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Understanding the Power of Nursing Specialty Certifications

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Healthcare faces many challenges, such as cybersecurity and payment models. However, nurses are likely to ponder on problems of patient care and experience and come up with strategies to improve both. One way to increase your credibility with patients and add value to your employer is through specialty certifications. Learn how certification can help you advance your career.

Understanding the Power of Nursing Specialty Certifications

As 2019 begins, the healthcare industry is faced with challenges. Everything from cybersecurity to payment models is listed as possible issues. As a nurse, you likely ponder longer on problems of patient care and experience than any other potential challenge. Patients are demanding better service as out-of-pocket contributions, and cost-sharing percentages continue to rise. This means that nurses must look at ways to improve their practice and increase the credibility and skill they bring to the bedside.

The American Board of Nursing Specialties reports that there are almost 750,000 certified registered nurses worldwide in a variety of settings. To publish a complete list of common nursing certifications takes quite a bit of space. Nurses can be certified in critical care, case management, urology, or wounds, just to name a few. Certification can be time-consuming and difficult. However, the benefits for employers, patients, and the nurse are many.

Adding Value to Your Employer

Nursing requires ongoing learning and mastery of skills. Many employers value nursing certifications in various specialties to demonstrate experience and knowledge in complex areas. Nurses are only required to pass the NCLEX once (thank goodness!) but do have to complete a set number of continuing education courses each year by their state board of nursing. Certification in a specialty provides ongoing validation of experience, skills, and knowledge in your certification specialty.

Some employers will support certification through continuing education courses, reimbursement of costs associated with certification, and annual memberships to accrediting bodies. Hospitals and other facilities often publish data on the number of certified nurses to increase the public’s confidence in the nursing care provided within the walls of their organization. Employers who embrace certification might be better positioned to thrive in today’s competitive healthcare marketplace.  

Increasing Confidence of Patients

Patients are sicker today than ever before. As life expectancy increases, more people are living longer with chronic illness and acute exacerbations. The public wants to be assured that nurses are competent and highly skilled in their specialty area before they become patients.

A 2002 Harris Poll found that 78% of consumers were aware that nurses could be certified. Awareness of nurse certification was slightly higher for nurses than other professions such as doctors, teachers, and accountants. Many consumers prefer hospitals that employ certified nurses to provide care. Being certified in a specialty brings credibility to your practice and marks your work with a sense of excellence.

Boosting Job Satisfaction

Certification doesn’t only benefit your employer and patients. It validates your knowledge and skilled judgment in a specialty area.

Karen S. Kesten, DNP, RN, APRN, CCRN-K, CCNA, CNE and associate professor at George Washington University School of Nursing spoke with Mary Watts, Community Director of AllNurses in 2018 about the path to certification.  As the past chair of the national board of directors for the AACN Certification Corporation, Karen understands the benefits of certification. She encouraged nurses to obtain certifications and emphasized that nursing is a lifelong learning pattern and with certification, you have more options. She advocates for nurses to have a louder voice to advocate for the patients, and one to obtain this voice is through specialty certification.

When you become certified, you are the “expert” in your specialty and on your unit. You must meet eligibility requirements in your specialty that demonstrates you’ve been working in the field for a specified period. Once you meet the eligibility requirements, the real fun of studying and learning what you need to know to pass the exam begins. Once certified, you will need to maintain your certification through continuing education courses that meet the requirements set by the accrediting body. All of this ensured continued growth your knowledge and skill of your specialty area.

Certification can open up job opportunities. Nurses who are certified possess the knowledge and skill to give employers confidence that you will be a high-performer.  A certified nurse might pass up other nurses with the same amount of practical knowledge solely because of the extra initials they write behind their name.

Weighing in on Certification

Are you certified in a specialty? If so, what has certification done for your credibility with other professionals and patients? Has certification helped boost your confidence in your skill level or opened job opportunities?

If you’re not currently certified but are considering becoming certified in a specialty, what do you hope to achieve through certification? Do you have questions about certification that other nurses on AllNurses can help to answer? As a certified nurse case manager, I can help along with so many of the other nurses here on the site. Let us know what excites you about the idea of certification and if there is anything that terrifies you about beginning the journey to certification.

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Melissa is a Quality Assurance Nurse, professor, writer, and business owner. She has been a nurse for over 20 years and enjoys combining her nursing knowledge and passion for the written word. You can see more of her work at www.melissamills.net.

83 Likes, 6 Followers, 86 Articles, 18,986 Visitors, and 235 Posts.

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I certified in Neonatal Intensive Care very recently (as in, I haven't even received my official paperwork from the NCC yet) but when I saw that preliminary pass certificate, I felt so validated for the last 5 years I've spent learning my craft in the NICU. I then used this validation to bolster my CV when I applied for grad school, with confidence that it will help stand me out in the crowd. I feel pride knowing novice nurses in my unit look to me as someone they can come to for clinical advice. 

It was stressful but so worth it!

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2 hours ago, YuHiroRN said:

I certified in Neonatal Intensive Care very recently (as in, I haven't even received my official paperwork from the NCC yet) but when I saw that preliminary pass certificate, I felt so validated for the last 5 years I've spent learning my craft in the NICU. I then used this validation to bolster my CV when I applied for grad school, with confidence that it will help stand me out in the crowd. I feel pride knowing novice nurses in my unit look to me as someone they can come to for clinical advice. 

It was stressful but so worth it!

Congrats, YuHiroRN, BSN! It is a great accomplishment! :)

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We got a small raise after getting our unit certification.  I think it's  a good idea and shows a moderate level of understanding in said field.  The cost of testing should be reimbursed by the unit and there needs to be higher compensation for achieving certification. 

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I am a certified wound nurse and my employer did pay for it.  I doubt I would have gone through the process otherwise as it was rather expensive and I got no additional compensation beyond the company paying for the certification.  I have considered also getting certified in geriatrics since I work in LTC where the resident population is largely elders but again, the certification is somewhat expensive.  There's not a single certified geriatrics nurse in our employ but what really holds me back from it is I don't see that certification as being a huge asset for LTC. Staffing is so chronically short in that field that with my experience and wound care certification I could go to any facility in the area and be hired, probably on the spot. 

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I’m RNC-NIC certified. I did it to show myself that I do know a lil something. It really has helped settle the feelings of imposter syndrome in my NNP program. My employer paid for the cert and gave me a little bonus. It can help with career ladder, but it doesn’t automatically give you extra pay. 

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I wanted to be certified in public health nursing with the APHN-BC credential, but the ANCC retired it before I was eligible to apply. There is no other nursing-specific public health certification credential at this time and nor does ANCC seem to have any intention of creating one, so I don't know that I'll ever get to know how having the certification would feel. 
 

#StillBitter

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I'm certified in Gerontology and I am debating whether to renew because it is so very expensive.  I enjoyed the process of becoming certified, as the study material was actually kind of fun to review.  I did feel good having the certification on my resume when job searching.

I do question the figure of 78% of consumers being aware that nurses can become certified.  So many don't even understand the difference between LVN and RN.

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I was a Certified Medical/Surgical Registered Nurse in the way-back days when I worked in the hospital. They paid for the course and testing, and I got a dollar an hour raise for holding the certification. They were proud of all of us who became CMSRNs because they could boast to the public about having highly skilled certified nurses (there were about 15 of us, only one of whom didn't pass the exam). It was definitely worth doing in my opinion, even though I let my certification lapse after four years because of moving on to a different job.

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On 1/30/2019 at 11:40 AM, NICUmiiki said:

I’m RNC-NIC certified. I did it to show myself that I do know a lil something. It really has helped settle the feelings of imposter syndrome in my NNP program. My employer paid for the cert and gave me a little bonus. It can help with career ladder, but it doesn’t automatically give you extra pay. 

I would be lying if I said I didn't wait until the day after I passed my certification exam before applying for NNP school LOL! Those extra letters...

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