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The complex healthcare environment requires advanced knowledge levels to offer safe and quality treatment. The validation of specialty expertise and experiences beyond licensure qualifications is an individual and professional responsibility of nurses (Martin, Arenas-Montoya, & Barnett, 2015). Nursing certification demonstrates that one is qualified to provide optimal care and devoted to continuing education. It indicates advanced skills and practice in a specialized clinical area, e.g., critical care (Boyle, 2017). For instance, specialty certifications like CCRN (Critical Care Nursing) and CCRN-E (Tele-ICU Acute) are offered to nurses offering bedside care to patients with terminal illnesses.
Nursing certification is associated with significant perceived rewards to nurses. Notably, Ciurzynski and Serwetnyk (2015) identify personal and professional accomplishment as a key intrinsic benefit of certification. It creates a feeling of empowerment and confidence in clinical abilities, which translates into improved practice effectiveness. Other perceived intrinsic values cited in the literature include knowledge validation, increased personal satisfaction, and professional growth and credibility (Garrison, Schulz, Nelson, & Lindquist, 2018). Nursing certification demonstrates one’s commitment to nursing as a profession, enhances clinical confidence and autonomy, and serves as evidence of accountability. An integrated review by Fitzpatrick (2017) also identified improved professional credibility, evidence of professional dedication, and knowledge validation as the intrinsic benefits of being certified. These variables are strong motivators for seeking professional certifications.
Extrinsic benefits are the tangible rewards one receives from nursing certification. Certified nurses enjoy increased marketability, employer recognition, professional and peer acknowledgment, and better compensation (Fitzpatrick 2017; Garrison et al., 2018). Further, certification is linked to lower turnover rates, improved collaboration, and higher patient safety outcomes (Ciurzynski & Serwetnyk, 2015). Thus, employers would prefer certified nurses to noncertified ones. Healthcare environments that lack extrinsic motivators have lower retention rates. Low compensation, limited opportunities for professional growth, costly exams, and time constraints often discourage nurses from earning specialty certifications (Ciurzynski & Serwetnyk, 2015).
Specialty certification indicates nursing expertise in a given contemporary practice area. It is a reflection of the skills and experiences required to provide optimal care. Therefore, in my view, nurse competencies are related to patient needs. While licensure exams were adequate in the past, today’s complex care settings require more. Caring practices for critically ill patients may differ from those needed by people with chronic conditions. Therefore, specialized skills are required to offer optimal care based on the level of healthcare needs. From this perspective, specialty certification is associated with competent patient care. Since certified nurses have other credentials – education, training, and competencies – besides their state licensure qualifications, they are more skilled than noncertified ones. Thus, they have the necessary and up-to-date knowledge to be effective in their roles.
The intrinsic and extrinsic rewards of certification discussed above may also contribute to higher performance due to a strengthened belief in one’s competencies. In my opinion, patient safety outcomes and satisfaction result from a motivated and empowered nursing workforce. Certified nurses are skilled in multiple clinical areas, which gives them credibility among their colleagues. Further, the professional and peer recognition attached to prestigious specialty certifications may lead to performance improvement. I believe that the hiring of certified nurses, who exhibit characteristics like expert knowledge, professional competency, and clinical decision-making, would result in reduced medical errors or sentinel events that compromise the quality of patient care in hospitals. Therefore, specialty certification is beneficial to patients, nurses, and facilities.
Boyle, D. K. (2017). Nursing specialty certification and patient outcomes: What we know in acute care hospitals and future directions. Journal of the Association for Vascular Access, 22(3), 137-142. Web.
Ciurzynski, S. M., & Serwetnyk, T. M. (2015). Increasing nurse certification rates using a multimodal approach. Journal of Nursing Administration, 45, 226-233. Web.
Fitzpatrick, J. J. (2017). The value of nursing certification: Revisited and reinforced. Journal of the Association for Vascular Access, 22(3), 131-134. Web.
Garrison, E., Schulz, C., Nelson, C., & Lindquist, C. (2018). Specialty certification: Nurses’ perceived value and barriers. Nursing Management, 49(5), 42-47. Web.
Martin, L. C., Arenas-Montoya, N. M., & Barnett, T. O. (2015). Impact of nurse certification rates on patient satisfaction and outcomes: A literature review. The Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing, 46, 549-554. Web.