1. Bickford, Carol J. PhD, RN-BC

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The American Board of Nursing Specialties defines certification as "the formal recognition of the specialized knowledge, skills, and experience demonstrated by the achievement of standards identified by a nursing specialty to promote optimal health outcomes" ( The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) describes certification slightly differently: "Certification of nursing practice signifies attainment of specific criteria and knowledge, skills, and abilities in a specific specialty field" ( Certification does not equate to the processes of accreditation, credentialing, or privileging.


Certification associated with specialty practice often serves as a professional milestone. Such validation by a recognized external source confirms that the individual has met established national criteria. Preparing the application and completing the certification processes can build confidence in one's professional ability, validate attainment of the requisite nursing knowledge, and demonstrate dedication to nursing as a profession. Increased appreciation and valuing of specialty certification are now more frequently reflected in certification being a discriminator for selection, promotion, and pay.


Several events had to occur before the ANCC could offer specialty certification in nursing informatics. Nursing informatics was recognized by the American Nurses Association (ANA) as a nursing specialty in January 1992. The first nursing informatics scope of practice statement was published in 1994, followed by the first standards of nursing informatics practice in 1995. These resources became two of the cited references for the first ANCC computer-based certification examination, nursing informatics, held in December 1995. Today's certification reference list includes the American Nurses Association's award-winning 2008 version, Nursing Informatics: Scope and Standards of Practice.


The development of a certification program requires significant planning, preparation, maintenance, and ongoing evaluation efforts and requires extensive and long-term commitment of financial and human resources. Sufficient numbers of qualified applicants who actually enter the certification process must be present to maintain the program's viability and fiscal sustainability.


Established accreditation programs and standards help ensure that quality certification programs are appropriately identified and recognized. The two organizations most commonly referenced in discussions about accrediting certification programs include the American Board of Nursing Specialties ( and the National Commission for Certifying Agencies ( The ANCC has achieved and maintains both accreditations. Not all organizations marketing their credentials programs have completed such a rigorous review process.


The ANCC has established a designated Content Expert Panel with responsibilities for management and policy recommendations for the nursing informatics certification process. These certified informatics nurses review and revise the test content outline, examine items in the test question pool, decide if submitted questions are to be included in the test pool, write test items, determine the numbers of items per category and weighting, and provide recommendations to the ANCC.


As part of the application process, individuals must confirm that they have met the following certification eligibility requirements:


* Hold a current, active RN license in a US state or territory or the professional, legally recognized equivalent in another country


* Have practiced the equivalent of 2 years full-time as an RN


* Hold a baccalaureate or higher degree in nursing or a baccalaureate degree in a relevant field


* Have completed 30 hours of continuing education in informatics within the last 3 years


* Meet one of the practice requirements:


* practiced a minimum of 2000 hours in informatics nursing within the last 3 years, or


* practiced a minimum of 1000 hours of NI practice in the last 3 years and completed at least 12 semester hours of academic credit in informatics courses as part of a graduate-level informatics nursing program, or


* completed a graduate NI program that includes at least 200 hours of faculty-supervised practicum in informatics



This certification is valid for 5 years and is now available to the international nursing community. The application fee can be paid by personal check or credit card. The following fees are in place as of January 1, 2008:


$270 for ANA members


$340 for Alliance for Nursing Informatics (ANI) organization members


$390 for nonmembers



Different fees apply for recertification applications. Information about the test content outline, details of the certification process, application form, and sample test items are retrievable at


Informatics nurses may also choose to complete other certifications that are pertinent to their practice, such as those shown in Table 1.

Table 1 - Click to enlarge in new windowTable 1. Certifications Pertinent to Informatics Nursing

Many struggle with the self-assessment and initial decision-making processes related to seeking certification. Writing the check for the application fee after finally making the decision is probably the easiest portion of the process. Additional preparation and study may be necessary and must be factored into the timeline. Be sure to plan for a special celebration to recognize success when the hard-earned certification becomes official. Then continue the journey of lifelong learning to maintain and enhance those skills and body of knowledge.