1. Pullen, Richard L. Jr. EdD, MSN, RN, CMSRN, CNE-cl, ANEF

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Q: Celebrating Certified Nurses Day on March 19 got me thinking: What is the value of certification?

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A: Certification showcases the education, knowledge, and expertise a nurse has achieved beyond what's required for licensure.1-3 It's a mark of excellence and confers recognition and a sense of accomplishment.1-3 Certification advances best practices from national standards of patient care and nursing education to improve patient outcomes in clinical practice as well as student retention and graduation in the academic environment.1-3 Certified nurses demonstrate to the discipline of nursing, other health professionals, and the public that they're lifelong learners who've mastered a specialized body of knowledge in a clinical or academic setting.1-3 The priority outcome of certification is ensuring that nurses provide safe, quality person-centered care.1-3


Further, certification positively impacts the organization where the nurse practices. Employers who place a high value on certification and professional development of nurses are more likely to have a competitive edge in the clinical and academic environment.1-3 Certification is an essential pathway for career advancement and staying abreast of changes and new evidence in healthcare.1-3 Certified nurses are role models and mentors to nursing colleagues and nursing students.1-3


Certification process

Nursing specialty areas encompass many options to explore.1-3 Selected examples of certification bodies include, but aren't limited to, the American Nurses Credentialing Center, Medical-Surgical Nursing Certification Board, American Association of Nurse Practitioners, American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, and National League for Nursing. A complete list of certification options is located at Certification preparation includes:1-3,5


1. A plan to pursue certification after achieving initial nursing licensure.


2. Selecting the certification(s) you want to pursue.


3. Speaking with nursing colleagues who've achieved certification to obtain guidance to prepare for the exam.


4. Planning how you'll meet the eligibility requirements for the exam, such as educational level (degrees earned), experience in a specialty area, and continuing education.


5. Identifying study resources including books, webinars, podcasts, and in-person conferences that are designed to prepare nurses for certification. Many resources include a self-assessment to identify strengths and weaknesses based on the exam blueprint.


6. Using the exam blueprint to study. The certification exam is framed around the content and concepts on the blueprint.


7. Allowing plenty of time for study. Studying for a certification exam may include learning new knowledge, reinforcing acquired knowledge, answering sample questions, and taking practice exams. Studying will increase your confidence! In addition, it's important to find out how many questions are on the exam and how much time you have to complete it.


8. Making sure you have sufficient rest the night before and adequate nutrition the day of the exam.


9. Using test-taking strategies from the resources you've identified. Include deep-breathing exercises and time management strategies.


10. After reading a question carefully, think about what the answer could be and then compare your thoughts with each of the responses. It's likely that what you're thinking is the correct response.


11. Remain calm if you see questions on the exam that you can't immediately answer. Some questions will be more difficult than other ones. Be sure to answer all of the questions.


12. Make sure you meet the requirements for recertification after initial certification; this may include continued practice in a specialty area and a record of continuing-education units. Maintain good documentation of your recertification efforts. It's likely you'll have to submit this documentation when you apply for recertification.



Achieving certification distinguishes a nurse as an expert in a specialty concentration. Certification promotes patient safety and career mobility, and amplifies the visibility of the discipline of nursing to the interprofessional healthcare environment and public. Certified nurses influence other nurses and nursing students to pursue certification as a professional goal to build their confidence and credibility in practice.




1. Lockhart L. Nursing certification. A mark of excellence. Nursing Made Incredibly Easy! 2019;17(3):56. [Context Link]


2. Chappell KB, Howard MS, Lundmark V, Ivory C. Credentialing and certification: overview, science, and impact on policy, regulation, and practice. Int Nurs Rev. 2021;68(4):551-556.


3. Garrison E, Schulz C, Nelson C, Lindquist C. Specialty certification: nurses' perceived value and barriers. Nurs Manage. 2018;49(5):42-47. [Context Link]


4. Certification for Nurse Educators. National League for Nursing. NLN Certification Division. [Context Link]


5. American Nurses Credentialing Center. Our Certifications. [Context Link]


6. American Association of Critical Care Nurses. Get Certified.


7. Complete List of Common Certifications.


8. Medical Surgical Nursing Certification Board. Get Certified.


9. American Association of Nurse Practitioners. Certifications. [Context Link]