It’s Certified Nurses Day: Consider the Commitment for Yourself

March 19th, 2012


By , BSN, RN

While not a big holiday like Christmas, or even a big recognition like Nurse’s Week, today is special, it is Certified Nurses Day. You may not be familiar with it yet, but it is an annual day of recognition dedicated to nursing professionalism, nursing excellence and nursing service.

Now, don’t be shocked if you haven’t heard of it before. It’s only been around since 2008. That was when the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the American Nurses Association (ANA) collaborated to create Certified Nurses Day and collected support from leading nursing organizations and governments including the United States Congress.

Since then and into perpetuity, Certified Nurses Day is celebrated on March 19, the birthday of Margreta “Gretta” Madden Styles, the renowned expert of nurse credentialing. An accomplished advocate for nursing standards and certification, for more than two decades Styles advanced nursing practice and regulation worldwide.

Styles designed the first comprehensive study of nurse credentialing in the 1970s. From that work she pioneered the development and implementation of standards and credentials for nurses. Her work had a global impact on nursing.

By the 1980s, Styles was taking her theories around the globe and spearheaded the definitive work of the International Council of Nurses (ICN) on nursing regulation. A driving force behind the creation of the ANCC, Styles advanced nurse certification services and programs across the US and abroad.

What Is Specialty Certification?

The ANCC defines specialty certification as the formal process by which a certifying agency, such as American Nurses Credentialing Center, validates a nurse’s knowledge, skills, and abilities in a defined role and clinical area of practice, based on predetermined standards. Essentially, certification is taking your RN license to the next level.

Being a registered nurse (RN) means you have mastered entry-level knowledge to care for patients as a professional nurse. Certification is a voluntary commitment signifying a nurse has experience and advanced knowledge in a given specialty area of nursing, for example CNOR (certified in operating room nursing) or CCRN (acute or critical care nursing).

Now, I did say it is voluntary. Certification is not required by law and while employers like to hire certified nurses it is rarely mandatory for being hired. It is a personal choice and while the commitment of time and money to preparing and taking the test is substantial the long-term benefits will likely pay for itself. Here are some of the reasons sitting for a nursing specialty certification can be beneficial:

  • It makes you a better nurse. – Within every specialty there are even more concentrated specialty areas. For instance, I am an OR nurse but I spend most of my time working in plastic surgery and ear, nose and throat (ENT, aka head and neck). In oncology nursing the RN may spend all their time in a leukemia unit or on a gynecology floor. When you prepare for your specialty certification you broaden your general knowledge of your specialty and are really better prepared to provide patient care across your chosen area.
  • Patients expect you to know. – Clients today are very knowledgeable themselves. Access to the internet allows them to research every angle of their illness, treatment, and recovery. If they can do it, they expect you, as a trained professional, to know everything they know and more. Being certified says you have the expertise they expect.
  • Financial rewards. – Many hospitals pay more for nurses who are certified in their specialty. That extra can come in the form of a higher hourly wage, larger bonuses or clearing steps on the hospital’s career ladder, which then leads to higher pay. Employers will often pay for your certification exam and sometimes even a prep course.
  • Broaden your career opportunities. – Certification shows a commitment to self-improvement on both a personal and professional level. That makes you a more appealing employee and as a job applicant. For some jobs certification is a requirement. A survey of nurse managers showed 90 percent prefer to hire certified RNs.
  • Professional recognition. – Certification benefits both the RN and the employer. Healthcare facilities that hire and retain high percentages of certified nurses are more competitive for Magnet recognition and Joint Commission endorsement.

Even more noteworthy, nurse certification has been linked to better patient outcomes, according to the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN), which found that certification is tied to a reduction in medical errors, among other benefits. Other benefits of specialty certification found through nursing research include lower staff turnover, vacancy, and staffing; better nurse retention, higher job satisfaction, higher nurse performance, and patient satisfaction.

Certification Options and Requirements

There are over 200 nursing specialty certifications available. Some are open to any registered nurse; some require graduate level education. They all share some basic requirements:

  1. License – To sit for the certification exam the nurse must hold a valid, unrestricted license in all the states in which they practice.
  2. Experience – To apply for the certification exam the nurse must show proof of work experience in terms of years, and often hours. The average is 2-3 years of nursing experience and 1000 hours of experience specifically in the specialty area. These numbers are not exact for every specialty and you must check with the credentialing entity for specific requirements.
  3. Maintenance – To retain the specialty certification there are also requirements. The average validity for the certification is five years and to re-certify each specialty has its own requirements. In a survey of multiple specialty areas you can always just retake the exam or provide proof of continuing education credits ranging from 25 in 2-3 years to 125 in five years. Again, check with the certifying organization for specifics.


To learn more about certification check the website for each specialty. I have included a link to a specialty guide which provides a lot of basic information.

And, if you are already certified, encourage your friends and coworkers, be proud of your commitment to your self and your patients and HAVE A GREAT DAY!

Facebook Comments