Certifications have dogged my career like a puppy in a box, waiting to be discovered.
As a new critical care supervisor, I decided to certify as a CCRN. I studied mightily and passed this test with all staff eyes upon me because none of the nurses in the hospital had this credential, but they knew it loomed in their futures.
At my next leadership position, I was the sole certified critical care nurse in my division, where I begged, preached and persuaded nurses to sit for the certifying exam.
One by one, they started studying and passing, including the day and night charge nurses who initially had negative things to say about taking the test — and about me, by association. But ultimately, and to their delight, they too eventually became CCRNs.
Certification sets nurses apart
At the same time, I was sitting for nurse certification as a nurse manager. I studied hard for this exam as well, which I passed. Later I sat for the advanced certification in administration. I didn’t study at all, and I passed in 45 minutes flat.
This experience had me looking at this puppy askance, as I questioned the value of a certification that needed so little preparation to obtain the credential. But after conversations with other test-takers, I was reminded that the exam tested knowledge, not time spent in preparation. I had had many years’ experience that prepared me to successfully pass this test.
According to a 2017 Nurse.com survey, 40% of American nurses are certified. And it turns out certification is more than a cute puppy. In terms of careers, it’s a hunting dog.
Why certification matters from a professional point of view
1 – Certified nurses make more money. According to Nurse.com’s 2017 Salary Survey, certified nurses’ base salaries alone are greater than those of nurses who are not certified. In addition, many organizations pay for certification preparation exams and test fees, and they reward nurses with hourly certification differential pay.
2 – Certified nurses have respect and recognition. Just having those letters signifying nurse certification credentials behind your name indicates a high level of knowledge, competence and performance to colleagues, patients, managers and administrators.
3 – Certified nurses have validated competence in their specialty areas. Because not all nurses who sit for a certification examination pass, succeeding at the qualifying exam separates your expertise from that of the pack, something not lost on managers who can hire you. When it comes to your professional specialty, you are truly special.
4 – Certified nurses are more marketable and hireable. Almost 90% of nurse managers would hire a certified nurse over a non-certified nurse, if everything else were equal.
5 – Certified nurses perceive they have more power in their organizations. My personal data consultations over the past 20 years as founder of the Forum for Shared Governance show certified nurses score higher in quantitative measures of professional governance, meaning certified nurses believe they have more control over their practice and influence over the resources that support it.
6 – Certified nurses have more professional opportunities. These professionals are more likely to be promoted within their facilities. Moreover, they are more often selected by their facilities or specialty associations to sit on policy-making boards and committees.
7 – Certified nurses have standing among their professional peers. You come to the interprofessional table with board certification like your physician colleagues who are boarded in their specialties as well. Unfortunately, nursing’s 40% does sorely lag behind medicine’s 80% board certification.
8 – Certified nurses are more confident. An American Board of Nursing Specialties study showed almost 100% of certified nurses felt personal satisfaction from the achievement and that 90% felt more confident performing their clinical duties.
What’s holding you back from getting certified?
Barriers to certification may exist in your organization. For example, not all organizations have or fund certification prep reviews, but inexpensive, effective online programs are available.
In full disclosure, OnCourse Learning has offered effective certification preparation courses for just about every specialty you can imagine for years, with 40% of our 2017 survey respondents indicating they were reimbursed for continuing education, which easily could be applied to these reviews. And nurses pass because of them.
Your organization culture itself may not support certification. But that lack of advocacy is hard to sustain in the face of past and revised guidelines for the most current 2019 Magnet and 2016 Pathways to Excellence criteria that mandate continuous professional development that includes certification. You easily could become a certification champion in your place of employment — and that only can enhance your future career.
So, ramp up your career and get those extra letters behind your name. And never look a gift horse in the mouth — questioning the value of certification if you just happen to pass the exam with very little fuss. That might mean you already knew the material as an experienced practitioner. And besides, we’ve been talking puppies here, not horses.
Happy Certified Nurses Day!
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