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Nursing Certification

What are the standard certification requirements for nurses?

Nurses by definition are certified. The Licensed Practical Nurse and Registered Nurse designations are certifications that are granted after a student has completed a course of study at a Board approved program and passed the National Clinical License Examination (NCLEX). There are different examinations for LPNs and RNs. The designation Nurse Practitioner is also a certification given after completing an education, fulfilling practical requirements, and passing a national examination.

Additionally, all states require that nurses be licensed through their state's nursing board. This is in order to ensure that the nursing education received meets the state's standards, that candidates have taken and passed the national exam, and have me all other criteria including background checks, high school education requirements, etc. Fees are collected, and fingerprints may be required for the state's database. Once certifications are received, and licenses have been issued, nurses can accept employment and operate in their full capacity.

What are my options for pursuing additional specialized nursing certification?

In additional to the certifications that define the professional qualifications of a nurse, there are many additional certifications that can be acquired to demonstrate additional training, education or expertise in various clinical or administrative areas. These certifications can be used to advance clinical ability, open doors for promotions or positions in new clinical areas, or even provide the training and education necessary to move into nursing administration.

There are literally dozens of specialty certifications within the field of nursing, and there are certifications available at all levels of nursing practice, from LPN all the way to advanced practice nurses. In some cases the certification communicates expertise in certain clinical areas, and in some cases the certification expands the nurse's scope of practice. For instance, in many states, an LPN license does not include the ability to insert an IV. But in some of those states, an LPN can take supplemental courses, complete a clinical experience and pass an examination and be certified to site IVs. This is also true for LPNs or RNs to be qualified to provide certain treatments for wound care, management of ports or central lines, which allows access to deeper veins and arteries.

What are some of the specialty certifications available to nurses?

Certifications are issued by many different organizations, and the organization typically sets the requirements for receiving the certificate. Some require attending specific classes or completing an established clinical experience, some require taking tests. Some specialty certifications require renewal; others last for as long as the nurse maintains his or her license.

With some nursing jobs, specifically in advanced practice areas such as certified nurse midwife or certified nurse anesthetist, a certification is necessary to perform the job. These certifications are often incorporated into programs that offer Master of Science in Nursing degrees. But there are many other certifications that exist as a supplement to the traditional LPN and RN credentials that can be used as professional enhancements.

Some of the areas where clinical specialty certification is available include:

  • Cardiac management (nursing practice or rehabilitation)
  • Community Health/Public Health
  • Home Health
  • Gerontology
  • Pain Management
  • Pre/PeriNatal Nursing
  • Psychiatric Nursing (child/teen/adult)

Are there options for nursing certification in areas other than clinical practice?

Certifications also exist in areas of nursing beyond clinical practices. In addition to traditional delivery of nursing care, there are also many administrative tasks that are best performed by someone with a clinical background. Someone with a nursing background must complete certain types of assessments that need to be completed in hospitals, home health practices or skilled nursing facilities. Case managers that make decisions about what direction a patient's care should go also need to have clinical training. But many of these administrative activities are not included in a nurse's basic education, so certifications in various types of assessments, case management, health information handling or other administrative activities are also available. There are certifications available for advanced training in health informatics, nursing administration or becoming a nurse educator. These certifications communicate to hospitals and other hiring organizations that a nurse has taken the time not only to learn more advanced skills, but also to demonstrate their knowledge through testing. This shows a sustained commitment to professional development.

There are many online courses offered for certification through colleges and universities that offer nursing degrees. Online courses may include videos and tests, and sometimes pair a nurse up with a local volunteer opportunity or clinical program if hands-on experience is part of the certification process. This allows nurses an opportunity to further advance their skills and training without taking leaves from their job or assuming lengthy commutes to campuses or training facilities too far from home.

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