Nursing Professional Development and the Role of Certification
By Debra Wood, RN, contributor
Professional development is one of the key topics for National Nurses Month in May 2021, and during the third week of the month nurses are asked to focus on how they can excel and lead in their nursing career or inspire and help others in their nursing journey.
One way they can plan to excel is to take advantage of nurse certification.
“[Certified nurses] work hard and are constantly advancing their specialty by engaging in continual professional development,” said Marianne Horahan, MBA, MPH, RN, NEA-BC, CPHQ, CAE, director for certification services and ANA Enterprise customer service at the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).
Nurse certification recognizes a nurse’s commitment to his or her specialty, expertise, professional accomplishments and skills. Today, more than 1 million nurses in the United States and Canada hold certifications, according to data from the American Board of Nursing Specialties.
“For the individual nurses, there is a badge of pride in knowing they are competent within the specialty,” Horahan said.
In addition to Nurses Month, these accomplishments are also celebrated on Certified Nurses Day which takes place on March 19 every year, the birthday of the late Margretta “Gretta” Madden Styles, RN, EdD, FAAN. Styles was an advocate for nursing certification and credentialing and the first executive director of the ANCC.
Read: 5 Simple Ways to Recognize Nurses for Nurses Month
The value of nurse certification
“As a voluntary process, certification points to nurses' commitment to career development and dedication to patient care, particularly in this constantly changing environment,” said Cindi Noe, MSN, RN, certification practice specialist at the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN).
Employers, especially those with or seeking ANCC Magnet designation, prefer to hire certified nurses, especially in this increasingly complex and challenging healthcare field. It helps in creating an environment of professionalism. Hospitals will typically pay nurses with certification more than nurses without the credentials, particularly those with career ladders,
“It demonstrates to employers and colleagues their commitment to professional development and the highest standards of quality care,” Noe said.
Healthcare facilities that hire travel nurses often prefer certified nurses, as well.
“As communities respond to local impact of the pandemic, many hospitals are relying on temporary or travel nurses to meet the critical staff needs, and employers often prefer that those nurses are certified,” Noe said.
“Certification is also a mechanism for hospitals to differentiate themselves in the community and demonstrate to patients and families that they have attracted the most skilled and experienced nursing professionals,” Noe added.
Many patients understand the importance of certification and the high level of knowledge and skills the certified nurse has in his or her specialty. It gives those patients confidence in their professional caregiver.
Horahan said nursing colleagues of a certified nurse often look to him or her for the latest research in that specialty. Nurses also help each other with certification preparation.
Certification also can serve as a prequel to graduate school, said Elaine Smith, EdD, MS, MBA, dean of the College of Nursing and Public Health at Adelphi University in Garden City, New York.
“It is independent of going back to school, but I also see it is as re-engaging with academic education,” Smith said.
How to become certified
“The process to obtain a credential is challenging, and achieving a certification validates the knowledge needed for such a complex specialty in nursing,” Noe said.
Many organizations offer certifications. The American Nurses Credentialing Center offers more than a dozen different certifications, as does the AACN Certification Corp., all related to critical care nursing. In fact, more than 140 credentials are available for nurses through a variety of specialty organizations.
Depending on the certification, licensed RNs must have two or three years of experience practicing in the specialty before applying for certification. They also must complete continuing education in the specialty and pass a standardized exam. To renew certification, nurses must take continuing education courses in that specialty.
“It forces the nurse to be up to date in clinical knowledge within that specialty,” Horahan said.
AACN responded to the pandemic with the creation of the COVID-19 Pulmonary and Ventilatory Care Micro-Credential.
“At the most basic level, micro-credentials verify, validate and attest that specific skills and/or competencies have been achieved,” Noe said. “Micro-credentials are a new concept in healthcare. They differ from traditional degrees and certificates in that they are generally offered in shorter or more flexible timespans and tend to be more narrowly focused.”
Take the step today to join the ranks of more than 1 million certified nurses. It will bolster your career and confidence in your skills and education.
5 Benefits of Nurse Certification
Onward Healthcare is seeking qualified nurses for thousands of travel nursing assignments throughout the U.S.