By Bree Becker, MSN, FNP-C, RNC-MNN
It’s a new year, and many nurses may be thinking about professional goals for the year. It could be an advanced degree, applying to another position, or changing facilities. You may be thinking about improving your work-life harmony by taking the leap into travel nursing or cutting back on your hours and working locally, per diem. If either describes you, consider achieving a nurse specialty certification.
We talked with Rachel Sweet, BSN, MEDSURG-BC, who is working with Matchwell to get her clinical hours for a master’s in nurse leadership. She also recently achieved her specialty certification and shared with us a little bit about her journey as a nurse and why she chose to get a specialty certification.
Tell us a little about your journey as a nurse.
I have been a Registered Nurse for 2 ½ years now, and I am currently in the MSN program and will graduate in May 2023. I recently took the board exam and became MedSurg certified! I moved to Georgia last December and began my career as a Travel RN. I’ve worked in various specialties like med-surg, ED, neuro, and ortho, but I have worked the most in med-surg. I graduated right at the beginning of the pandemic and entered the nursing field at one of the most historically stressful times for healthcare. I chose nursing because I have always had the drive to care for others and love learning. I am proud to say I am the first healthcare worker in my family.
You told us you are in school for your master’s degree. Why did you decide to get your specialty certification, and how do you plan to use it?
I work as a travel nurse, and often people think travel nurses and other per diem nurses don’t value education. They think we are in it for the money and flexibility. However, being a travel nurse has challenged me to learn quickly and build my clinical competency skills at a faster rate than some of my peers. I got this certification to gain more knowledge on my specialty floor, which helps with traveling to different hospitals. The certification allows me to continue my nursing education and builds my clinical competence and professional credibility. And while money isn’t my motivator for everything, a specialty certification brings higher pay! I chose this to boost my chances of having a higher salary. Who says nurses aren’t great business people?
What certification did you receive, and how can others learn more about it or figure out what specialty certification is best for them?
The certification I received is through the American Nurses Credentialing Center and is titled Medical-Surgical Nursing Certification (MEDSURG-BC). I did have specific requirements I had to meet to apply. You must:
- Hold a current, active RN license within a state or territory of the United States or the professional, legally recognized equivalent in another country
- Have practiced the equivalent of 2 years full-time as a registered nurse.
- Have a minimum of 2,000 hours of clinical practice in the specialty area of medical-surgical nursing within the last 3 years.
- Have completed 30 hours of continuing education in medical-surgical nursing within the last 3 years.
Once you meet the application requirements, you then apply and pay for the certification. Once your application is reviewed, you will receive authorization to test. Your approval to test is valid for 90 days from when it is emailed. You can choose to try either from a proctored testing center near your home or take the exam at home through a proctored application.
Please tell us a little bit about preparing for the test. Many nurses are interested in a specialty certification but are worried they don’t have the time.
The preparation for the test could have been better; honestly, I didn’t study as much as I wanted to. It was a financial investment of $400; anyone taking the test should plan accordingly. 90 days is sufficient for studying. However, because I have had the privilege of working with great preceptors and facilities, my bedside years gave me the knowledge to pass the test. Intending to study, I did buy a certification book from Amazon to skim through! I recommend this book for those who need that extra step in reviewing materials learned throughout their MedSurg experience.
What advice do you have for nurses who are considering a specialty certification?
There are a variety of nursing certifications you can achieve, and most require you to work a certain number of hours before you can apply. Do a little research first to see what specialty certification you want. Here are the most popular certification organizations for nurses.
American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)
National Certification Corporation (NCC)
AONL Credentialing Center Certification Programs
The Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing (BCEN)
American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP)
Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC)
Once you decide what certification you want to achieve, research the testing qualifications. And when you are ready to apply, most give you a certain number of days to test. So, if you like to study for more than 90 days, start studying before applying. But remember, if you qualify to take the test, you likely have much more knowledge than you think! It is also more fun to study with friends. Finding a group of nurse colleagues to complete this with also helps keep you motivated. Many organizations will pay for your specialty certification or reimburse you. Find out if your facility will do that and learn the process before paying.
Thank you so much, Rachel, for telling our nurse network about your impressive accomplishments!
There is a litany of reasons you should consider getting your specialty certification. Whether you travel or work locally per diem, a specialty certification gives you credibility and guards you with the highly needed skill level to work in numerous facilities. Work-life harmony and flexibility are highly sought after in the healthcare industry; however, that flexibility requires solid knowledge and skill. Not only will a specialty certification improve care for patients, but it also gives you the knowledge and confidence needed for local per diem work.