A nursing certificate is issued to registered nurses (including nurse practitioners and clinical nurse specialists) with additional training in a medical specialty. The American Nurses Certification Center (ANCC), which is the largest nurses credentialing organization in the world (and a subsidiary of the American Nurses Association or ANA), oversees and awards nursing certificates. In addition to certifying nurses in specialty health care practice areas, the ANCC accredits providers of nursing education and provides information and education services and products to support its credentialing programs.
Nurses may enjoy significant benefits from being certified. First, certification can result in higher income. The ANCC estimates that certified nurses earn, on average, $9,000 more annually than non-certified nurses. Second, certification is a respected and valued credential in the health care field that validates that the recipient has met rigorous professional development requirements and that his or her skills are up to date (since certification must be renewed every three to five years). Third, ANCC certification is accepted by governing boards, insurers, and the military. Fourth, being certified can improve a nurse’s potential for advancement.
If you are a registered nurse, a nurse practitioner, or a clinical nurse specialist who wants to earn certification in a specialty, you should take the following steps.
1. Go to the ANCC Website certification page and choose the specialty in which you want to become certified. The ANCC offers certification in nine specialties for nurse practitioners, nine specialties for clinical nurse specialists, 19 specialties for registered nurses, and three advanced level specialties.
2. Check the eligibility requirements for the specialty to be sure that you qualify since the requirements are fairly stringent. For example, the gerontological nurse certification eligibility requirement includes holding a current, active registered nurse license; having practiced as a registered nurse for the equivalent of two years, full time; having a minimum of 2,000 hours of clinical practice in gerontological nursing in the prior three years; and having completed 30 hours of continuing education in gerontological nursing in the past three years.
3. If you meet the eligibility requirements, register for the certification with the ANCC and pay the required fee. The application includes an overview of the test content outline for the specialty chosen.
4. Decide how you want to prepare for the certification exam. There are many test preparation resources available, such as test content outlines, sample questions, test references, review manuals, certification review seminars, and online certification preparation courses.
Your state’s Board of Nursing may be able to provide you with information on online courses. An online course will give you the flexibility to prepare for your certification exam when it best fits your schedule. Be sure that the course adequately covers all the areas in the ANCC test content outline for your specialty, and, if possible, talk with other nurses who have taken the course for feedback on its value as a certification exam preparation resource.
Explore the various options for test preparation and, once you have chosen one, sign up for the course and/or obtain the study materials of your choice.
5. Sign up for the certification exam. The exams are computer based. Therefore, you can apply any time during the year, and you can take the exam during a 90-day window at a time and location that best suits your schedule.
www.wisegeek.com, How Do I Get a Nursing Certification?
www.nursecredentialing.org, American Nurses Credentialing Center – ANCC
www.nursecredentialing.org/certification, Certification – American Nurses Credentialing Center – ANCC