Certification is not a new concept, and nurses have been offered certification in specialty areas since the mid-1970s. A distinct difference between licensure and certification is that, in most cases, licensure is required while certification is voluntary. Therefore, it takes a high degree of self-motivation to pursue a certification, but the benefits are many.
Benefits of Certification
Nursing certifications reflect a level of competence and commitment that enable nurses to provide the best possible care to patients. Certifications not only improve patient safety, but also inform the public that the certified nurse has mastered specialized knowledge.1 It affirms the dedication to the profession while validating advanced knowledge and skills essential for the growing needs of the community. Furthermore, evidence shows that the relationship between certification and BSN or higher prepared nurses can improve patient outcomes.2
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Choosing a position that embraces the importance of education and certification leads to increased job satisfaction,3 which is a major factor in retention. Increased self-worth, altruism and caring, all elements that echo the essence of nursing, are added benefits of certification, as are the increased sense of confidence and empowerment achieved.
Several organizations offer certifications as a way to raise industry standards. These certification credentials are nationally recognized, valid in any state, and accepted across healthcare institutions and settings. For example, the American Nurses Credentialing Center certifies specialties such as faith community nursing, pediatric nursing, and psychiatric-mental health nursing, as well as acute care nurse practitioner (NP), pediatric primary care NP, and family NP.
Today, there are more than 20 different RN certifications offered, including nurse executive, informatics, pain management, and public health nursing, to name a few. APRN certification examinations are available for each of the specialties, including more than 10 NP examinations and at least five clinical nurse specialist examinations.
Choosing a certification should begin with self-reflection and an assessment of the career path you would like to follow.
For example, if you see yourself as a nurse who loves to work with children, a pediatric specialty certification, either at the RN level or the NP level, may be right for you. Looking inside yourself will allow you to find your passion, your calling for your specialty.
Pursuing a certification is becoming ever more convenient for working nurses thanks to a growing number of educational resources and opportunities.
For example, in addition to online MSN and DNP degree programs, Kaplan University School of Nursing offers four graduate certificates: adult-gerontology nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, executive leader, and nurse educator. Online education provides a practical and effective path to specialization. Once you have met eligibility requirements for certification, you will need to pass a certification exam.
Nursing certifications also require periodic renewal to affirm the continued high level of knowledge achieved through certification. It is a worthy pursuit-one that will lead you on a path of lifelong learning.
1. Williams HF, Counts CS. Certification 101: The pathway to excellence. Nephrology Nursing Journal. 2013;40(3): 197-208, 253.
2. Kendall-Gallagher D, Aiken LH, Sloane DM, Cimiotti JP. Nurse specialty certification, inpatient mortality, and failure to rescue. Journal of Nursing Scholarship. 2011;43: 188-194. doi: 10.1111/j.1547-5069.2011.01391.x
3. Wyatt J, Harrison M. Certified pediatric nurses’ perceptions of job satisfaction. Pediatric Nursing. 2010;36(4): 205-208.
Michele N. Pedulla is assistant chair of graduate programs, Kaplan University School of Nursing.