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Certified Nurses Day Honors Extraordinary Dedication to the Profession

Analysis  |  By Carol Davis  
   March 19, 2021

Health systems benefit from a 'nursing workforce committed to lifelong learning'

Nurses who earn and maintain the highest credentials in their specialty—contributing to better patient outcomes—are being celebrated today during Certified Nurses Day, an annual day of recognition for and by healthcare leaders.

March 19  marks the birthday of Margretta "Gretta" Madden Styles, EdD, RN, FAAN, a nurse leader and educator who conceived and helped establish national standards for certifying nurses in pediatrics, cardiology, and other medical specialties.

The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers 18 active certifications, but other centers offer their own certifications, so nurses can choose from more than 100 specialties, says Marianne Horahan, MBA, MPH, RN, NEA-BC, CPHQ, director of ANCC's Certification Services.

Because most hospitals have a medical surgical unit, most ANCC certifications are in med surge nursing, Horahan says, but it also offers such certifications as nurse executive, nurse executive advanced, and nursing professional development. Other high-volume certifications among other credentialing centers include critical care and emergency nursing, she says.

Specialty nursing certification requires working in a specialty for a period—potentially two years or more, depending on the program—along with continuing education and academic achievement such as a bachelor or master's degree in nursing.

The benefit to the hospital or health system is a nursing workforce committed to lifelong learning, Horahan says.

"Most certifiers have a periodic recertification that involves continuing professional development, and that means that the nurse must stay on top of the latest and greatest in that specialty," she says. "So they need to crack open the journals and potentially get involved in other ways such as nursing research, preceptorship, and presentations and lectures."

Chief nursing officers who have successfully built a team of certified nurses usually began by setting an example, Horahan says.

"It starts at the top of walking the talk, and typically, the nurse leaders are the first to get certified to go through that process and experience it," she says.

CNOs might then set up programs where the health system, rather than individual nurses, bears the cost of certification and continuing education, or where nurses receive compensation or other benefits for getting certified, Horahan says.

Such support by nurse leaders frequently leads to even greater certification rates, she says.

"What we find is with specialty nursing certification, because it's optional, if the nurse has to pay out of pocket, they're much less likely to get more than one certification," Horahan says, "but if the hospital is supportive, we often see that someone might have med surg nursing certification in addition to gerontological nursing certification and maybe even a pain management certification."

Nurse leaders can encourage their staff toward certification in any number of ways, Horahan says.

"We've seen some creative ways in which the hospital nursing professional development offices get involved in promoting certification at their organization," she says.

Individual unit leaders have supported certification by providing time off for study groups or bringing review courses on site to the hospital while others have issued challenges within their staff to get a particular number of nurses certified, which, Horahan says, adds the extra benefit of promoting camaraderie within the unit.

“Most certifiers have a periodic recertification that involves continuing professional development, and that means that the nurse must stay on top of the latest and greatest in that specialty.”

Carol Davis is the Nursing Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.


Nurses can be credentialed in more than 100 specialties.

Certification requires working in a specialty for a period of time, along with continuing education and academic achievement.

Nurse leaders who have built a team of certified nurses usually began by getting certified themselves to experience the process.

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