By Tyler Faust, R.N.
One of the most underutilized avenues nurses use to expand their learning and set themselves apart from other candidates is professional nursing certification. Although certifications do not lead to increased pay, they can lead to increased opportunities by setting candidates apart from others. Certificates generally take a reasonable amount of time to prepare for and some upfront costs but most healthcare organizations offer full or partial reimbursement for staff who successfully pass certification exams relevant to their practice. There are numerous professional organizations that provide nationally recognized certifications that any hospital or healthcare organization would support.
Picking the right certifications is a surefire way to set yourself apart as a candidate when looking for a new job or opportunity. Certification can be in nearly every specialty or nursing subset. Examples include: certified dialysis educator (CDE), certified medical/surgical registered nurse (CMSRN), certified nurse manager and leader (CNML), and holistic nurse, board certified (HN-BC). You would be hard pressed not to find something directly related to your current or future job. So if you’re considering getting certified, let’s discuss how certification will help to set you apart from other candidates.
Certification demonstrates clinical expertise
When looking to be the top candidate for a particular job, obtaining a relevant certification is an excellent way to demonstrate clinical expertise. Hiring managers seek candidates that have clinical expertise in their specialty and that can be demonstrated in two ways: years of experience or certification. The ideal candidate would have both a significant amount of years in the practice and certification to show expertise.
Certifications require individuals to prove competence in content that is related to the certification, generally by way of testing. In order to stay current, many organizations that support certifications require ongoing contact hours in activities relevant to the specialty. Certification will need to be renewed every two to five years for most certifications. This may seem like a lot of hoops to jump through but these efforts are geared towards making the certification meaningful. It tells others that you are competent in your specialty and the certification backs that up.
Show commitment and effort
The reasons mentioned above are often reasons why many nurses don’t pursue certification and also reasons why getting certified sets you apart. Due to the fact the less nurses want to put additional effort into their career away from their job or formal requirements is exactly the reason why it means so much. The nursing profession urges its members to be lifelong learners and professionals and in reality, you can only do so much at the bedside and with the limited time off the unit. Taking the time, and potentially money, to get certified goes well beyond showing clinical expertise. It means you take your job, career, and the call to all nurses seriously. All that is indirectly expressed through certification and will surely appeal to a hiring manager.
Express specialized knowledge
The unique thing about certifications is that you can be certified in a specialty that you don’t currently work in. Maybe you work on a medical/surgical unit but desire to get into an ICU setting. Getting certified as a critical care RN shows that you are a step above the rest in terms of critical care knowledge and gives them confidence that you want to work in the setting. Giving the hiring manager confidence that you want to work there is highly appealing. The last thing a hiring manager wants to do is to hire someone who will leave in the next one or two years. The more you can prove that you want to be there, the better chance of getting the offer.
Establish yourself as a lifelong learner
As mentioned previously, being a nurse and a lifelong learner should be synonymous. Healthcare is changing as fast as any other industry and is more complex than any other industry. Gaining knowledge as well as staying current with the latest knowledge is necessary for performing at a high level. Change is seemingly constant. Staff who seek to be informed and up-to-date with the latest research are highly attractive to hiring managers and make valuable contributions to their unit and organization on a consistent basis. A perfect way to exemplify being a lifelong learner is to obtain and maintain nursing certifications.
Obtaining certifications from a reputable organization is a surefire way to boost your resume and appeal to a hiring manager. Certification establishes you above others in regards to clinical expertise in a particular area and shows a willingness to learn and be a high level performer for the organization and patients that you serve.
Tyler Faust is a full-time registered nurse and part-time freelance healthcare writer. He has his BSN and Master's degree and Winona State University and has worked at Mayo Clinic for over 7 years. Currently, he works as a nurse manager. Tyler is a creative thinker, strategist, and passionate about leadership.