1. Vanairsdale, Sharon MS, APRN, ACNS-BC, NP-C, CEN


Certified Nurses Day (March 19) honors nurses worldwide who contribute to better patient outcomes through board certification in their specialty. In this month's Magnet(R) Perspectives column, Sharon Vanairsdale, MS, APRN, ACNS-BC, NP-C, CEN, program director for Emory University Hospital's Serious Communicable Diseases Unit, discusses the value of certification, what it means to her professional practice, and how it helps to champion her work. Ms Vanairsdale is triple certified as a certified emergency nurse, an adult clinical nurse specialist, and an adult nurse practitioner. She is also an adult clinical nurse content expert for the American Nurses Credentialing Center(R). She received the 2016 National Magnet Nurse of the Year(R) Award in the Exemplary Professional Practice category for her development of Ebola treatment and preparedness protocols, as well as significant contributions to the education and training of American healthcare workers around Ebola and other emerging infectious disease threats.


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When I learned I'd been selected as the 2016 National Magnet Nurse of the Year(R) for Exemplary Professional Practice, I felt incredibly honored. Exemplary professional practice focuses on excellence, collaboration, quality, safety, and best practices to realize extraordinary results. It is more than simply establishing a strong nursing practice-it is about sharing with other colleagues what the practice of professional nursing can achieve.

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I'm proud to share the Magnet(R) award with all the dedicated professionals who have worked alongside me to improve care for patients with Ebola and other infectious pathogens. I could not succeed without them. Nor could I have reached this level of achievement without my nursing certifications. Specialty certification has contributed to my clinical knowledge, spurred my personal and professional growth, and elevated my professional practice to its fullest potential.


The 1st credential I pursued was certified emergency nurse (CEN). CENs are nursing experts with the capability to care for patients during the most critical stages of illness or injury. I was in graduate school at the time, and the review process helped me become a subject matter expert and confirmed that emergency nursing was the right place for me. The CEN credential is relatively rare among nurses, and I'm very proud to have it. It demonstrates my level of professionalism within my specialty.


Once I received my master's degree, in order to be licensed, the State of Georgia required that I become certified as an adult clinical nurse specialist (CNS) and adult nurse practitioner. Even though these certifications were mandatory, I would have pursued them anyway. Both add a level of expertise that puts nurses on the same plane as other professionals and strengthens the professional nursing body.


The Power of Certification

All 3 of my certifications impact my practice and champion my daily work. As a newly certified CNS in Emory University Hospital's emergency department, I spent my days ensuring that nurses were engaged and committed to best practices and protocols. In 2014, when we learned that healthcare workers with Ebola would be coming to our hospital, I was asked to serve on the team assembled to provide care. Again, I focused on the principles I knew were important: engaging staff, using safety practices, and developing standard operating procedures to care for patients with this highly infectious disease.


Our success led to a partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to develop educational offerings for healthcare providers across the nation. In collaboration with Nebraska Medicine and the CDC, workshops were offered at both Emory and Nebraska. High attendance illustrated the importance of educating healthcare workers about highly infectious diseases. The CDC and the office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) subsequently funded the National Ebola Training and Education Center (NETEC), a collaboration between Emory, Nebraska Medicine, and New York Health and Hospitals-Bellevue. Since NETEC's inception in 2014, I've helped train hundreds of healthcare professionals across the country and create curriculum for the free educational materials we offer to healthcare facilities throughout the world.


In addition, Emory and Nebraska clinical personnel with experience in caring for patients with Ebola were asked to join the CDC on site visits to establish additional treatment and assessment hospitals. ASPR would later designate 10 Regional Ebola and Other Special Pathogen Treatment Centers based on the foundational work performed by the CDC, Emory, and Nebraska. Emory was selected as the Ebola treatment center in the Southeastern region. Today, the regional treatment centers are prepared to provide safe, intensive medical care to patients with infectious diseases. In addition to serving as program director of the Serious Communicable Diseases Unit, I make sure Emory Healthcare remains a well-oiled machine. We want to be certain that staff are trained and prepared to manage anything that may come our way, whether it be Ebola or severe acute respiratory syndrome or Middle East respiratory syndrome or any other emerging threat.


Why Certify?

What advice would I offer nurses who are thinking about certification? I believe my personal journey is instructive:


* Certification made me a better nurse. The process of preparing for each credential expanded my horizons well beyond anything I could expect if I'd stayed in the same job, performing the same tasks, day after day.


* Certification is an igniter. It ignited that fire to continue to advance my professional development, learn more, and grow in my job.


* It's a contribution to nursing. Not only does it raise the stature of the nursing profession, but it also helps improve patient care.


* It gave me credibility. By being certified, I feel I have "proven" my competency in several fields. Certification validates my knowledge in these fields and helps make me a credible leader not only among my colleagues at Emory, but also at the national level through NETEC and other partners.



Being certified in a Magnet-recognized organization brings additional benefits. At Emory, our shared governance structure engages clinicians and empowers them to speak up. When we were caring for patients with Ebola, we started each morning with a huddle to discuss clinical and unit updates. Nurses, laboratory technologist, physicians, and support staff participated in the huddles and were encouraged to contribute to the conversation. There was no hierarchy. It was a beautiful picture of what caring for patients should look like.


For those who don't think they have time to pursue certification, I say: see if you can find a couple of minutes each night to improve your knowledge. Open a certified nursing review book and read just a page or two. Even if you don't take the test right away, even if you can only study a small amount at a time, the very act of studying will improve your nursing practice. I was in graduate school when I pursued my CEN. I didn't think I had a spare minute in the day to study, but I found the time because it was important.


Although my motivation for certification was mostly personal, it must be noted that certification sends a strong signal to the outside world. Employers, patients, and colleagues recognize it as a true gauge of a nurse's ability to provide excellent care. Certified nurses are experts in their specialties and set the standard for quality in clinical practice and patient outcomes.