You all know by now that second to my passion for nursing is my love of learning. In fact, my love for learning and teaching led me to nursing. I have a goal to have every letter of the alphabet behind my name before I retire (even though I don’t actually plan to retire).
Besides continuing my education, another way I continue to learn is by being a certified nurse. Oftentimes people ask me, “What is a certified nurse?” Some think it refers to nurse aids. Others think, “Aren’t all nurses certified?” There are so many types and levels of nursing. I understand the confusion. Let’s take a look at what being a certified nurse means, why I chose to become a certified nurse, and why you should consider becoming a certified nurse too!
What is a Certified Nurse?
All active nurses are licensed through their states. This deems them competent to work in settings that fall within the nurse scope of practice. State licensure is required to practice. Certification is voluntary. A certified nurse chooses to go the extra step to stand out from their peers and prove they have advanced skill, knowledge, and experience. It requires a lot of studying, working 2000 hours in a specialty area, paying money, and then passing an exhaustive national test.
Why become a Certified Nurse?
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics there are approximately 2.8 million licensed nurses in the US. Of those, nurse.com reports about 40% are certified nurses. Since certification is not a requirement and the certification takes time and money (to test and maintain if you don’t work for a facility that has this built into their budget), you might be asking yourself, “Why should I get a specialty certification?”
A quick Google search will reveal a litany of reasons to get your nursing certification, and many of those may be based on opinion rather than research. I took a look at some literature to find out what the evidence says. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits to the patient, the facility, and to you – the nurse!
As a nurse, anytime I invest in my education, the first thing I ask myself is, “Will this help my patients?” Lots of studies support the positive effects that specialty certification has on patient outcomes. Nursing certification correlates with lower rates of adverse patient events. For example, patient injuries due to falls, hospital-acquired pressure injuries, and hospital-acquired infections decrease when facilities hire certified nurses.
Another particular benefit is the decreased rate of failure to rescue. Failure to rescue refers to when an otherwise healthy patient is hospitalized and suffers an adverse event. Think about the healthy patient going in for a simple procedure who then has a bad outcome. While more in-depth studies are needed, literature supports the benefits of nurses investing in a nursing certification.
Ummm, see benefits to patients. Considering the various strains to facilities, poor patient outcomes probably cause the most tension. Hospital-acquired infections and injuries are costly to facilities. Nurses who feel incompetent and unqualified to care for patients are likely to experience higher rates of burnout, fueling adverse events. A facility making an investment in the education of nurses invests in the sustainability of the facility itself and the community it serves.
There are many reasons I chose to become certified. Even after leaving the bedside and hospital setting altogether, I chose to maintain my certification because benefits to obtaining a specialty certification doesn’t stop at the bedside. There are many other bonuses to obtaining and maintaining a certification. From increased knowledge to increased confidence to career advancement. Here’s what these positives mean to me…
When I was studying for my certification, I was blown away at all the nuances of my specialty that I wasn’t aware of. It is so easy when you start practicing to mirror your practice off of what other nurses say and do, and many times this is not rooted in evidence-based practice. Studying for the maternal newborn nursing certification challenged my everyday practice and the information I was regularly providing to patients. I became independently knowledgeable about conditions, maternal and newborn physiology, and best practice.
At the time, I started a new position as a nurse educator for the nurse residency program. I found that I became a better instructor and was capable of answering more complex questions during lectures. I was also able to create case studies and practical applications for the nurses during class time.
Most people would probably describe me as a confident person. I always try my best. I am not afraid to ask questions or speak up when I see something wrong. On the inside though, I am always doubting myself and wondering what I could have done that was better. When I was a new nurse, my mind would race for hours (sometimes days) after a shift wondering if I made the right decision.
Once I achieved my certification, I noticed an immediate boost in my confidence because I had more knowledge. When I called providers, I felt more confident in my assessment, what my recommendations were, and if I wasn’t getting the response from them I needed, I felt confident to challenge them (respectfully).
When I decided to leave the bedside, the first position I applied to in administration actually required my specialty certification. As I continued to climb the ladder in my organization, I found that many other nurses who were highly qualified were doing the same. More times than not, what set me apart was my specialty certification.
How Do I Get Certified?
If you are interested in becoming certified, here is a quick checklist and some organizations for you to check out.
- Rn License in good standing
- Research which certification suits you
- Confirm your exam eligibility
- Find out if your organization will pay for the exam
- Some facilities require you to get approval before you pay
- Apply for examination
- Identify study material or study course
- Take the exam
National Certification Corporation
Credentialing Center | ANCC
AONL Credentialing Center Certification Programs
BCEN: The Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing
American Association of Nurse Practitioners
Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation
There are many reasons to obtain your certification. Nurses are in demand and yet many times competing for the same job. Whether it’s to get a job promotion, improve patient care, or as an added badge of achievement, just do it! Invest in yourself and your future.