Certification, Critical care nurse, Professionalism



  1. Lau, Julie C. RN, BSN, CCRN


This article describes one nurse's views about certification and its importance to patient care. The need to educate the public about the value of certification is also discussed.


Article Content

Every time I walk into a new patient's room, or receive a new patient from the emergency room or after a procedure, I introduce myself by my first name only, and tell them that I will be their nurse today. I never give my full name, unless they ask. I never tell them what kind of a nurse I am. I never tell them any of my credentials. I worked very hard to obtain the certification I have in critical care. Yet, I do not inform my patients about it.


Why is it that as a profession, nurses do not identify themselves by their full name and all of their credentials? Other professions do. Doctors traditionally introduce themselves as Dr John Doe; lawyers introduce themselves as John Doe, attorney-at-law. Even certified public accountants identify themselves. All of these professions are board certified, and the public knows this. How will the public, our patients, recognize us for who we are as nurses and, furthermore, for our expertise in our field if we do not tell them?


There is a dearth of literature available from the consumer's point of view. For example, where are the studies from the Pew Health Professions Commission on consumer confidence in certified nurses? Where are the Cochrane Collaboration reports for the consumers on the value of certification in nursing? Where are the Consumer's Union reports on the improvement of outcomes for certified nurses? Nurses and nursing organizations have spent time, money, and effort in studying their own perceived value of certification. We have yet to see research that validates that certified nurses have improved patient outcomes. We need to tell the public that we are certified and ask them their perceived value of that certification.


I ask all certified nurses to let the public know that you are certified. I implore nursing organizations and researchers to study the public's perceptions of the value of certification. I challenge the Pew Health Professions Commission, the Cochrane Collaboration, and the Consumer's Union to inform the public of what certification is and how it helps them in their most vulnerable states.


Here is one instance from my own work experience. Recently, I was caring for a patient who needed surgery. The surgeon called me to inform me that surgery was completely booked and that he was considering postponing my patient's surgery until the next day. I told the doctor that my patient's white blood count was 14.6 the day before and that after increasing one antibiotic and adding two more, his white blood count was still 14.6. The surgeon, after hearing this, said that he would take my patient to the operating room that day. I believe my certification, and the knowledge I learned to earn certification, brought about an improved outcome for this patient and respect from the doctor.


The next time I go to work and walk into my patient's room, I plan to walk into that room with confidence, and tell them my full name, that I am a registered nurse, and that I am certified in critical care.