Certified emergency nurses make positive impacts for both patients and hospitals, and with the right support, they can be key to forging a strong emergency care team.
Support Your Emergency Nurses to Board Certified Success, a white paper recently published by the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing offers step by step tips to foster a culture of certification at every level, from physicians and nurse leaders to educators, administrators and bedside nurses. "Board certified emergency nurses bring unmatched levels of motivation and knowledge to the table," BCEN Executive Director Janie Schumaker, BSN, MBA, RN, CEN, CENP, CPHQ, FABC, said in a news release. "BCEN's new white paper details specific ways leaders and organizations can generate an environment that cultivates nursing excellence by supporting their nurses to achieve and maintain board certification."
It starts with leadership
Leadership sets an example when it comes to certification. Nurse leaders wanting to head a board-certified staff should first be certified themselves, according to the white paper.
"Being able to walk the walk is essential," said Jessica Thomas, MSN, RN, CCRN-K, CNML, CENP, associate administrator, USC-Verdugo Hills Hospital, "because nurses are watching and they say: 'Why should I undertake this really hard thing if you haven't done it yourself?'"
"My best advice for administrators would be to get your own certification," Thomas continued. "Leadership is its own specialty, so your certification doesn't necessarily have to be in the same clinical practice area you worked as a bedside nurse." Included in the white paper are helpful "Expert Insight" Q & A-style features from hospitals and health systems discussing their own experiences with emergency nurse certification. Tom Scaletta, MD, MAAEM, FACEP, CPXP, chair of emergency services at Edward Hospital in Naperville, Ill., said physicians can be among the greatest advocates for nurses to become certified. Board certification sends a message nurses have mastered their specialty, Scaletta said. Certification also enhances existing knowledge, he said. "Viewed from the business aspect, hospitals that support nursing specialty certification are not only providing the best care for patients, they are providing safer care, which means you're mitigating risk," he said. "It's based on experience, but there is also the fact that you're more confident and paying attention. Also, you're developing internal talent, so you don't have to do an external search down the road."
While support is crucial to building a robust team of certified emergency nurses, lack of support and encouragement can have long-term devastating effects for teams. Facilities need to offer incentives to become certified and stay certified, according to the BCEN. Such incentives include:
- Certification and recertification fee reimbursement or funding
- Providing time and space at facilities for nurses to meet and study for certification exams
- Encouraging mentoring between certified nurses and those seeking certification
- Provide resources for test anxiety
- Recognizing and rewarding certification
One idea to incentivize nurses is offering annual bonuses between $300 and $2,000 for one or multiple certifications. The BCEN also recommends one-time or annual salary increases, added leadership responsibilities and special projects and bonuses. Certification incentives can be funded through scholarships, hospital foundations, fundraising and other avenues. With retests or 100 continuing education credits required every four years to maintain certification, it is essential facilities continuously promote a healthy certification culture. According to the BCEN, this could include the following:
- Having a central location for certification information, resources and studying
- Connecting nurses with certification prep and CE class details or host them
- Making prep support and encouragement a daily practice
At USC Verdugo Hills Hospital in Glendale, Calif, nurses receive $1,000 when they certify and $500 when they recertify, said Thomas. A plaque recognizing the certification also hangs in the ED.
When Thomas arrived in 2015, none of the nurses in the hospital's 12-bed ED were certified. A focused certification initiative grew that number to 12 nurses by 2017, according to the BCEN. The board nationally recognized Verdugo Hills Hospital for its certification efforts in 2018.
Certification benefits everyone
According to the BCEN, certified nurses bring special knowledge and critical thinking based on rigorous national standards, are able to anticipate hazards and promote safety, and are committed to accuracy and ethics.
"Because we support board certification, we have the best of the best working here, the experts in the field," Patrick Cassell, MSN, RN, CPEN, director of emergency services, Orlando Health Orlando Regional Medical Center said in the white paper. "
Cassell said his team is constantly cultivating a positive environment that keeps nurses on the team. "We're cultivating such a positive environment that nurses don't want to leave. Our nurses have autonomy and the respect of our physicians, and I think that impacts retention, too." Check out our Emergency Nurse Certification Review course.