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Nursing Specialty Certifications

Nursing Specialty Certifications

What is a specialty nursing certification and do I need one?

Certification recognizes and provides ongoing validation of clinical knowledge, experience, and clinical judgment within a nursing specialty. The benefits of certification may include personal growth, career advancement, financial reward, professional recognition, and perceived empowerment. A specialty certification can also function as the means for nurses to achieve higher levels of professional and financial achievement.

What are the benefits of certification?

In many organizations, there is a push for increasing the number of certified nurses. There are varying reasons for this trend which include Magnet designation, Institute of Medicine recommendations etc. Over the past thirty years, the number of research studies that have explored the relationship between certification and nursing practice has been increasing. The results of these studies could be shifting the value that is currently being placed on nurse certification by those who manage health care organizations. There are also increasing data to support that obtaining specialty certification promotes quality patient care, validates nurses’ knowledge and expertise, builds confidence and credibility in professional ability, and demonstrates dedication to nursing as a profession.

Is there evidence-based research that demonstrates the value of specialty certification?

In a study utilizing the Perceived Value of Certification Tool (1), a sample of 2,750 certified (CNOR and/or CRNFA) perioperative nurses was surveyed. Factor analysis identified 3 factors, accounting for 61% of variance: personal value, recognition by others, and professional practice. More than 90% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with statements about the value of certification related to feelings of personal accomplishment and satisfaction, validating specialized knowledge, indicating professional growth, attainment of a practice standard, personal challenge, and professional commitment, challenge, and credibility.
Another recent study (2) revealed higher rates of CPAN and CNOR/CRNFA certification in perioperative units were significantly associated with lower rates of central line-associated bloodstream infections in surgical intensive care units.
Other study (3) showed that hospitals with a larger percentage of nurses who had baccalaureate degrees and certification had lower 30-day mortality and failure to rescue rates for surgical patients. Every 10% increase in the percentage of baccalaureate nurses in hospitals was associated with a 6% decrease in the odds of patients dying (this was for both 30-day mortality and failure to rescue) and every 10% increase in baccalaureate nurses with certification was associated with a 2% decrease in these odds. Years of experience in the hospital did not have a significant effect on patient outcomes.

How many different certifications are there and where can I find a list of them? has compiled an alphabetical list of 183 different nursing certifications along with the appropriate acronyms and links to their certifying organization. Follow the link here:

What percentage of nurses hold a specialty certification?

According to a 2018 report, 40% of American nurses are certified.

Where can I find more information on nursing certifications?

Does certification eliminate the need for competency validation?

Holding a nursing certification does not substitute for clinical competency validation. One of the major reasons for this is the variation in nursing policies and procedures from facility to facility. In addition, skill and knowledge mastery may diminish over time if not refreshed frequently.
1. Gaberson KB, Schroeter K, Killen AR, Valentine WA. The perceived value of certification by certified perioperative nurses. Nurs Outlook. 2003;51:272-276.
2. Boyle DK, Cramer E, Potter C, et al. The relationship between direct-care RN specialty certification and surgical patient outcomes. AORN J. 2014;100(5):511-528.
3. Krapohl G, Manojlovich M, Redman R, Zhang L. Does certification of staff nurses improve patient outcomes? Evid Based Nurs. 2012;15(2):54-55.