nursing certificationHave you noticed the big push lately for nurses to get certified in their specialty? More and more companies are offering certification preparation courses. Organizations are incorporating certification into their clinical ladders and professional nursing organizations are creating new certifications for specialties. Why? The reason has to do with the ever-changing practice environment.

If you’ve been practicing for a while, you most definitely feel the added and growing burden nurses face to deliver safe and effective high quality care. From computerized charting and added regulatory constraints to new medications and treatment options, the expectations placed on nurses to be competent and knowledgeable is tremendous. Add the concern for medical errors and fraud in the mix and you’ve just created a legitimate reason for consumers of health care to expect proof that they are being cared for by competent nurses. Certification does just that. Having a certification validates your competence to your colleagues, to your patients and to the public.

Reasons why every nurse should get certified:

  1. Opportunity. Some of the things I love about nursing are the plethora of opportunities available. From direct patient care and education to executive leadership, legal consulting and more, opportunities are endless! However, additional opportunities bring additional competition. More and more nurses are taking advantage of the different options we have. Getting certified puts you ahead of your competition. I’ve done many interviews and hired many nurses over the years. I always look for “evidence” that a candidate is serious about his or her role. Certification sends a message that you are serious and that nursing isn’t just a job, it’s a career.

    Bottom line: Certification = Opportunity

  2. Higher job satisfaction. Studies reveal that nurses who are certified in their specialty have higher job satisfaction and less burnout. However, the reasons are unclear. If you are struggling with burnout or worried that it “might happen to you,” consider getting certified in your specialty. My personal opinion of the cause is that nurses that get certified take their role seriously. They are in this profession for the right reasons and they take “ownership” of their practice. They see themselves as solutionaries and are trying to make a difference instead of seeing themselves as victims.

    Bottom line: Certification = Job satisfaction

  3. Improved knowledge. I teach certification courses. Not only do the nurses in the course gain knowledge, but I do too! Health care is changing at rapid speeds. There are new discoveries, medications and treatment options every day. It’s humanly impossible to keep with the changes. However, what’s most important is that you keep up with the changes in your specialty. Preparing for a nursing certification exam does just that. It reminds, updates and provides you with the knowledge you need to feel competent about the work you do.

    Bottom line: Certification = Knowledge

If certification is so important, why aren’t more nurses certified? I offer a few select certification review courses and also teach one for a national nursing organization.

There are 2 major barriers to certification:

  1. Fear. True confession. Several years ago, I had an opportunity to teach medical surgical certification preparation courses but there was one catch – I needed to be certified first. No big deal, right? Just take the exam. When it was the time to actually schedule the exam, I just happened to be “too busy.” True. I was busy, although a part of me was also afraid that I would fail. If I failed, what would everyone think of me? Although I spoke nationally on medical surgical topics, failing would mean that everyone would know I was an imposter – a fraud. I would be so embarrassed. This went on for 2 years until I finally came to my senses and stopped succumbing to fear. I realized I was missing out on an opportunity to do something I loved to do which is to teach nurses how to demonstrate the value they bring to health care through their knowledge and competence. Getting certified was on the path. So, I faced my fear, scheduled the exam, took it and passed! Now I teach nurses across the country not only what they need to know to pass the exam, but also I teach them how to face their fears.

    Ways to decrease your fears: Realize that even the most confident, competent person has fears. It’s part of being human. The difference between successful people who take advantage of opportunities and those who don’t is the ability to face and push through the fear. Even if you don’t succeed the first time, keep trying. The skills you learn will carry you through other hurdles in your life.

    Tip: Don’t tell anyone you are taking the exam until you’ve passed! That way, if you don’t pass the first time, nobody will know except you.

  2. Money. Certification costs money. There’s the cost of the preparation course, study materials such as books and practice exams and of course, the actual cost of the exam. While some organizations reimburse nurses if they pass, others don’t. I’ve listened to nurses who say that if their organization won’t pay for it, they won’t get certified. No matter what happens in your nursing career, once you’re certified, you take it with you.

    Ways to decrease your costs:

  • Preparation course. The actual preparation course is really where you get your biggest bang for your buck. However, it can be expensive. You can justify the cost by knowing that you are taking advantage of the most effective preparation tool available.

    Tip: Ask your nursing education department to sponsor a course at your organization.

  • Preparation materials. Ask your library if they are willing to purchase a set of preparation materials to keep at your organization. Get together with a group of other nurses wanting to get certified and share the cost of the materials. Check online sources for preparation materials. Visit the nursing certification’s website to see if there are free articles with practice questions. Noodle around on the Internet and gather free resources. In the end, certification is just the right thing to do for your colleagues, your patients, the public, but most of all – for you! You won’t regret it!