I was recently asked the question, “Does nursing certification really matter?” “Matter to whom?” is the question. We know patients expect to receive the best quality care when they come to a healthcare organization. As nurses, we expect the nurse practicing next to us to be competent – and even better – expert. And healthcare organizations are required to measure patient outcomes to receive reimbursement from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid and other third-party payers. So, yes, certification does matter – to patients, to colleagues, and to the institutions where we work.
What does it mean to be a certified nurse?
Certification is the recognition of specialized knowledge, skills, and experience by passing a national standardized specialty nursing exam and enables nurses to demonstrate their specialty expertise and validate their knowledge to employers and patients, according to the American Nurses Credentialling Center. We recognize that healthcare is evolving quickly and as such, nurses must invest in life-long learning to ensure they remain knowledgeable and are delivering the latest, evidence-based care.
Certification is an indicator of professionalism; professionalism is defined as the competence of skill expected of a professional, conducting oneself with responsibility, integrity, accountability, and excellence, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. When you invite a contractor into your home to do work, you expect them to be certified and expert in their specialty and conduct themselves accordingly.
The correlation between certified nurses and improved quality care is clear.
The research is clear, in healthcare, certification matters. There is a direct relationship between certified nurses and clinical patient outcomes.
- Healthcare systems that employ BSN prepared nurses who are board certified in their specialty see a lower percentage of falls and healthcare-associated infections.
- Certified nurses have more professional opportunities and tend to earn higher pay than their non-certified colleagues.
- Healthcare systems that support certification in their nurses have improved retention rates because they are investing in their workforce.
- Certified nurses have fewer medical errors thus improving the organization’s bottom line (Boyle, 2022; Coelho, 2020; Halm, 2021).
As a professional, certification matters to me.
I have been a certified nurse for many years; years before I knew what it really meant. As I’ve grown in my years of experience, I can now clearly see the difference that certification makes in my practice. I am a more knowledgeable nurse and nurse practitioner because of the requirements to maintain my certification. Attending professional conferences, taking journal continuing professional development courses, and adding to the professional literature through making presentations and writing articles for peer reviewed publications, brings the concept of life-long learning to reality for me. Without a doubt, experience is important; however, being knowledgeable in your profession and being able to continually reinforce this through certification, demonstrates dedication to the profession and to patients.
If you were ever unsure whether certification is something you should consider, don’t hesitate. It’s the professional responsibility of certified nurses to encourage their colleagues to pursue it. Nurses provide the highest quality care to their patients. Certification is a vital step in the process to make this a reality.
Boyle, D. 2017. Nursing Specialty certification and patient outcomes: What we know in acute care hospitals and future directions. Journal of the Association for Vascular Access, 22(3), 137-142. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.java.2017.06.002
Coelho P. (2020). Relationship Between Nurse Certification and Clinical Patient Outcomes: A Systematic Literature Review. Journal of nursing care quality, 35(1), E1–E5. https://doi.org/10.1097/NCQ.0000000000000397
Halm M. A. (2021). Specialty Certification: A Path To Improving Outcomes. American journal of critical care: an official publication, American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, 30(2), 156–160. https://doi.org/10.4037/ajcc2021569
U.S. Department of Labor. (n.d.) Professionalism. Retrieved February 13, 2023. https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/odep/topics/youth/softskills/professionalism.pdf