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certified nurse workforce, quality outcomes, benefits of certification, nurse surveillance, certification



  1. Cary, Ann H. PhD, MPH, RN, A-CCC


Findings show benefits and drawbacks of nursing certification.


Overview: During the 30 years that professional certification has been available to nurses, little research has been done to determine its effect. Now that both patients and employers are seeking ways to assess the quality of health care providers, data characterizing the certified nurse workforce is increasingly important. Several small-scale studies have examined various aspects of certification, but until now, we've lacked data on who gets certified and how certification affects those who receive it.


This article reports on the findings of stage 3 of the International Study of the Certified Nurse Workforce, the largest study to date on certification, based on a random sample of 19,452 nurses from the registries of 23 certifying organizations in the United States, Canada, and U.S. territories. In this stage of the study, certified nurses' demographic characteristics and the nature of their practice were described, and any benefits or rewards they might attribute to certification were examined. The study's findings show that the typical respondent was a married, Caucasian woman in her late 40s, who had a minimum of a bachelor's degree and worked in a hospital. Seventy-two percent of nurses reported one or more benefits of certification, and almost all respondents reported that certification brought about at least one change in their practice.


These results provide initial evidence that certification may give nurses the means or opportunity to practice in a manner likely to improve outcomes. Further research is needed to confirm the certified nurse workforce's contribution to productivity, retention, and high-quality health care.