1. Cliff, Barbara RN, MS, CHPN
  2. Martinez, Jeanne RN, MPH, CHPN

Article Content


Certification is the formal recognition of the specialized knowledge, skills, and experience demonstrated by the achievement of standards identified by a nursing specialty to promote optimal patient care. 1 Through the completion of specialized education, experience in a specialty nursing practice, and the successful completion of a qualifying exam or portfolio, nurses and other qualified members of the healthcare team achieve specialty certification credentials. Maintenance of certification is accomplished through a variety of mechanisms including reexamination, continuing education, self-assessment, and ongoing clinical practice. Hospice and palliative care nursing certification is a process through which the National Board for Certification of Hospice and Palliative Care Nurses (NBCHPN(R)) validates an individual's qualifications and knowledge in the specialized area of hospice and palliative care.


The first nursing certification program occurred in 1945 with the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists. According to a 2002 report by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses, registered nurses hold more than 410,000 certifications in 134 specialties by 67 certifying organizations. 2 The first certification exam in hospice nursing occurred in 1994.


Numerous studies have demonstrated a positive link between certified nurses and performance outcomes for patients. A survey of 350,000 certified nurses was conducted by the Nursing Credentialing Research Coalition in 2000 and was the first known study of the relationship between certified nurses and patient care. This study identified numerous positive outcomes associated with certified nurses, including:


* Fewer adverse events in patient care;


* Higher patient satisfaction ratings;


* More effective communication and collaboration with other providers;


* Fewer disciplinary events;


* Fewer work-related injuries; and


* Increased personal growth and professional satisfaction. 3



The first international study of the certified work-force was done in 2001 through a random selection of 20,000 certified nurses. This study provided initial evidence that certification gives nurses the means or opportunity to practice in a manner likely to improve outcomes. The study further verified that certified nurses contribute to productivity, staff retention and better patient outcomes. 4


In still other studies, it was identified that certified nurses have a significant impact on patient care and patient safety. 5 Furthermore, it has been identified that specialty certification is the most effective way of assuring that a nurse has the knowledge and skills needed to provide safe, high-quality care to the public. 2 In another value associated with certified nurses, certification can be seen as a powerful marketing tool as certification is identified as a significant way to create an environment of respect and support. 6


According to its mission statement, the National Board for Certification of Hospice and Palliative Nurses (NBCHPN(R)) promotes a certification process that advances quality in the provision of end-of-life care. To this end, NBCHPN(R) has expanded beyond the registered nurse, promoting the delivery of comprehensive palliative care through the certification of qualified hospice and palliative members of the nursing team by:


* Providing a national standard of requisite knowledge required for certification, thereby assisting the consumer, the employer, and members of the health profession in the recognition of the certified hospice and palliative caregiver.


* Encouraging continued personal and professional growth in the practice of hospice and palliative nursing care.


* Establishing and measuring the level of knowledge required for certification in hospice and palliative care.


* Formally recognizing those individuals who meet the certification eligibility requirements, and are successful in earning the following NBCHPN(R) credential:


* Certified Hospice & Palliative Care Nurse-CHPN


* Certified Hospice & Palliative Care Nursing Assistant-CHPNA


* Certified Hospice & Palliative Licensed Practical or Licensed Vocational Nurse-CHPLN


* Advance Practice Registered Nurses, Board-Certified Palliative Care Manager-APRN, BC-PCM (In partnership with ANCC-The American Nurses Credentialing Center)



The American Board of Nursing Specialties (ABNS) is the only accrediting body specifically for nursing certification programs. ABNS was incorporated in 1991 to create uniformity in nursing certification and to increase public awareness of the value of certification. ABNS serves as an advocate for consumer protection by establishing and maintaining standards for professional specialty nursing certification. The Certification Examination for Hospice and Palliative Care Nurses has been accredited by ABNS and the accreditation is valid through 2006. 1



The Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association (HPNA) supports the certification of nurses and other qualified members of the nursing team in hospice and palliative care and encourages employees to actively support those individuals pursuing certification.



Certification: The formal recognition of the specialized knowledge, skills, and experience demonstrated by the achievement of standards identified by a nursing specialty to promote optimal patient care. 1




1. American Board of Nursing Specialties. Home page. Available at: Accessed April 22, 2004. [Context Link]


2. American Association of Critical Care Nurses. Safeguarding the Patient and the Profession. Author; 2002. [Context Link]


3. American Nurses Credentialing Center. Certified Nurses Report Fewer Adverse Events: Survey Links Certification with Improved Health Care. Author; 2000. [Context Link]


4. Cary AH. Certified registered nurses: results of the study of the certified workforce. Am J Nurs. 2001;101(1):44-52. [Context Link]


5. American Association of Critical Care Nurses. New Data Reveals Nurse Certification Key Component of Patient Safety and Recruitment and Retention Programs. Author; 2002. [Context Link]


6. Woods DK. Realizing your marketing influence, part 3: professional certification as a marketing tool. J Nurs Adm. 2002;32(7/8):379-386. [Context Link]