Nursing certification has helped advance the industry by encouraging, recognizing, and rewarding individuals who actively pursue professional growth opportunities.
But nursing certifications do more than benefit the individual nurses who attain them — they can also improve quality outcomes. The more skills and specialties you have, the better equipped you are to provide your patients with higher quality care.
With the rise in popularity of nursing certifications, many organizations have come to recognize the benefits of hiring certified nurses. According to a survey from the American Nurses Credentialing Center, 86% of nurse managers said they would hire a certified nurse over a noncertified nurse (assuming all other factors were equal).
Why Should a Nurse Become Certified?
There are several reasons why nursing certification matters. At the most basic level, certification leads to better job prospects by enhancing professional credibility, validating specialized knowledge, and demonstrating a higher level of clinical competence, all of which can lead to higher salaries for nurses. Certification can also improve nurses’ confidence and expand their skill sets, strengthening the connection between nursing specialty certification and better patient outcomes.
More specifically, nursing certifications:
Increase Recognition and Respect
Certification demonstrates that you have proven your competence and distinguished yourself within your specialty — two qualities that are appreciated by everyone from supervisors and administrators to peers and patients. By continuing to invest in your education through recertification, you can demonstrate your continued mastery according to the latest evidence-based practice standards and serve as a leader in best practices within your specialty.
Enhance Professional Opportunities
In addition to providing you with a competitive edge during the hiring process, certification also tends to lead to more opportunities for upward mobility once you’ve been hired. More authority and responsibility often correlate with higher pay, further building the case that certification can lead to higher salaries for nursing professionals.
The more experience and education you have, the better equipped you are to address complex, challenging situations when they arise. Through nursing certification, you can expand your knowledge base and gain the skills you need to confidently assist your patients.
What Types of Nursing Certifications Are Important?
There are many different types of nursing certifications available. While nurses are encouraged to pick certifications that align with their career interests, several certifications are particularly well-regarded within the healthcare field, including:
Wound Care Certification
Wound care nurses assist patients dealing with acute and chronic wounds, identifying the specific type of wound a patient has, creating comprehensive treatment plans, and preventing infection.
The National Alliance of Wound Care and Ostomy (NAWCO) requires nurses to obtain hands-on experience in wound care before they can become a certified wound care nurse. To fulfill this obligation, nurses must demonstrate that they have either completed 120 hours of hands-on clinician training with an approved NAWCO preceptor, worked full time for two years or part time for four years in an approved profession with ongoing, active involvement in caring for patients with wounds, or worked full time for two years or part time for four years within wound care management, education, or research.
Medical-Surgical Nursing Certification
Medical-surgical nursing addresses a wide range of conditions and can involve caring for patients who have suffered a stroke, undergone a tracheostomy, and much more. In fact, many nurses opt to earn this certification to gain knowledge in a broad array of practices.
An individual must be a registered nurse (RN) with a current U.S. license, have practiced for at least two years as an RN in a medical-surgical setting, and accrued 2,000 hours of practice within the past three years to be eligible for medical-surgical certification.
Critical Care Certification
Critical care is an extremely specialized space in which nurses must always expect the unexpected. As a result, employers usually require certification for nurses who provide direct patient care in this setting. There are many different critical care certifications, including those focused on neonatal, pediatric, and adult critical care.
Before they can earn their critical care certification, nurses must have an unencumbered RN or advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) license. They must also have either practiced a minimum of 1,750 hours as an RN/APRN caring directly for critically ill patients within two years of their application (850 hours of which need to be within one year of their application) or have practiced as an RN/APRN in critical care for at least five years with a minimum of 2,000 hours in direct patient care (144 of which must have been earned within one year of their application).
Advancing the Nursing Profession
Certification in any field is a mark of professionalism. Over the last few decades, it has become increasingly clear that nursing certification advances the profession of nursing through improvement in patient safety, patient satisfaction, and of course personal achievement for the certified nurse. There are now well over 900,000 nurses certified by the American Board of Nursing Specialties, and this number increases significantly each year.
To learn about insights from certified nurses, download and review our 2022 Nurse Salary Research Report.