loud helped Beaver retain the information, and she encourages nurses to find a method that works best for them.
When you sit for the test, Beaver suggests that you read the entire question, then read all the answers, and then go back and read the question over again. This will help you slow down and comprehend exactly what is being asked.
If paying for the exam is a barrier, see if your organization will help pay for it or if a professional organization will help.
“Certification is an important part of our job as nurses,” Beaver says. “And it’s attainable. It expands your knowledge base and your skill set. And it shows a commitment to what you are doing.”
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.
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.
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.
Today marks the annual celebration of Certified Nurses Day to let nurses know just how important additional training is for career growth and for patient care.
Certified Nurses Day gives a shout out to nurses who take on the additional training and education to gain board-certified credentials in their area of specialty or in an area in which they want to gain more expertise. With many dozens of certifications available, nurses can find something that will help them do their jobs better.
Why is certification so important? In addition to gaining the extra knowledge, taking the initiative to gain certification shows a nurse who is willing to do all he or she can to offer the best care possible. As methods, equipment, and evidence-based outcomes change frequently, certification is one way to keep up-to-date on the very latest information in your area of specialty.
What about nurses whose jobs don’t require are specialization in one particular area? If your job requires more of a general skill set, then more than one certification can help you as a nurse. Do you work in an ICU that sees lots of heart patients? Or in an ER where you see asthma attacks? Or are you especially interested in wound care? Certifications in heart failure, asthma, emergency care, wound care, women’s health, palliative care and hospice, and nurse leadership are just a few of the available certifications nurses can hold.
If you are interested in gaining knowledge and learning as much as you can, you can earn more than one certification, and, in fact, doing so makes your expertise deepen.
If you are debating whether you should get certified or not, know that it adds a level of status to your professional standing and lead to greater opportunities. Employers appreciate the effort and like to have nurses who gain credentials.
Certification is hard work and you do have to pass an exam to receive your credential, so you should choose those that will expand your skills in a strategic manner. When you do gain a credential, take pride in knowing you are doing all you can to advocate for, protect, and care for those in your care.