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All nurses can benefit from certification

Sunday December 1, 2013
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When nurses obtain a certification, they expand their knowledge base, grow within their field and evolve as professionals. They also raise the standard of practice throughout the profession and, in the long run, improve patient safety.

Many employers seek employees who have earned a specialty certification because it indicates a deep appreciation and dedication to their profession and community and allows nurses to provide the most relevant and cutting-edge service to patients and their families. Nurses also might benefit financially: Those who have obtained their certification often are viewed as having the capacity to take on more responsibility, leading to career advancement and opportunities. Some nursing specialties require completion of specific certifications to ensure continued advancement.

Belinda Stewart-Burger, RN, CCRN, intensive care nurse at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach, Calif., said certification has provided “confidence and a deeper satisfaction in my professional role. It has gained me the respect of my co-workers and has allowed me to advocate in an educated manner for my patients. Further, it has opened up opportunities for promotion and employment.”

Healthcare organizations recognize that assembling a staff comprised largely of certified nurses helps ensure a highly-trained, progressive nursing team and elevates the perception of the medical facility. For hospitals in particular, earning or maintaining Magnet status requires greater percentages of certified staff nurses.

“I chose to earn my certification in part because I worked for a Magnet-recognized hospital, and wanted to show my dedication to my patients and further validate my experience within the hospital,” said Robyn Washington, RN, CNOR, BSN, from Houston Methodist Hospital. “I recognized that certification impacted not only the way I was viewed, but the way our hospital was viewed.”

Also important is emerging research that indicates a certified nursing staff can affect patient safety and outcomes. The healthcare industry is investing resources into researching how to accomplish the goals of reducing errors and improving outcomes for patients. Certification likely will play a strong role in these studies.

For example, the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses and American Board of Nursing Specialties have sponsored research that examines the National Database of Nursing Quality Indicators for certified nursing staff. Findings from this study suggest higher certification rates at the unit level can lead to decreased patient falls. A pair of 2010 studies in the American Journal of Critical Care found that certified nurses enjoy higher levels of empowerment and have better perceptions of their abilities as experts in the field. It all translates to a higher quality of care for patients and a more qualified nursing staff to ensure consistent patient safety and satisfaction.

As a nursing community, specialty certification is an important element for bettering ourselves and our profession, and improving the lives of our patients. We can meet these expectations by making certification a priority and by motivating ourselves and our nursing colleagues to pursue certification opportunities regardless of our specialties’ obligations.


Maria Rodriguez Shirey, RN, PhD, MBA, NEA-BC, FACHE, FAAN, is president of the board of directors of the American Board of Nursing Specialties (www.nursingcertification.org) and a professor in the School of Nursing at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Send comments to editor@nurse.com or post comments below.