Enjoy the perks of nurse certification

By | 2021-05-07T14:38:48-04:00 March 14th, 2018|9 Comments

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 2018 Nurse.com report, 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!

Courses related to ‘certification’

Diabetes Educator Certification Review

(26.5 contact hrs)

This continuing education series in a blended learning format will highlight the types of diabetes, discuss monitoring blood sugar levels, explain techniques for promoting safe medication use, integrate nutritional and activity treatment approaches, describe management issues for special populations, and review the qualifications for obtaining your certification to become a diabetes educator.

Ambulatory Care Nursing Certification Review
(12 contact hrs)

The demand for ambulatory care nurses will continue to increase over the next several years. In addition, the scope of ambulatory care nursing is expected to broaden. Becoming certified in ambulatory care nursing will enable RNs to meet increasing expectations by increasing confidence, developing new skills and taking on additional responsibilities. Participants will become proficient in role and responsibilities topic areas such as clinical practice, care management, patient education, telehealth, communication, and legal issues within ambulatory care nursing.This multi-week self-paced program combines online education with recorded webinars to provide you with a study choice that fits your learning needs and schedule and is aligned with the core elements of the certification exam.

Care Coordination and Transition Management Review/Certification Prep
(30.5 contact hrs)

Coordinating patient care and managing patient transitions are part of different job responsibilities within nursing (e.g., navigators, care managers, discharge planners, or coordinators). All nurses have some connection to coordinating care or managing transitions of care for patients.

Robert G. Hess Jr., PhD, RN, FAAN
Robert G. Hess Jr., PhD, RN, FAAN, is founder and CEO of the Forum for Shared Governance and a former editor for Nurse.com. As a presenter at professional conferences, Hess often addresses participants on how to find the right job and steps for building a successful career.


  1. Avatar
    Anne Papacostas March 18, 2018 at 12:59 pm - Reply

    Is there a wound care nurse certification?

    • Sallie Jimenez
      Sallie Jimenez March 19, 2018 at 1:48 pm - Reply

      Yes, you can. Here’s a helpful link, which could hold answers to your questions on wound care certification: https://www.wcei.net/

      Thank you for your question.

      • Avatar
        ANDREA LINDER April 1, 2020 at 2:21 pm - Reply

        After 4 years as a Psychiatric RN, I was very motivated to become certified. I spent several weeks seeking out my own CE credits & purchased my own materials.

        An announcement went out from the facility that the test would be paid for & I was already to go.

        I obtained a Psychiatric RN-BC last year. My company did pay for it but there was little to no recognition. During my evaluation, my manager didn’t include in my performance review. I had to advocate for myself to have it added.

        There was no additional salary either.

        I did this for myself, and didn’t expect anything until my performance review when it was noticably left out.

        Then several other certified RNs said they DID receive compensation, most saying “they did it for the raise”

        This really surprised me.

  2. Avatar
    Linda Burkholder March 19, 2018 at 5:22 pm - Reply

    Any certification in public health

  3. Avatar
    Pamela McConnell March 21, 2018 at 9:56 pm - Reply

    I am interested in developing a Worker’s Compensation Certification. There is nothing specific to those nurses that work in Worker’s Compensation Case Management. Specifically those that are telephonic and field for state and federal claims examiners. This is a specific skill, experience, and legal knowledge base that is not adequately covered by CCM, COHN, COHN-S, or Legal Nurse consultant. It pulls from all of these areas of expertise. I have had my CCM for 15 years before I let it lapse, and currently hold COHN-S and am Certified as a Legal Nurse Consultant from Kaplan University. The Company I work for makes it mandatory for the nurses to hold a certification after one year. I have seen very experienced Occupational Case Managers fail the CCM exam repeatedly because it is not based in worker’s compensation expertise. COHN and COHN-S is based more in a clinical and environmental knowledge base.
    There is opportunity for an entirely new certification that would show the expertise of our Worker’s Compensation Practice and Profession. Benefits, Compensability, Evaluation and Acceptance of Claims, Medical Records, Evidence, Investigation, Catastrophic Claims Management, State Difference, Federal Regulations, Laws, References, Liability, Acts, Industry Risks, Indemnities, Different Terms (Loss Runs, LWOP, FECA, Wage Loss, Rules and Statues, Death Benefits, LD, FD, DOI, DOL, Plaintiff, Trial, Testimony, Medicare Set-Aside etc), Life Care Plans, Risk Management, Hearings, Mediation are all related to worker’s compensation but not necessarily a big part of the other certifications.

    • Robert G. Hess Jr., PhD, RN, FAAN
      Robert G. Hess Jr., PhD, RN, FAAN March 22, 2018 at 1:32 pm - Reply

      Pamela — I don’t think there’s much out there about a Worker’s Compensation Certification. Thanks for the idea, and if you don’t mind, I’d like to talk to you offline.


      Dr Bob, RN

  4. Avatar
    Marion Rodriguez May 29, 2018 at 11:40 am - Reply

    Do you offer a course in critical care nursing.

  5. Avatar
    Wendy August 4, 2018 at 10:34 pm - Reply

    Do you have a certification for Women’s health? I am a Labor & Deliver, postpartum and perinatal nurse

  6. Avatar
    obito February 13, 2019 at 7:18 pm - Reply

    my rehab hospital only reimburses and gives raises for CRRN, but I’m not really interested in that specialty. In fact, I am more interested in earning Stroke Certified Registered Nurse. I know it’s different for each hospital, but do you think if I could earn SCRN, I could negotiate for higher pay? Most of patients in my rehab hospital are suffering from CVA

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