AACN News—November 2001—Certification

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Vol. 18, No. 11, NOVEMBER 2001

Recognizing Certification as an Effective Tool

By Beth Glassford, RN, MSHA, CHE
AACN Certification Corporation Board of Directors

Many of the nurses in your unit may be certified in critical care. You know that achieving certification demonstrates a commitment to excellence on the part of your staff. But are your patients, families and the public aware of this?
Recognition and promotion of critical care staff who are CCRN certified are not only an excellent management tool but also an effective retention tool that is too often overlooked and underutilized. Many managers and administrators simply miss the opportunity to highlight the value of certification and, in turn, the competency of the hospital’s critical care nurses.

Certification can be recognized and promoted in a variety of ways. For example, some facilities offer a formal incentive program in which nurses who achieve certification are reimbursed for test fees and granted percentage salary increases. Newly hired nurses may be placed at a higher pay scale if they are certified. In fact, some hospital units even require that their nurses become certified.

These are, of course, substantial ways to emphasize that certification is valued. But there are also some simple steps you can take to emphasize the significance of certification. Here are some ideas:

• Display a plaque identifying the nurses who have achieved certification. This signifies that your nurses have achieved a level of clinical excellence.
• Create a culture of support for staff to achieve certification. This is a role that nurse managers and advanced practice nurses can easily assume by establishing study groups or providing staff the time to attend CCRN review courses.
• Schedule recognition events, perhaps luncheons every six months or so, to recognize staff members who have achieved certification, passed boards or reached some other professional milestone.
• Submit the names of nurses who have achieved certification to the business section of your local newspaper. Other professions, such as insurance, use this vehicle to recognize their members who achieve certification. Why should nursing be any different?

It is important for the public to recognize the efforts being made by your staff to ensure competence and excellence in critical care nursing staff. It can be a potent marketing tool for your institution.
Just as importantly, acknowledging nurses who make the extra effort to demonstrate their knowledge and put their skills to the test helps to create an environment in which they feel needed and appreciated.

How is certification recognized and promoted in your workplace? Share your ideas with your colleagues. Send your stories to AACN News, 101 Columbia, Aliso Viejo, CA 92656; e-mail, aacnnews@aacn.org; fax,
(949) 363-2049.

3-Person CCRN Exam Discount Ends Dec. 31

The three-person CCRN certification exam fee discount has again been extended, this time through Dec. 31, 2001. Under the three-person discount offer, each applicant saves $45 off the regular fee. The discounted exam fee is $175 for AACN members and $255 for others.

To be eligible for the discount, applications must be accompanied by the “3-Person Discount Flyer,” which is included with the application materials. The flyer can also be printed from the AACN Certification Corporation Web site at http://www.certcorp.org, or requested by calling (800) 899-2226 or e-mailing certcorp@aacn.org.

All applications and payments, along with the flyer, must be returned in one envelope. However, co-applicants are not required to take the exam at the same time. Confirmation letters are sent within three to four weeks after applications are submitted. Applicants then have 90 days to take the exam.

Respect, Recognition, Reward: Certification—Commitment to Our Specialty and to Our Patients

Continuing to Learn
Although I had been a nurse for about 12 years, the last seven in critical care, I felt the need to learn more. I decided that studying for the CCRN exam was the best way to do this.

To prepare, I used critical care textbooks, review books, audiotapes and practice tests, investing at least an hour or more daily for four months. I was shocked when, on the first practice test, I answered only about half the questions correctly. It seemed the more I learned, the more I needed to know, and the more I realized that I didn’t know. It was quite an eye-opening process.

When the time came, I certainly did not feel ready to take the test. I had been sufficiently humbled by the people I had met and the material I had learned over my intense months of studying. To me, it seemed that everyone
knew so much, and I knew so little. Although I was intimidated by the knowledge that I expected I should have learned, I was somehow happy and privileged to be sitting for such a prestigious exam.

When I received my test scores, I had not only passed, I had done quite well. I felt so proud that I had accomplished this goal in my life. Somehow, I knew that I would be able to deliver much better patient care with that added confidence.

I have renewed my CCRN twice and continue to read journals and attend conferences to maintain and add to the knowledge that I worked so hard to obtain. Now, as a CCRN liaison for my ICU, I am proud when one of my coworkers expresses an interest in taking the certification exam.

Making the decision to become certified is such an important step in a nurse’s career. It means we have made the commitment to our specialty and to our patients. It is a part of me that I am extremely proud of.
Deborah Kummer, RN, CCRN

I achieved my CCRN certification after being an ICU nurse for more than five years. Because many of my colleagues who had taken the test said it was difficult and tested your knowledge to the fullest, I enrolled in a review course. However, circumstances prevented me from attending the course and from taking the sample test.

Nevertheless, I decided that I would go ahead and take the test, thinking it would at least be a learning experience. I didn’t expect to pass, but was delighted to realize that I knew a lot of the material.

When I received my passing score, I was ecstatic. I had such a great feeling about the work that I do on a day-to-day basis. This test showed me that I had the knowledge required to do the job to the fullest.

I have always believed that I am a good nurse. By passing the CCRN exam, I proved to myself that I had the knowledge and skill to be a good ICU nurse.

I am now at the age and time in my life when maintaining the CEUs needed for recertification is not easy. I work only enough “pool” hours to be able to keep my CCRN. It’s important to me. I encourage every ICU nurse to take the CCRN test and validate their advanced clinical knowledge.
Tammy Gorman, RN, CCRN

Are you certified? What part does certification play in your professional life? Send your stories of certification to AACN News, 101 Columbia, Aliso Viejo, CA 92656; fax, (949) 362-2049; e-mail,

Is Your Practice Synergistic?

Do you apply the Synergy Model in your practice? Do the unique characteristics of your patients dictate the nursing competencies you use? If so, we would like to share your special stories in the “Synergy Model in Practice” feature in Critical Care Nurse. Send your stories to AACN Certification Corporation, Attn: Certification Specialist Liz Miller, RN, 101 Columbia, Aliso Viejo, CA 92656; e-mail, Liz.Miller@aacn.org.
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