First of all, the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) defines certification for nurses as a “process by which nongovernmental agency validates, based upon predetermined standards, an individual nurse’s qualifications for practice in a defined functional or clinical area of nursing.”
As a general rule, licensed registered nurses (RNs) are not required to go after certification, unless they pursue specialized areas (in addition to the national exam) requiring additional training and exams, such as nursing midwife, nurse practitioner, etc.
Nursing certifications, in other words, are generally voluntary but, not only are they becoming more popular among nurses, they also bring with them a number of important benefits which can greatly enhance a nursing career. They are also being recommended by many experts and mentors within the profession.
If a nurse wants to concentrate in a specialized area of healthcare, then pursuing nursing certifications will probably be necessary—assuming that a certification exists or is required for that concentration. Some of the more popular and important nursing specializations include:
•AIDS Certified Registered Nurse (ACRN)
•Cardiac Medicine Certification (CMC)
•Critical Care Nurse Specialist (CCNS)
•Critical Care RN (CCRN)
•Certified Dialysis Nurse (CDN)
•Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE)
•Legal Nurse Consultant Certification (LNCC)
•Psychiatric and Mental Health Nurse (PMHN)
•Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse (CHPN)
More and more, it is becoming clear that some patients need specialized care. For acutely or critically ill patients, for example, nurses play an integral role in making sure these patients get close monitoring and quality-demanding treatment, without it they either never recover or recover with less than stellar results.
Because studies and surveys have proven that nurses with specialized care certifications do provide more competent care than nurses without certifications, employers now often favor nurses with nursing certifications. Not only do nursing certifications improve employment qualifications and opportunities, they also open doors for more challenging career opportunities.
As a general rule, specialization in nursing appears to be taking the same road that specialization for doctors took in the past fifty years. Nurses, therefore, had better considered nurse certifications as an integral part of career growth, advancement and job security.
Other benefits nurses can expect from nurse certifications include:
•Nurse certifications further enhance the professional image of nurses.
•Certifications help raise nurses confidence levels, usually giving a boost to their egos, especially if they have not been acknowledged in the past.
•Specialization helps raise levels of quality of care and can help reduce poor performance episodes and mistakes.
•Certifications help raise earning potential; an ADVANCE for Nurses 2011 Survey, for example, revealed the certified nurses made about $36 per hour, while those without certification made about $29.
•Specialization raises minimum competency standards, meaning that only those nurses that put in time and sweat to pass those standards will be rewarded with jobs requiring such expertise.
•As in the case of nurse practitioner, certification gives nurses doctor-like powers, such as being able to prescribe, design treatment, and oversee patient care.
•Specialization in such critically important areas as oncology and geriatrics will open up many job opportunities, as well as creating job security. Most of people diagnosed with cancer, for example, are over 55 years old. Since seniors will comprise a large segment of the population, nurses trained to deal with the special needs of older cancer patients will be in an excellent position, career-wise.
•Certification helps reduce nurse turn-over rates and burn-out, which only adds to the nursing shortage; in other words, pursuing certification makes it less likely a nurse will abandon the profession, most probably because of increased rewards, recognition and the personal satisfaction that comes from being uniquely needed.
•Certification makes it easier to climb the ladder in terms of management, administration and leadership. Nurses, for example, who want to be in charge of a unit or even in charge of a whole ward or facility, would do well with certification, even if they may have to get additional education.
•Specialization may also help those wanting to teach since nursing schools are likely to put more emphasis on the importance of certifications.