Specialty nurse certification provides nurses with the opportunity to build on the foundation of nursing theory and practice gained from prior education and experience. Certification leads to career advancement and higher salary.
The Value of Nurse Certification
Specialty nurse certification provides nurses with the opportunity to expand their knowledge and skill-set, enhance employment opportunities, earn higher salaries, and be recognized as a professional by their peers and other members of the healthcare team.
Credentialing also advances the professionalism of the nursing field as a whole by recognizing and validating professional achievement. A few of the most important reasons for requiring certification for advanced practice nurses (APRNs) include:
- Protecting the welfare of the public
- Meeting the needs of employers, other nurses, and healthcare consumers by providing staff with expertise in certain areas of practice.
- Assuring employers and healthcare consumers that advanced nursing professionals have met strict standards for practice.
- Demonstrates the commitment of nurses to lifelong learning and professional growth
- Provides advanced practice nurses with a sense of professional accomplishment
Specialist nurse certification is a formal process by which a credentialing agency validates the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) of advanced practice nurses in their chosen specialty. Advanced practice nurses obtain certification by taking courses within their area of specialization, accruing work experience in that area, and passing an examination. Maintaining certification will require that advanced practice nurses engage in on-going learning and skill development.
Professional Recognition and Achievement
Specialist nurse certification confers both professional as well as personal rewards for advanced practice nurses.
Professional Recognition and Achievement
Specialist nurse certification also provides evidence of competence and skills to facility administrators, direct supervisors, colleagues, and patients. In a survey of more than 11,000 certified and non-certified nurses conducted by the American Board of Nursing Specialties (ABNS) more than 90 percent of respondents confirmed that certification confers professional credibility and indicates competence by verifying advanced knowledge, skills, and abilities within a given practice area. More than 80 percent of respondents agreed that certification also provides professional recognition among peers, colleagues, and healthcare consumers.1
The required coursework and examination to become an advanced practice nurse ensures that those who obtain specialist nurse certification are well qualified to care for patients with acute and chronic conditions. Nurses who obtain specialist certification have achieved a certain level of expertise within their practice area. The continuing learning and skill development needed to renew certification ensure that advanced practice nurses remain current with recent developments in nursing practice and technological development.
Career Advancement Opportunities
Nurses who obtain certification expand their range of employment opportunities. In a survey of nurse managers, 86 percent reported that, all else being equal, they would prefer to hire a certified nurse over a non-certified nurse.2 The primary reason for this decision is the knowledge, skill set, and dedication to continuous learning and professional development that advanced practice nurses bring to their role. Nurses who obtain specialist nurse certification are not only in demand but are raising the standards of the profession that, in turn, raises the respect with which a healthcare facility is held.
Advanced practice nurses have the opportunity to provide input into many nursing procedures and practices. They are invited to participate in expert panels and become thought-leaders within their area of practice. They also develop and facilitate professional in-service training for nursing staff and other members of the healthcare team and contribute their knowledge to future development of certification exams. There is also abundant opportunity for APRNs to network with certified nurses throughout the Unites States and abroad. Specialist nurse certification also enables nurses to experience a tremendous amount of pride and fulfillment in their work.
Higher Earnings Potential
Credentialed nurses in a specialty area earn more money than non-certified nurses, sometimes by as much as $15,000 or more per year. Many certified advanced practice nurses earn upwards of $150,000 per year depending on practice area and geographic region.
Benchmark for Higher Standards
The benefits of specialist nurse certification extend beyond individual nurses to the facility as a whole by raising the standards of patient care.
Promotes Recognition of Facility Excellence
Professional quality-based healthcare facilities value specialist nurse certification. Those hospitals applying for Join Commission accreditation as well as grant funding appreciate the distinction that certification of nursing staff confers on their facility in terms of developing a culture of professionalism and excellence.
Evidences Quality of Care
Having credentialed nursing staff attracts patients to a healthcare facility. Specialist nurse certification provides strong indication that nurses possess an advanced level of knowledge and skills that serve to reassure patients of their competence.
High Standards of Patient Care
Perhaps most important, specialist nurse certification contributes to high standards of patient care. There is a growing body of research that shows the relationship between specialist nurse certification and the advanced knowledge and skills it confers and enhanced patient safety. One study showed that the higher the percentage of certified nurses in intensive care units (ICUs) the less incidence of falls and other accidents.3 A second study found that certified nurses in emergency and critical care performed better than non-certified nurses in simulated mass-triage situations.4
Specialist Nurse Certification
American Nurses Association/American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANA/ANCC)
The American Nurses Association (ANA) defines certification as “”a means of measuring competency, and the identification of competent nurses that will promote the public welfare for quality in health care.” The credentialing division of the ANA, the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) has certified over 250,000 nurses since 1991 and is the largest and most prestigious credentialing organization for nurses. According to the ANCC “Nurses who receive their certification from ANCC have nationally recognized credentials akin to board certification for physicians from an organization with 35 years experience in nursing certification.”
ANCC specialty exams are developed in conjunction with practicing nurses so that they include questions regarding the specific knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to perform successfully in a given practice area. ANCC board certified nurses prepare questions for each of the specialty exams under the guidance of measurement professionals who review the statistical validity and legal appropriateness of all content.
Certification programs through the ANCC provide evidence of an advanced practice nurses knowledge, skills and abilities, and are recognized by all state boards of nursing, along with each branch of the U.S. military. As noted, specialist nurse certification raises the standards of care and leads to improved patient outcomes.
The ANCC offers specialist certification for nurses in more than 25 practice areas. For full details visit the Web site of the ANA/ANCC (www.ana.org/ancc).
1 Institute for Credentialing Excellence (formerly National Organization of Competency Assurance) (2005). The ICE guide to understanding credentialing concepts. Available at: http://www.credentialingexcellence.org Accessed February 26, 2010.
2 Jacobs JA, Glassie J.C. Certification and Accreditation Law Handbook. 2nd ed. Washington, DC: The American Society of Association Executives; 2004.
3 Niebuhr B, Biel M. The value of specialty nursing certification. Nurse Outlook. 2007;55:176-181.
4 Zulkowski A, Ayello EA, Wexler S. Certification and education: do they affect pressure ulcer knowledge in nursing? Adv Skin Wound Care. 2007;20:34-38.