Certification is one of the ways of empowering nurses since it validates their competency and increases their chances of experiencing professional growth. However, certification comes at a cost and one has to spend time pursuing the certification process. Certified nurses are often regarded as specialty leaders in their practice.
For a nurse to get certification, many hours have to be spent in a program that facilitates the certification process. Therefore, the initials that are found in names of some nurses indicate more than professional excellence; they also indicate the efforts that the nurse made in pursuing a program that would facilitate the recognition of her individual nursing excellence in a particular specialty.
While certification plays a very important role in the nursing profession, it also has a share of problems. The implication created by certification by specialty is that nurses practice as autonomous groups. These groups are established in the process through which different nurses are required to meet different qualifications in order to be certified. Practice, education and experience requirements differ from one specialty to another.
Specialty organizations have in the past been trying to propose the creation of a nursing specialty board at the national level whereby certification criteria and standards would be established uniformly. The presupposition of this proposal was that this would increase the value of credentials in a scenario where there is wide variation in nursing certification programs, thereby improving professionalism in nursing.
Certification is a means of empowering nurses. Specialty certification benefits the individual nurse, the area of specialty where the nurse practices, (and generally, the nursing profession), the institution and the entire community. Gibson (1989), (cited in Tenney, Demoucell & Wians, 1992) revealed in a research study on nurses’ perceptions of specialty certification that nurses anticipated an automatic validation of professional achievement as well as an improvement in their self-image upon becoming certified. The study also revealed that 84% of all the 493 respondents who were surveyed said that certification would enable them make improvements in patient care skills.
Nurses with specialty certification tend to get respect and great admiration from their peers because of their expertise and advanced knowledge. Certification stimulates many nurses to stay up-to-date with knowledge and practice since they are often exposed to continuing education. Additionally, certification makes it easy for nurses to find opportunities for private practice, where they can take up career roles as expert witnesses or consultants (Tenney, Demoucell & Wians, 1992)
This research explores the perceptions that influence nurses into seeking specialty certification. The research delves into benefits of getting nursing certification with a view to find different perceived benefits and inherent, self-evident benefits. The main aim of this research, therefore, is to clarify the validity of different benefits of getting certified.
Tenney, Demoucell and Wians (1992) lists five main different areas where benefits are achieved through specialty nursing certification: (a) to the individual nurse, (b) areas of specialty practice, (c) the nursing profession, (d) the nursing institution, and (e) the community. This research will explain the benefits of nursing in all these different areas, although the main emphasis will be on the benefits that accrue to the individual nurse, the main aim being to try and disentangle inherent benefits from mere perceptions.
To the specialty practice, certification makes it easy for different levels of competence in the practice to be clearly drawn out and defined. Through certification, the legitimacy a certain specialization is guaranteed. To the nursing profession, certification is a form of self-regulation. A nurse is recognized through the validity of his proficiency. A nurse who is certified in a certain areas is considered to have mastered a certain body of highly specialized knowledge, has adhered to certain established standards and has become competent in terms of practice and experience.
The nursing institution, too, derives many benefits through certification, one of them being creation of a basis for hiring, promotions, wage increases, and provision of practice privileges. Certification is a good basis for third-party payment (Edari and Staff, 1979 cited in Tenney, Demoucell & Wians, 1992). The community benefits through certification through improvement in quality in the care given to patients.
For a nurse to become certified, he has to commit some time, money and energy into the certification process. There are exams to be taken, and this means drawing up study plans for several months that precede the exam. Demauro (2008) says that today, certifications are available for almost every nursing specialty such as the American Nursing Credentialing Center (ANCC) or Board of Certification for American Nurses). The ANCC certifies nurses in more than 20 different specialties. Certification, adds Demauro, is a good basis of getting a pay increase, whereby certified nurses’ according to national salary statistics, earn more compared to their uncertified colleagues with the same level of academic qualifications.
According to Demauro (2008) many nurses are motivated to seek certification since it carries the same connotation regardless of where one works – in the military, NGOs, private practice and so on. National salary surveys indicate that it becomes easy for certified nurses to get better-paying jobs that fall squarely along their chosen career paths.