1. Shirey, Maria R. PhD, MBA, RN, NEA-BC, FACHE, FAAN

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Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Do not bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.1 - -William Faulkner

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A fundamental principle of continuous quality improvement contends there is always opportunity get better. A mind-set of continuous improvement is vital to professional growth and development. This mind-set is also crucial to keeping us relevant and vibrant in our field. Pursuing specialty nursing certification is one way to challenge ourselves to grow professionally. Certification is also an important way to validate our professional knowledge base and live on a daily basis our commitment to improve patient outcomes and enhance consumer protection.2 But what can we do to motivate ourselves to leave our comfort zones and achieve specialty nursing certification? This editorial offers 5 tips to consider.


First, we must dare to dream big dreams. For many, specialty nursing certification is a voluntary endeavor and not always considered part of overall career planning. When thinking of obtaining certification as part of a career continuum of professional growth, achieving this credential becomes part of a bigger dream to excel and contribute in a more specialized way. We cannot achieve our professional aspirations unless we first dream of the possibilities and work to make these dreams reality.


Second, we must conquer our fears. Because fear can paralyze us to inaction, acknowledging and addressing our fears head-on is important. If fear relates to test-taking anxiety, then strengthening our test-taking strategies may be appropriate for successfully passing a specialty certification examination. If fear of failure is a factor, then we must proceed even in spite of that fear knowing that we can potentially miss 100% of the opportunities we do not pursue. Conquering fear requires us to repeatedly force ourselves to face what scares us until these fears become manageable or they disappear.


Third, we must indulge in positive self-talk. Positive self-talk is affirming and optimistic. It involves telling ourselves that we can do this and requires visualizing ourselves achieving our hopes and aspirations. Repeating to ourselves that when we pass the specialty nursing certification examination (not if we pass), we will reward ourselves with a special treat or outing, is a way we can facilitate our chances for self-improvement.


Fourth, we must finish what we start. To enhance our chances of finishing what we start requires being selective of what we commit to doing, planning time wisely, and keeping the end in mind. When pursuing specialty nursing certification, it is essential to understand areas of strength and weakness to customize a study plan that provides ample preparation time. A big reason why people do not finish what they start is that they do not devote enough planning, monitoring, and preparation time to the important endeavors they pursue. Failure to prepare can only get in the way of improvement efforts.


Fifth, we must periodically renew ourselves so we can have the energy to strive for continuous improvement. A rested mind, body, and soul allow us to personally revitalize and open ourselves to new possibilities. As we pursue professional aspirations such as certification, it is important to build downtime into our schedules to allow for much-needed reflection.


The tips presented here are just a few of many strategies that can help on the journey to continuous professional improvement. Best wishes as you practice your profession with gusto realizing that every day is an opportunity to improve.




1. Temple E. The best life advice from William Faulkner. Published September 25, 2012. Accessed May 29, 2014. [Context Link]


2. About us. American Board of Nursing Specialties Web site. Accessed May 29, 2014. [Context Link]