AACN News—May 2003—Certification

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Vol. 20, No. 5, MAY 2003


It's Time to Renew: the Value of Certification Over Time

By Rebecca Long, RN, MS, CNS, CCRN
AACN and AACN Certification Corporation Boards of Directors

As a member of the AACN Certification Corporation Board of Directors, I have learned a great deal about the background and the business of certification. For example, I didn't know that certifying agencies seek "accreditation" by another agency. For example, the National Commission for Certifying Agencies accredits the AACN Certification Corporation.

NCCA is a national accreditation body for private certification organizations in all disciplines. NCCA accreditation mandates a job analysis of current nursing practice every five years to ensure that the testing is actually measuring practice.

As my knowledge regarding certification increased, I reflected on my own journey toward certification and why those "initials" earned 18 years ago are so important to me year after year.
After transitioning to a medical-surgical clinical nurse specialist role, I applied for inactive CCRN status, because I didn't realize that I could maintain certification while practicing outside the ICU. The critically ill patients I was seeing, some chronically critically ill, were invading the outer bounds of the hospital and overflowing into the home environment.

I missed being able to declare the CCRN status for which I had worked so hard and, after revisiting the CCRN eligibility guidelines, sought active status again.

I have talked with other long-standing CCRNs who feel as I do about the value of certification. What they say about their reasons for being certified validates the AACN Certification Corporation's certification process. It may also validate your journey toward certification. Here's what a couple of CCRNs had to say:

Pride in Knowledge
"I braved that test a second time. It was that important to me!" said Jeanne McCartney, RN, BSN, CCRN, a CCRN for 17 years and a staff nurse at the VA Healthcare System in San Diego, Calif., where I practice. During a period of family commitments, Jeanne was unable to acquire the clinical hours required to renew her CCRN certification. "I felt a real pride in my skills and knowledge base to take it and pass it a second time," she said.

Asked about her ability to maintain certification, she said she works hard to compile the required CERPs through a variety of activities. "It was easier when I was in my BSN program, but I know what those initials represent, and staying clinically abreast is something I place as a priority."

Jeanne has also been an advocate for certification to new nurses by spreading the word of the local chapter's "giveback" of $100 to any nurse who becomes a new CCRN.

Commitment and Respect
"I sought the professional satisfaction and gratitude," said Justin Milici, RN, CEN, CFRN, CCRN. A trauma resource nurse at Baylor University in Dallas, Texas, Justin has been certified as a CCRN for 12 years. He believes that certification validates his knowledge and commitment to his profession, and continues his CCRN certification even though it is not required for his role.

"I also believe I gain a certain amount of respect from other nurses and healthcare providers when they see certification initials after my name," Justin added. "Families have noted them on my badge, and ask what the initials mean. Of course, I seize the opportunity to tell them!"

Protecting the Public
Certification represents competence to many of those queried. They believe that CCRN certification represents both the knowledge and the skill needed to care for today's challenging patients. As a director on the AACN Certification Corporation board, I have learned that certification is about protecting the public. Isn't it reasonable that, if your plumber is certified, the nurse in charge of your other "pipes" should be, too? As healthcare has become more complex, it has become increasingly vital to assure the public that health professionals are competent.

Maintaining an exam that truly reflects our ever-changing practice is not easy. Nevertheless, to meet NCCA standards, the AACN Certification Corporation is committed to that process. In a 2001 survey of more than 1,200 AACN members, 92% of the nurse managers who responded said they encouraged CCRN certification. This is despite the fact that only 6% of the work environments at the time required certification. Seventy-nine percent of these nurses perceive the certification process to be of high quality. In a survey of 550 nonmembers, 46% expressed an interest in our certification! We believe that gradually the value of something already recognized by both AACN members and nonmembers will also be evident to the public, healthcare administrators, the media and to health policy makers.

The AACN Certification Corporation mission is to advance standards of excellence in caring for acute and critically ill patients. We will continue to pursue the protection of the public and promote professional practice excellence through our certification programs. It's the right thing to do for the protection of your patient.

Survey Indicates That Certification Adds Pay


The Advance for Nurses 2002 Salary Survey indicated that certification leads to higher pay, especially in areas like Delaware, North Carolina and South Carolina.
According to the results, certified nurses earned an average of $25.93 per hour, compared to the $22.95 per hour average salary earned by nurses who were not certified.

The survey was conducted between July and October 2002, but the results were based on a simple poll, not a scientific, random sampling.


Nominations Invited for AACN Certification Corporation Board

Deadline Is June 13

AACN Certification Corporation is seeking nominations of individuals to serve on the Board of Directors for terms that begin July 1, 2004. Invited are nominations for the offices of chair-elect and two directors.

Nominations must be received or postmarked by June 13, 2003. See page 3 of this issue of AACN News for additional information, as well as to obtain a nomination form that can be completed and faxed or mailed to AACN. Nomination forms can also be obtained by calling (800) 899-2226 or online.
For more information about the Call for Nominations, contact Tracey Kane at (800) 394-5995, ext. 415.


Is Your Practice Synergistic?

Do you apply the AACN Synergy Model for Patient Care 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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