Remember the Feeling? Share Your Powerful Stories of Certification?
By Elizabeth M. Nolan, RN, MS, CS
Chair, AACN Certification Corporation Board of Directors
Do you remember the breathtaking feeling of becoming certified? Two of the clinical practice specialists at the AACN National Office certainly do.
“I felt I had arrived in my specialty,” remembers Linda Bell. “It was 1978 and the CCRN� program was only three years old. Becoming certified by a national critical care organization was a huge personal achievement, especially because, unlike state boards that are mandatory, I had taken the certification exam by choice. I think I walked even taller after that!”
Katie Schatz, who is now a certified nurse practitioner, recalls how meaningful becoming a CCRN was. “It confirmed what I knew. And, I could use what I knew to make a difference for patients and families.”
Skeptics tell me that today’s broken healthcare system has all but obliterated the excitement and magic of becoming certified. “Not so,” says Bell. “Every day, I’m in touch with CCRNs, CCNSs and other certified nurses who tell me that the more complex healthcare becomes, the more they value their credential because it validates their advanced clinical knowledge.”
If you had been one of the approximately 1,500 certified nurses at this year’s Certification Luncheon or among the hundreds who visited the new Certification Oasis lounge at the NTI, you would agree with Linda. At the luncheon, newly certified nurses, followed by those who were certified before them, were greeted with cheers of congratulation by their colleagues. However, those who have been certified since the earliest days were the ones who drew the loudest applause and who, afterward, were surrounded by inquiring well wishers. How did you prepare when there were no CCRN review courses? What was the exam like? Why bother getting certified?
Bother? “It’s not a bother; it’s our obligation,” affirms AACN’s 2000-01 President Denise Thornby, who sees certification as one of the most important ways we can show our authority and leadership. “By validating our knowledge, passing a rigorous test and meeting extensive continuing education and clinical experience requirements, we prove–to ourselves, our colleagues, our administrators and our patients–that we know our stuff,” Denise emphasized in her NTI address.
Certification tells us that a nurse is committed to excellence, that he or she has achieved a significant level of knowledge and skill in the care of critically ill patients.
When I saw all those certified nurses standing proudly at the Certification Luncheon, I could not help but think that their courage in becoming certified could be described—to paraphrase the words of astronaut Neil Armstrong as he stood on the moon—as one small step for a critical care nurse, but a giant leap for patients and families as well as for the nursing profession. Today more than 45,000 RNs have taken that “small” step to become certified in critical care. Some are certified as CCRNs in adult, child or newborn care. Others have achieved CCNS certification as clinical nurse specialists in acute and critical care.
Most of us know the value of certification. At the NTI, Denise told us about when her father was transferred from a small rural hospital to a larger facility for emergency surgery. “I remember walking toward the ICU and seeing an AACN poster that promoted certification,” she recalled. “I turned to my mother and sister and said, ‘It’ll be OK. They know about AACN and they know about certification.”
But how aware is the public of this value? Denise’s family knew the value of certified nurses because she was there to tell them. How do we communicate the value of certification to families who are unexpectedly thrust into the unfamiliar world of critical care?
As studies are completed that measure the positive impact of certified practice on patient care, the results will be disseminated far and wide. However, personal experiences with certification offer equally valuable evidence, evidence that is available right now.
AACN President Michael L. Williams has invited us to join him this year on a journey of rediscovery. A journey of finding something we once knew but have perhaps forgotten over the years. During this year, let’s rediscover together the value of certification by sharing our stories–our challenges and our successes.
What does certification mean for you? For your employer? For your colleagues? For your patients and their families? Why did you become certified? Why do you maintain it? Why did you discontinue it? Why have you not become certified, at least not yet?
Your experiences tell a powerful story that is vital to patients and families, to the community, to the media and to our peers. We want to share them with our colleagues. Some may rediscover the breathtaking feeling of being newly certified. Others may rediscover the inner drive to become certified. And all of them will celebrate.
When can I expect your story?
Editor’s Note: Please send your stories to AACN News, 101 Columbia, Aliso Viejo, CA 92656; fax, (949) 362-2049; e-mail,
CCRN Exam Fee Discounted for Groups of 3 or More
The three-person CCRN certification exam fee discount is available through Dec. 31, 2001, with each applicant saving $45 off the fee regularly collected. The discounted fee is $175 for AACN members and $255 for others.
The “3-Person Discount Flyer,” which must accompany the applications, can be printed from the AACN Certification Corporation Web site at
http://www.certcorp.org, or requested by calling (800) 899-2226 or e-mailing email@example.com.
Share the Pride
Promote the pride of certification to your colleagues. This poster, which focuses on the respect, recognition and rewards that certified nurses enjoy, is available from AACN Certification Corporation at no cost. Simply call (800) 899-2226 and request Item #008400. Then display it in your workplace.
For the Record
Each year, CCRNs who will reach or have reached the milestone of 20 years of continuous certification in the current calendar year will be recognized in AACN News. To honor those who reached the 20-year milestone before this recognition program was initiated, the full list of CCRNs who had maintained certification for 20 years or more was published in the June 2000 issue of AACN News. The CCRNs who were listed in the July 2001 issue of AACN News were only those who are celebrating their 20th year of continuous certification during this calendar year. The full list that was published in 2000 is available in the “Publications” area of the AACN Web site at www.aacn.org. Click on “AACN News,” “Past Issues” “2000” and then the June issue.
Congratulations to Certification Volunteers
Volunteers make significant contributions to the important work of AACN Certification Corporation. The following nurses have accepted appointments for 2001-02 to the CCRN appeals panels for the adult, pediatric and neonatal certification exams:
CCRN Appeals Panel, Adult
Donna Blackburn, RN, MSN, CCRN
Michael Day, RN, MSN, CCRN
Tujuana Land, RN, ADN, CCRN
Linda Lapointe, RN, BS
Winfred Moore, RN, ADN, CCRN
Joyce Roth, RN, MSN, CCRN, CNA
Elliot Stetson, RNC, MSN, CCRN
Tracey Stover, RN, BSN, CCRN, CEN
Barbara Washington-Knight, RN, BS, CCRN
CCRN Appeals Panel, Pediatric
Jeanne Braby, RN, MSN, CCRN
Barbara White, RN, BSN, CCRN
Lisa Mayerhofer, RN, BSN
Cynthia Wall, RN, MSN, CCRN
Kathryn Roberts, RN, MSN, CCRN
Julie Warren, RN, MSN, BA, CCRN
Kathryn Sheehan, RN, MSN, CCRN, ARNP, CPNP
CCRN Appeals Panel, Neonatal
Lou Ann Montgomery, RN, PhD, CCNS, CCRN
Harriet Hawkins, RN, CCRN
Lori Jackson, RNC, CCRN, NP
Katherine Morrison, RN, MSN, CCRN