Certifiable over Certifications

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In labor and delivery nursing, I have to be competent in many specialties in order to care for my patients.

So I shouldn’t have been surprised when the safety nurse called me this week to let me know I have 4 big certifications either newly required or lapsed that need my current attention. Guess what I will be doing this year? Studying. A lot.

This got me to thinking about how I was warned, in nursing school, that nurses are constantly struggling to keep up and stay current and we do so through education. We are “lifetime learners” and all that jazz. True, true. But I didn’t really know what that looked like until I got knee-deep into this profession and realized what it takes in order to truly stay on top of things: lots of time and lots of money.

The cons of getting new certifications has been a little overwhelming: the books I need to purchase, the classes I need to attend outside my normal nursing hours (and as always, night nurses rarely have class offerings that fit their schedules), and the cost of certification. My hospital pays for some certs, but others they only pay when computerized exams are passed. And the BOOKS are pricey.

Then there is the study time. As a busy wife, mom and floor nurse who also teaches as a second job, I wonder when I’ll have time to study? My floor has a 20% volume increase and some staffing issues, so studying during down time is not realistic.  Instead I have to carve out personal time to study, go to classes and take exams.

So, what are the pros? How can I spin this positively?

Yes, I want to be on par nationally with other nurses in my specialty, and I want expertise in my field. Yet I wonder how certifying in an any area guarantees this? Really, experience using these skills are what rounds me out and make me proficient. I am a hands-on learner after all.

Yet I DO learn something new each time I take one of these classes and demonstrate my competency. I also prove to my employer on paper that I’m ok to go. And these certifications look wonderful on my resume.

Anyway, I’m sucking it up–trudging to classes during the (gasp!) daylight, buying huge textbooks to study on my supposed “downtime,” and saving up the money to pay up-front for certifications my hospital requires of me (which makes no sense either). In the end, I’ll be a better nurse, right? Well, at least on paper!

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Amy Bozeman

Amy is many things: a blogger, a nurse, a wife, a mom, a childbirth educator. She started her journey towards a career in nursing when she got pregnant with her first child. After nursing school and studying "like she has never studied before" she entered the nursing profession eager to get her feet wet. The first years provided her with much exposure to sadness, joy and other complex human emotions. She feels that blogging is a wonderful outlet and a way for nurse bloggers to further build their community. Traditionally, midwives have handed down their skill set from midwife to apprentice midwife. She believes nurses have this same opportunity: to pass from nurse to new nurse the rich traditions of this profession.

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7 Responses to Certifiable over Certifications

  1. Sean Dent Scrubs Blogger

    I’m right there with you Amy, I just wish there was a balance between the supply and demand aspect. We spend so much money, yet get little reimbursement – and spotty at that.
    Getting some financial support would surely motivate a few more nurses to become certified, although the ultimate reason for certification should be for all the reasons you have listed.
    Glad I’m not the only one!

  2. I agree that getting certified is a lot of work for little financial reward, but the financial reward isn’t want drives me. If I wanted to be financially well off, nursing wouldn’t have been my career of choice, right? :)

    I think certification is one of the best things a nurse can do for his/herself. I may feel on top of my game at the bedside, but every time I take a new certification test I find something new… a topic I didn’t even know I wasn’t proficient in… and it drives me to learn more. It makes me feel good. I love the letters after my name :)

    This post is a little more in-depth on my thoughts on the topic of certification: http://nursinginfluence.com/nursing-certification/

    -Amy Sellers, RN BSN CCRN CSC CMC

  3. Amy Bozeman Scrubs Blogger

    @ Amy LOL yes the letters behind my name are a bonus! Unfortunately 3/4 of the certs I need to get have no such perk.

    @ Sean I agree–getting some finances to back the time and money spent to aquire certs would be grand indeed!

  4. Jeffrey Bodurka

    Eh it is what it is. I look at it like this, having to re-cert keeps me on my toes and whatever expenses aren’t covered by my employer, well, they are tax deductible anyway. I just wish that the time I spent on it was compensated by time off (which isn’t always the case).

  5. I got certification in Chemical Dependency Nursing and Psych Nursing. I was never reimbursed for anything, no payraise or job stepup. Just a good for you and extra letters after my name. Would I do it again, yes. The way the job market is today I’d get as many certs/ceus that I could to be sure whatever they want I’m it.

  6. Nurse Rene RN

    I held the CCRN certification for 20 years (1989-2009) until I opted for ‘Alumni Status’. What I found during the initial ‘studying’ was that the experience totally changed the way in which I THOUGHT about problems in Critical Care. I noted that I began to look at things from a different perspective and that alone made it worth attaining and keeping the certification. At the time there were 5 of us who decided to take the exam at the SAME TIME and the hospital had a policy which awarded a 10 % raise to anyone who had a National Specialty certification. Needless to say, they dropped THAT policy after having to ‘pony up’ 5 raises all at once!

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