nurse holding clipboard looking at camera
Career Development April 13, 2017

By Debra Wood, RN, contributor

Why Pursue Your Nursing Certifications

Each year, nurses across the country earn or renew nursing specialty certifications, a national recognition of a nurse’s skill, knowledge and experience. 

“Nurses can validate their competency, a mastery of knowledge, skills and ability, through certification,” said Michele Dickens, PhD, RN, online RN-to-BSN program director at Campbellsville University in Kentucky. “Through recertification, they can meet ongoing learning and practice requirements.”

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8 Benefits of Nurse Certifications

1. Increased Earnings and Opportunities

The National Organization for Competency Assurance (NOCA) identifies many benefits to nursing certification, including higher nursing salaries, greater prestige, and enhanced job opportunities. 

2. Career Advancement

“Employers value certification and certification can lead to career advancements through clinical ladders or promotions,” said Lynn Orser, MSN, RN, PCCN, CCRN, critical care educator at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport, Conn., and a member of the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN). 

3. Proficiency in Your Nursing Specialty

 Deborah Lorick. RN, MSN-MPH, OCN, CMSRN, a nurse manager at Antelope Valley Hospital in Lancaster, Calif., added, “We feel [certification] promotes excellence in nursing and demonstrates a knowledge and proficiency in your specialty.”

4. Expertise to Handle Complex Cases

Antelope Valley CNO Aya Smith, RN, MSN, CCRN, indicated that she would like to hire more certified nurses and elevate current nurses’ knowledge with certification. Nursing is becoming more complex, she explained, and certified nurses have the expertise to care for patients with multifaceted needs and disease processes. It also elevates the hospital’s service lines to employ certified nurses.

5. Career Mobility (Including More Job Offers)

 Linda Roney, EdD, RN-BC, CPEN, CNE, an assistant professor at the EGAN School of Nursing and Health Studies at Fairfield University in Connecticut, obtained her first pediatric certification to validate her knowledge and expertise. Her later emergency pediatric nurse certification led to greater career mobility and opportunities. She said certification can move your application ahead, whether at a hospital or with a travel nurse recruiter. 

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Registered nurse certification also creates a more productive workforce for employers and protects patients, according to NOCA. 

6. Better Patient Outcomes

Linda Aiken, PhD, RN, FAAN, at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing in Philadelphia, published a study in the Journal of Nursing Scholarship in 2011 that found nursing specialties certification was linked with better patient outcomes and improved quality of care. Specifically, a 10 percent increase in nurses with certification was associated with a 2 percent decrease in 30-day mortality. 

7. Essential Step in Professional Development and Leadership

 William Rosa, MS, RN, LMT, AGPCNP-BC, AHN-BC, CCRNCMC, a palliative medicine fellow at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, and an ANCC member, added that he considers nursing certification “an essential part of professional development” and the “first step in being an advocate, change agent, leader, and expert.”

8. Continual Learning Through Recertification

Through the renewal process, registered nurse certifications promote continued learning and help to advance the nursing profession, added Marianne Horahan, MBA, MPH, RN, NEA-BC, CPHQ, director of certification services at the American Nurses Credentialing Center.  

“Certification creates a framework where you achieve professional fitness through lifelong learning,” Horahan said.

Join the Growing Trend of Nursing Certifications

AACN reports that more than 750,000 nurses in the United States and Canada held certifications in 2016, which was an increase of more than 51,000, or 7 percent, over 2015, according to data collected by the American Board of Nursing Specialties. 

Different organizations offer a variety of certifications, and each certification may have differing requirements for experience in the specialty and educational level before a candidate can sit for an exam. In addition to registered nurse certification, some boards also offer certification for LPNs/LVNs and advanced practice nurses.

Dickens advised nurses to carefully consider their goals and the requirements of the certification they are seeking. Roney said many healthcare employers support certification and will reimburse for the preparation course or test, but the exams and certifying bodies may be limited. She recommended nurses check with their employers first and take advantage of certification benefits.

“Go for it,” Roney said. “Put the time into studying. Your patients are worth it, and you are certainly worth it.”

Nursing Certifications Available

Addictions Nursing Certification Board

  • CARN – Certified Addictions Registered Nurse

American Association of Critical Care Nurses Certification Corporation

  • CRN – Acute/Critical Care Nursing (Adult, Pediatric & Neonatal)
  • CCRN-E – Tele-ICU Acute/Critical Care Nursing (Adult)
  • PCCN – Progressive Care Nursing (Adult)
  • CNML – Nurse Manager and Leader
  • CCRN-K – Acute/Critical Care Knowledge Professional (Adult, Pediatric & Neonatal)
  • PCCN-K – Progressive Care Knowledge Professional (Adult)

Subspecialty Certifications

  • CMC – Cardiac Medicine (Adult)
  • CSC – Cardiac Surgery (Adult)

Advanced practice certifications are also available
American Association of Diabetes Educators

  • BC-ADM – Board Certified-Advanced Diabetes Management

American Association of Heart Failure Nurses

  • CHFN – Certified Heart Failure Nurse
  • CHFN-K – Non-Clinical Certified Heart Failure Nurse

American Board of Managed Care Nursing

  • CMCN – Certification in Managed Care Nursing

American Board of Neuroscience Nursing

  • CNRN – Certified Neuroscience Registered Nurse
  • SCRN – Stroke Certified Registered Nurse

American Board of Certification for Gastroenterology Nurses

  • CGRN – Certified Gastroenterology Registered Nurse

American Board for Occupational Health Nurses

  • COHN – Certified Occupational Health Nurse
  • COHN-S – Certified Occupational Health Nurse-Specialist
  • CM – Occupational Health Nursing Case Management

American Board of Perianesthesia Nursing

  • CAPA – Certified Ambulatory Perianesthesia Nurse
  • CPAN – Certified Post Anesthesia Nurse

American Correctional Association

  • CNN – Certified Corrections Nurse
  • CNN/M – Certified Corrections Nurse/Manager
  • CHSA – Certified Health Service Administrator 
  • CBHC – Correctional Behavioral Health Certification 

American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Corporation

  • HN-BC – Holistic Nurse, Board Certified
  • HNB-BC – Holistic Baccalaureate Nurse, Board Certified
  • AHN-BC – Advanced Holistic Nurse, Board Certified
  • APHN-BC – Advanced Practice Holistic Nurse, Board Certified
  • NC-BC – Nurse Coach, Board Certified
  • HWNC-BC – Health and Wellness Nurse Coach, Board Certified

American Legal Nurse Consultant Certification Board

  • LNCC – Legal Nurse Consultant Certified

American Nurses Credentialing Center

Specialty Certifications RN-BC:

  • Ambulatory Care Nursing
  • Cardiac-Vascular Nursing
  • Faith Community Nursing
  • Gerontological Nursing
  • Genetics Nursing - Advanced
  • Hemostasis Nursing
  • Informatics Nursing
  • Medical-Surgical Nursing
  • Nursing Case Management
  • Nursing Professional Development
  • Pain Management Nursing
  • Pediatric Nursing
  • Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing
  • Public Health Nursing - Advanced
  • Rheumatology Nursing
  • School Nursing

Advance practice specialty certifications also available for:

  • Nurse Practitioners (NPs) and 
  • Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNSs)

American Organization of Nurse Executives

  • CENP – Certified in Executive Nursing Practice
  • CNML – Certified Nurse Manager and Leader 

Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing

  • CEN – Certified Emergency Nurse
  • CFRN – Certified Flight Registered Nurse
  • CPEN – Certified Pediatric Emergency Nurse
  • CTRN – Certified Transport Registered Nurse
  • TCRN – Trauma Certified Registered Nurse 

Certification Board of Infection Control and Epidemiology

  • CIC – Certified in Infection Control

Certification Board for Urologic Nurses and Associates

  • CUNP – Certified Urologic Nurse Practitioner
  • CURN – Certified Urologic Registered Nurse
  • CUA – Urologic Associate 

Commission on Nurse Certification 

  • CNL – Clinical Nurse Leader

Competency & Credentialing Institute

  • CNOR – Certified Nurse, Operating Room
  • CRNFA – Certified Registered Nurse First Assistant
  • CNS-CP – Clinical Nurse Specialist Perioperative Certification

Dermatology Nursing Certification Board

  • DNC – Dermatology Nurse Certified

HIV/AIDS Nursing Certification Board

  • ACRN – HIV/AIDS Certified Registered Nurse
  • AACRN – Advanced HIV/AIDS Certified Registered Nurse

Hospice & Palliative Credentialing Center

  • CHPN – Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse
  • ACHPN – Advanced Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse
  • CHPPN – Certified Hospice and Palliative Pediatric Nurse

Infusion Nurses Certification Corporation

  • CRNI – Certified Registered Nurse Infusion

International Association of Forensic Nurses

  • SANE-A – Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner-Adult/Adolescent
  • SANE-P – Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner-Pediatric
  • AFN-BC – Advanced Forensic Nursing

Medical-Surgical Nursing Certification Board

  • CCCTM – Certified in Care Coordination and Transition Management
  • CMSRN – Certified Medical-Surgical Registered Nurse

National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists

  • CRNA – Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist

National Asthma Education Certification Board

  • AE-C – Certified Asthma Educator

National Association for Healthcare Quality

  • CPHQ – Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality

National Board for Certification of School Nurses

  • NCSN – National Certified School Nurse

National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators

  • CDE – Certified Diabetes Educator

The National Certification Corporation

  • RNC-OB – Inpatient Obstetric Nursing
  • RNC-MNN – Maternal Newborn Nursing
  • RNC-LRN – Low Risk Neonatal Nursing
  • RNC-NIC – Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing

Subspecialties

  • C-EFM – Electronic Fetal Monitoring
  • C-NPT – Neonatal Pediatric Transport

National Certifying Board for Ophthalmic Registered Nurses

  • CRNO – Certification for Registered Nurses of Ophthalmology

National Certifying Board of Otorhinolaryngology and Head-Neck Nurse

  • CORLN – Certified Otorhinolaryngology Nurse

National Commission on Correctional Health Care

  • CCHP-RN – Certified Correctional Health Professional-RN
  • CCHP-A – Certified Correctional Health Professional-Advanced

National League for Nursing 

  • CNE – Certified Nurse Educator

Nephrology Nursing Certification Commission

  • CNN – Certified Nephrology Nurse
  • CDN – Certified Dialysis Nurse

Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation

  • AOCN – Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse
  • CPON – Certified Pediatric Oncology Nurse
  • OCN – Oncology Certified Nurse
  • CPHON – Certified Pediatric Hematology Oncology Nurse
  • CBCN – Certified Breast Care Nurse
  • BMTCN – Blood & Marrow Transplant Certified Nurse

Orthopaedic Nurses Certification Board

  • ONC – Orthopaedic Nurse Certified

Pediatric Nursing Certification Board

  • CPN – Certified Pediatric Nurse
  • CPEN – Certified Pediatric Emergency Nurse
  • PMHS – Pediatric Primary Care Mental Health Specialist

Plastic Surgical Nursing Certification Board

  • CPSN – Certified Plastic Surgical Nurse
  • CANS – Certified Aesthetic Nurse Specialist

Radiologic Nursing Certification Board

  • CRN – Certified Radiologic Nurse

Rehabilitation Nursing Certification Board

  • CRRN – Certified Rehabilitation Registered Nurse

Society for Clinical Research Excellence

  • CCRP – Certified Clinical Research Professional

Wound Ostomy and Continence Nursing Certification Board

  • CCCN – Certified Continence Care Nurse
  • COCN – Certified Ostomy Care Nurse
  • CWCN – Certified Wound Care Nurse
  • CWOCN – Certified Wound Ostomy Continence Nurse
  • CWON – Certified Wound Ostomy Nurse
  • CFCN – Certified Foot Care Nurse

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