The Importance of Nurse Certifications

Certification is a mark of skill and professionalism in any field. In nursing in particular, it 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 the healthcare facilities in which these nurses work. The more skills and specialties a nurse has, the better equipped they are to provide their patients with higher quality care.

With the rise in popularity of nursing certifications, many facilities have come to recognize the benefits of hiring certified nurses. According to a survey from the American Hospital Association Certification Center, 86% of healthcare facilities say that certification is a contributing factor when seeking new hires.

In a time when nursing shortages show no sign of abating, it is more important than ever for healthcare organizations to retain confident and competent nurses who can meet and adapt to increasing demands for care. When facilities promote professional development and certification programs, they help their nurses prepare for this demand while simultaneously demonstrating their commitment to their employees’ career growth.

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 a nurse has proven their competence and distinguished themselves within their specialty ­— two qualities that are appreciated by everyone from supervisors and administrators to peers and patients. By continuing to invest in their education through recertification, nurses demonstrate their continued mastery of the latest developments and best practices within their specialty.

• Enhance Professional Opportunities

In addition to providing nurses with a competitive edge during the hiring process, certification also tends to lead to more opportunities for upward mobility once they have been hired. More authority and responsibility often coincides with higher pay, further building the case that certification can lead to higher salaries for these professionals.

• Boost Confidence

The more experience and education a nurse has, the better equipped they are to address complex, challenging situations when they arise. Through nursing certification, nurses can expand their knowledge base and gain the skills they need to confidently assist their patients.

What are the Benefits of Nursing Certification for Healthcare Institutions?

While there are many reasons why certification is important in healthcare, and for healthcare institutions in particular, one of the most important ones is that it helps institutions stand out from the competition. By hiring the most skilled, qualified nursing professionals available, healthcare institutions are demonstrating to patients that they are committed to providing high-quality care.

Nursing certification can also improve:

• Accreditation and Funding

Many leading organizations, including The Joint Commission, a national authority on patient safety and care quality, look favorably on healthcare institutions that have a high percentage of certified nurses. This can lead to accreditation and grant funding, both of which can help attract new patients.

• Employee Retention Rates

Nurses want to work for organizations that invest in their future. By providing their staff with opportunities to partake in certification programs, healthcare facilities demonstrate their commitment to career development, boosting employee engagement.

• Patient Outcomes

It is not uncommon for healthcare providers to wonder how acquiring and maintaining certification improves patient care. According to one recent study, hospitals with a larger percentage of certified nurses with bachelor’s degrees had lower failure-to-rescue and 30-day mortality rates. This data is further supported by research indicating that certified nurses tend to make fewer medical errors, saving lives and healthcare dollars.

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).

Get Your Nurses Certified

The importance of nursing certification cannot be overstated. With the right certification, nurses can provide a higher quality of care, improving patient outcomes and elevating their institution’s reputation.

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Natalie Vaughn

Content Marketing Manager, Relias

Natalie is a Content Marketing Manager at Relias. She has worked in marketing and communications for more than 15 years, with more than half of her experience dedicated to healthcare quality improvement. At Relias, she partners with physicians, nurses, curriculum designers, writers, and other staff members to shape healthcare content designed to improve clinical practice, staff expertise, and patient outcomes. Natalie obtained a Master of Business Administration degree with a focus in marketing, driven by a passion for understanding consumer behavior, branding strategies, and leveraging thought leaders as innovators within a given industry.

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