I have been a nurse for 20 years and all that time I have worked in the same specialty. It has just recently become a goal of mine to obtain certification in my specialty. I will get no pay increase for it, I will get no additional pat on the back, but I will feel more professional.
With the current dialogue going on about what should be the “entry level” requirement for educational status in nursing; whether BSN should be required to sit the NCLEX or not, certification could easily fall through the cracks while the fight ensues. My thought is that certification is something you do for yourself and in doing so, you do something for your patients and their outcomes. Not everything we do as nurses is about compensation, or at least I hope it’s not. Sometimes we do something simply because it is the right thing to do. Certification is the right thing to do.
There are a myriad of advantages to becoming certified in your field of nursing. I am a Certified Occupational Health Nurse Specialist (COHN-S) and find that certification has many rewards! Here are a few reasons to consider:
BENEFITS YOUR PATIENTS: According to the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN), nursing certification has been linked to better patient outcomes. Certification is credited with a reduction in medical errors, among other benefits. If I listed no other reasons to become certified, this one should be enough!
ACCOMPLISHMENT: Becoming certified in your field is both a professional and a personal accomplishment. Most certifications require extensive studying and experience to initially attain the certification. Once earned, you carry with you a keen sense of accomplishment as a certified nurse. You are seen by uncertified peers and management as a level above.
CAREER ADVANCEMENT/PART 1: Earning your certification advances your career, and creates opportunities that otherwise may not be available to you. For example, with my COHN-S certification, I am eligible to apply for case management positions. Although I have never done case management, one requirement (just to be considered) is either a Case Management or Occupational Health certification. Nurses certified in specialty areas earn an average of $9,000 more per year than their non-certified peers (Mee, CL. Nursing 2006 salary survey. Nursing. 2006, Oct; 36(10):46-51). Mee also reports that certification increases confidence and job satisfaction.
CAREER ADVANCEMENT/PART 2: With current job market challenges, certification places you ahead of the competition when applying in a new organization or for promotional opportunities in your current workplace. Hiring authorities view certifications as a mark of excellence and a sign of commitment to your field. Additionally, hiring personnel understand you have gone the extra mile to earn your certification. Don’t believe me?
“Nurse Managers surveyed by the American Board of Nursing Specialties (ABNS) overwhelmingly prefer to hire certified nurses because certification attests to an individual’s proven knowledge base and documented experience in a given specialty. In fact, 90% said they clearly prefer to hire certified nurses.” - http://www.medscape.com
SKILL AND KNOWLEDGE: Even though you may have practiced in your field for years, there are aspects of your professional area you may not be familiar with. For example, when studying for the COHN-S, I learned all about OSHA chemical reporting programs that I have never worked with. Studying for certification can familiarize you with other paths in your own specialty area that you never knew existed.
KEEPING ABREAST OF THE LATEST CHANGES: Nursing certifications require a lot of continuing education to maintain the certification. This consistent education validates knowledge, keeps a nurse abreast of the latest changes in his/her field, and enhances patient care.
To participate in discussions regarding continuing education programs and certificates, go to our Continuing Education forum.
About the Author: Sue Heacock, RN, MBA, COHN-S and author of the recently published book – Inspiring the Inspirational: Words of Hope From Nurses to Nurses. Sue is a Certified Occupational Health Nurse Specialist and has worked in a variety of areas of nursing including pediatrics and research. Before entering the nursing profession, Sue worked in human resources and equal employment opportunity.
Click here to read more on Sue Heacock.
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