Registered nurses who are interested in earning a specialized nursing certification can choose from over 200 subspecialties, including oncology, foot care, surgery and pediatrics. Nurses are not required to be certified in a certain specialty. However, many nursing facilities advocate certification to instill worker confidence and ensure higher standards of patient care.
Some Advantages of Having a Certification
Because certification instills professionalism and often leads to a higher salary and a more competitive benefits package, it is an attractive prospect for many nurses across the health care industry. Nurses are willing to complete four years of academic and clinical training in order to earn their nursing certification and advance professionally within the nursing field. Generally speaking, specialty-certified nurses demonstrate a greater knowledge of vital skills, offer higher levels of patient care, and reduce work-related errors in patient care at a higher rate than their non-certified colleagues.
Certified nurses are able to work in a variety of settings, including both medical and non-medical. Of the medical settings in which certified nurses work, hospitals, physician’s offices, clinics, military camps and nursing homes are the most common. Schools, corporations and private homes are the most common non-medical environments.
Depending on the facility, certain nurses, such as nursing supervisors or lead nurses, are absolutely required to be certified. Generally speaking, magnet hospitals advocate certifications. Many hospitals offer higher pay to certified nurses willing to work within their specialty.
Required Nursing Education and Examinations
To gain certification, you must first complete a nursing education program, which typically requires the completion of an undergraduate degree program. Nursing programs are available at colleges across the country. When conducting research on the best nursing schools, you might want to speak with faculty members, visit top schools, and meet one-on-one with an experienced career counselor. There is a lot of information out there, and you don’t want to get bogged down reading endless nursing school descriptions online or referring blindly to guides and top-ten lists promising to help you narrow your search for the best school.
To find the right nursing school, and enroll in a nursing certification program that is right you and your educational background, you will need to do some legwork. Libraries and college career centers both provide free, up-to-date information and statistics about nursing certification programs. These sources can help you individualize your nursing education experience and gain certification faster.
One way to individualize your nursing education experience and find the best nursing program for your needs is to set very specific criteria. For example, you may want to limit your search for schools to a specific geographic location, or search exclusively for schools that place greater emphasis on procedural education focusing on such things as administration of medications, physical examinations, the development of a sympathetic bedside manner, and extensive training.
Not all training is the same, so inquire about clinical experience and determine in which settings you will be allowed to study. For example, ask if you can study in a small clinic if this is the setting in which you intend to work following graduation. Generally speaking, training hours are reserved for medical settings. Knowing how much emphasis a nursing school places on the development of your vital skills could help you move more seamlessly into a nursing program.
Once you’ve completed your nursing program, you must register to take your state’s comprehensive nursing test. You must pass the NCLEX exam to become certified and work in a medical or non-medical facility as an registered nurse. NCLEX exam testing centers are located across the country, and exams are held on a rolling basis. Generally speaking, additional training and education are needed to maintain your license and comply with state licensing requirements.
More Information About Nursing Certification and Jobs
Another benefit to earning your nursing certification is that once you are established in the nursing workforce, you can easily transition from one area of specialization to another. Many nurses view this level of professional mobility as very favorable, as it offers a high level of job security and makes advancing within the health care industry highly possible. The demand for registered nurses is always high, especially with nurses exploring diverse areas of study and participating in cross-specialty training programs.
If you are moving into a new nursing position or re-entering the nursing workforce after an absence, be sure to provide a copy of your nursing certificate to your manager or human resources department. Make sure you let them know that you have earned the nursing certification, if they are not already aware. Also keep in mind that, as mentioned before, while nurses with a specialized nursing certification often earn a higher salary than those without one, you may need to take on a different position from what you were originally planning on in order to benefit from the credentials that you have earned.