To Keep or Ditch Past Certifications?

You wanted it at one point - and probably worked pretty hard to obtain that extra certification or credential. The time, resources and dedication required speaks to the nursing profession and our constant will to learn. Nurses take pride in continuing their education and specializing in their respective field(s) of expertise. With rising price points for courses and less employers willing to cover the cost, some are finding it difficult to maintain multiple certifications financially. Nurses General Nursing Article

To Keep or Ditch Past Certifications?

So, is it worth it?


Becoming certified in your area of expertise has many benefits to both the nurse and his/her patients. Obtaining certification demonstrates to your peers, management and patients that you are an expert in the field and have taken additional steps to solidify your comprehensive knowledge of this healthcare specialty.

An article from titled, The Power of Nursing Specialty Certifications states, "While specialty certification is voluntary, obtaining it can be a tremendous benefit to almost any registered nurse. Nurses who validate their expertise through specialty certification set the standard for the profession" and adds, "Don't be surprised if your next patient asks if you're certified. A 2002 Harris Poll found that 78 percent of consumers were aware of nursing certification. Seventy-three percent said they'd prefer to receive care in a hospital filled with certified nurses." The article also discusses another important potential benefit to nurses seeking specialty certification - confidence. goes into more detail, explaining, "studies show that nurses who are certified in their areas of specialty reported feeling even more confident in their work and more satisfied with their jobs. Even if you know your specialty inside and out, improving your credentials can give your confidence a boost and help you enjoy the work you do even more."

With all the given potential benefits of certification - an vast knowledge of the specialty, personal growth, professional confidence, increased patient satisfaction and maybe even improved job satisfaction - you may be asking, why don't we all get certified? It's complicated. Let's dig a little deeper.


One of the awesome benefits of entering the healthcare industry as a nurse is the flexibility this profession can provide. We are able to work in many different settings and in multiple roles. If you (like many) enjoy the freedom of changing your specialty every few years, specialty certifications may not be relevant at your next position. A personal choice - is seeking certification worth my time and money? Will it continue to serve me and my career?

These, among others, are important questions to ask yourself when considering pursuing additional certs. Really assessing your current and potential future healthcare setting can help to determine if this path is worth your efforts.


Keeping multiple certs can be expensive to maintain, especially if your employer is unwilling to assist financially. Some institutions value the voluntary educational efforts of their nurses and provide partial/full reimbursement upon proof of passing. However, there are many hospital systems that, unfortunately, do not have the funds or desire to assist staff financially with additional certification(s).

Let's be real - being a nurse can be expensive. Depending on your area of work, many nurses are required to purchase things like: attire (scrubs, shoes, surgical caps, etc), accessories (stethoscope, pen lights, scissors, clamps, etc), fee to maintain state licensure (sometimes multiple), and also potentially pay for continuing education credits to keep said licensure active (if not offered for free at place of current employment).

Fiscally assessing your budget may prove helpful in your decision to seek, maintain or get rid of your specialty certification. How much will the exam cost? What is the estimated cost of required study materials? Will you need to miss a day of work to take the exam?

Letting Go

If you are/have ever been certified, you know the time, effort and funds required. Weighing out the pros and cons to keeping or obtaining your cert can be more difficult than anticipated. Is it ever worth letting go? If so, isn't there a potential for regret in the future? Yes, there is...

After about eight years in oncology I decided it was time to pursue my OCN (Oncology Certified Nurse) certification. I had historically bounced back and forth every few years between adult and pediatric care. I bore very easily, but it was clear to my I would always be in some facet of oncology care, so pursuing certification made sense to me. It required a considerable amount of study time and funds. The exam was definitely not a breeze, but I passed. Years later, I was (again) back in the world of pediatric oncology, so, when my certification was due to renew, I didn't think much of it. To be honest, I was uncharacteristically lazy about it. I felt like it wasn't of value to me anymore and the "hassle" of looking into what was required to renew was not something I thought I had time for. (Oh, if I had a crystal ball.) Fast forward, my OCN lapsed one year ago. Now, working as a freelance writer and consultant, I regret letting this certification go. I had worked quite hard to obtain it and believe those extra letters can convey the wealth of knowledge I possess to others. Lesson learned. You don't have to keep them all, but some are worth it.

Do you have any specialty certifications? Have you ever let any go? If so, do you regret your decision to do so?


Montgomery, S. (n.d.).The Power of Nursing Specialty Certifications.Retrieved December 11th, 2017 from The Power of Nursing Specialty Certifications - Articles Archive - Nursing Jobs, RN Jobs, Career Advice at Working Nurse

Freelance healthcare writer and owner of with over 10 years of nursing experience in several areas of pediatric & adult oncology.

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Specializes in ICU/community health/school nursing.

I have yet to have a patient even know there is a certification for what I do. I'm not arguing with your stats that 3/4 of people want to be taken care of by certified nurses...but I think people have no idea what that means. They think certified = highly experienced, and that may be true, or it may not be true. It just sounds good.

Specializes in Critical Care and ED.

I have two certifications, CCRN (critical care) and a CDN (certified dialysis nurse). I've done everything in my power to maintain them as they look great on the resume and have opened several doors for me. Not only that but they were very difficult and time consuming to get in the first place so I want to keep them. I'm not sure if I'll be able to keep the dialysis one as I haven't done any dialysis in a while and when I come to renew I might not be able to keep it, but the critical care one is vital to me as an ICU nurse and NP student.

I'm certified and do my job well. I know of a nurse who is certified and is horrible at the bedside. She is just an awesome test taker, with 2 years of exp. I'll take a 20 year seasoned nurse over a nurse with 2 years experience and certified.

I have been a psych nurse for 3 years, right out of nursing school. I am pursuing certification mainly because I want to increase my knowledge. Psych was barely taught in my nursing school, and sure, I have picked up some knowledge along the way, but as I have worked through some Continuing Ed, I realize how much I don't know. Getting my certification will not impress my clients, might slightly impress any future employers, but it will make me a better psych nurse! That makes it worth it.