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The Value of Certification.

I am a Certified Orthopaedic Nurse at HonorHealth--J.C. Lincoln Medical Center and an advocate for certification on the Specialty Surgical Care unit as well as for the network. On my unit, 28% of our nurses are certified, which is something I'm very proud of. According to the American Nurses Credentialing Center, "board certification is an important way to distinguish that a nurse has a met a level of distinction and knowledge indicating professional nursing practice. Board certification also gives the public some assurance that the individual must engage in lifelong learning to maintain and renew their certification, and in the case of advanced practice nurses their authorization/licensure to practice. The public recognizes the significance of this achievement and it provides some assurance that the individual who is caring for them has acquired a predetermined level of knowledge in the specialty area of practice."

Being certified positions nurses to support better patient outcomes through specialized knowledge and skills. Certifications promotes career growth and opens doors for new opportunities. Specialty certification fosters empowerment and improves confidence in clinical competency. In addition, when a nurse is certified it demonstrates a commitment to advance the profession of nursing through lifelong learning. State RN licensure only measures entry-level competence to practice nursing. Certification reflects achievement of a standard beyond licensure for specialty nursing practice.

Trend in Healthcare

The Institute of Medicine's (lOM's) Future of Nursing Report recommends healthcare organizations foster a culture of lifelong learning and provide resources for continuing competency programs. Professional certification holds nurses to lifelong learning through the recertification process.

There is a growing trend in hospitals to pursue recognition through the American Nurses Credentialing Center's Magnet Recognition program. Having certified nurses is a key requirement for Magnet hospitals. Certification aligns with providing patient-centered care of the highest quality for the greatest value.

Continuing education required to maintain certification contributes to creating an environment of professionalism. Certified nurses are likely to have higher satisfaction rates resulting in increased retention rates. Leaders value the confirmation of nurses' knowledge through certification. Promoting certification of nurses is important to continue moving the profession forward (Elwell, 2017).

Barriers to Certification

Nurses report the number one barrier to achieving certification is cost. This expense is related to the cost of the examination, as well as maintenance of certification. Nurses who let their certification lapse identify several factors including lack of recognition, no increase in compensation, cost of certification renewal, lack of time to complete required continuing education, and personal circumstances (Haskins, Hnatiuk, & Yoder, 2011). Other barriers identified in the literature include limited time to prepare, lack of practice relevance, and fear of failing (Brown, Murphy, Norton, Baldwin, Ponto, 2010).

Strategies to Increase Certifications

Certification is voluntary. Healthcare facilities can support the process of certifications by adopting practices that promote and encourage nurses to obtain certification. Strategies to consider include:

--Reimbursement of exam cost, with passing score

--Monetary annual reward

--=Provide study material (Text books, Study Guides, Practice Exams)

--Set a goal (use visual example on the nursing unit, such as thermometer, to gauge progress)

--Offer certification classes, with a time commitment to take the exam

--Organize a celebration when a nurse obtains certification

--Display certificates at facility to recognize the Certified Nurse(s)

--Provide opportunities and support to earn continuing education for recertification

As a Nursing Supervisor on our Specialty Surgical Care Unit, a Certified Orthopaedic Nurse, and member of the Honor Health network Certification Committee, I have the privilege of consistently supporting nurses in the pursuit of certification. The 28% rate of certification on our Specialty Surgical Care Unit was achieved by incorporating all of the outlined strategies above. Certified nurses on this unit overwhelmingly report that certification enabled them to experience personal growth and to feel more satisfied in their work. They are proud of their achievement and are role models for nurses and other health care professionals. Specialty certification points to nurses' commitment to career development and dedication to patient care in the evolving complexities of health care.


ANCC Commission on Certification, January 2008. Why ANCC certification. www. Accessed 6 December 2018.

Brown, CG., Murphy, RM., Norton, V., Baldwin, PD., Ponto, J. The value of oncology nursing certification. Clin JJ Oncol Nurs. 2010; 14(6):E63-E69.

Elwell, S. (2017). Certification Matters. Journal of Trauma Nursing, 2017 Nov/ Dec;24(6):342-344. doi: 10.1097/JTN.0000000000000323.

Fitzpatrick, J.J., Campo, T.M., & Gacki-Smith.m. (2014). Emergency care nurses: Certification, empowerment, and work-related variables. Journal of Emergency Nursing, 40(2), e37-e43, doi:10.1016/j.jen.2013.01.021 Haskins, M., Hnatiuk, C., & Yoder, L. (2011). Medical-surgical nurses' perceived value of certification study. MedSurg Nursing, 20(2), 71-77.

Institute of Medicine. (2010). The future of nursing leading change, advancing health: Report recommendations. Retrieved from http://iom.natitionalacademies. org/-/media/Files/Report%20Files/2010/The-Future-of-Nursing/Nursing%20 Education%202010%20Brief.pdf

Solomon, D., Lahl, M., Soat, M., Bena, J., & McClelland, M.(2016) Strategies to influence RN specialty certification. Nursing Management. 2016; 8: 38-46.

Mary Jo Hersom, RN, ONC
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Author:Hersom, Mary Jo
Publication:Arizona Nurse
Date:Jan 1, 2019
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