The Institute of Medicine’s The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, published in 2010, offers the nursing workforce a map to follow to keep up with the changing needs of the diverse patient population. One of the four main goals included in this report is that nurses should strive to achieve higher levels of education. Two ways that can be achieved is through advanced practice status, such as Certified Nurse Practitioner, or through specialty nursing certifications, such as CEN (Certified Emergency Nurse). According to a 2020 survey of nursing professionals, about 56% of men and 49% of women are considering pursuing higher education, certification or training.
Regardless of the path chosen, when a nurse achieves a certification beyond an undergraduate degree, it benefits the nurse, the patient and the employer. Here are some of the perks nurses may notice after obtaining credentials after their name:
- The intrinsic value of achieving certifications is hard to measure and differs from nurse to nurse. For those that value personal achievement and adding in-depth knowledge and expertise to their career, you will most likely enjoy the path to certification. Achieving higher education or specialty certifications shows a commitment to continuous learning, and that, in turn, can provide a sense of accomplishment and a greater degree of job satisfaction.
- It has been found that nurses with certifications believe they make decisions with greater confidence, which may empower them to initiate or explore best practices in their area of expertise. They may even choose to design and implement a clinical study that enhances nursing practice in their area.
- Having additional initials after a nurse’s name indicates that they have a high level of competence, experience and knowledge in their specialty. They may gain a new level of respect from colleagues in the field.
- Nurse managers prefer to hire certified nurses over non-certified nurses when all other qualifications are equal. Many nurses with extra certification are asked to sit on special committees and help to set the standards of care within their area.
- It is common for specialty nursing certifications to garner a higher wage compared to their non-certified colleagues. In fact, many nurses with extra certifications are promoted within their institutions.
- Hospitals that value and support higher education have identified this resource as an important recruitment and retention tool. Many nurses enjoy working in places that recognize the importance of maintaining high levels of expertise within the staff.
- The preparation required to study and pass examinations is intense and the knowledge gained through this process can help improve the nurse’s ability to give a high level of quality care to patients in their specialty area.
- Patients and families may feel more comfortable when they realize the nurse taking care of them has more knowledge and experience as a result of their specialty credentials. For example, knowing that a patient’s nurse is certified in critical care nursing may be comforting to the family, knowing that their loved one is being cared for by someone who has a deep interest – and expertise - in this type of nursing.
Deciding to pursue higher education is a big decision. Between the preparation, taking the exam and keeping the certification current, much time, money and energy will be required. The benefits discussed here may help you determine if adding those extra initials behind your name is the right step for you in your nursing career.