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Eight Good Reasons to Certify

Monday September 11, 2006
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Why certify? Evidence from studies on the effects certification has on nurses identifies increased confidence in a nurse's abilities, earlier intervention to prevent problems, and more nurse/physician collaboration.1 Here are more reasons for nurses to become certified.
Professional recognition is the original reason for certification for which the American Nurses Association (ANA), now the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), started its certification program back in 1973. It gives nurses recognition among their peers and indicates the nurses have a certain level of specialty knowledge. Health care consumers understand the term "board-certified" and expect it from physicians. What about nurses?
Personal recognition is what internally motivated individuals thrive on, and it stimulates them to action. These individuals appear to be drawn toward certification as a means of personal recognition as evidenced from studies.2
Career progression is why increasing numbers of hospitals and facilities are using certification along with education and continued learning as criteria for advancement or reward. In nursing facilities with Magnet status, one of the 14 Forces of Magnetism, professional development, is a driver for nurses to seek certification.
Certification can become a tiebreaker when two people interview for the same position and have equal skills. In a study by the American Board of Nursing Specialties in 2002, with all other factors being equal, nurse managers would clearly select a certified nurse over a non-certified nurse when hiring.3
Professional opportunities and networking become available to individuals who are certified. For instance, at the ANCC as well as other certifying bodies, there are opportunities to meet other certified nurses from all over the U.S. to share expertise and information. Certified nurses are invited to participate on expert panels to work on test development for their specialty, participate in item development workshops, and participate in standard-setting studies [to determine the passing score of an examination], or role delineation studies [job analyses]. In addition, nursing contact hours may be awarded for participation and used toward renewal of certification.
Competency assessment is a unique purpose of certification. Certification exams are built on the results of role delineation studies which identify the knowledge, skills, and abilities prerequisite for competent practice in a particular specialty. Validation of predetermined knowledge allows nurses to evaluate their competence in a specialty area and shows peers the individual has met a national standard. Certification in a specialty area can help with accreditation and demonstrates to Magnet recognition reviewers nurses have a proven knowledge base to care for their specialty patients.
In addition, certifications must be renewed approximately every three to five years, so certified nurses must continue to update their knowledge and ascribe to lifelong learning. A reason to remain current may be one of the most important reasons for certification. Continued competence has been a major concern of regulatory agencies and organizations such as the Citizens Advocacy Commission for several years. Some state boards of nursing have already started to recognize certification as evidence of continued competence for license renewal.
Licensure is one of the few reasons certification takes on a less than voluntary status. Advanced practice nurses are required to be certified in the majority of states to obtain authority to practice and to prescribe.
Reimbursement is a more recent phenomenon that has encouraged many nurses to obtain certification for advanced practice even if they are in a state which does not require it. The Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) has mandated certification as a requirement to obtain reimbursement. In addition, some insurance companies require certification for reimbursement, such as case management certification for workers' compensation cases.
Increased yearly salary of $8,000 to $10,000 on the average was identified in two recent surveys as being a positive differentiator for the certified nurse over the noncertified nurse. This is the first time a monetary differential of any significance has been identified in a survey.
The question remains - when one considers all these reasons, why would any nurse not want to certify?