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How Do I get a Nursing Certification?

Nurses who attain a master's degree usually specialize.
Nurse practitioner programs are graduate level, with students earning either a master's degree or doctorate upon completion.
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  • Written By: Carol Francois
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 22 September 2014
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In order to obtain a nursing certification, you must meet certain educational and experience requirements. Nursing certification is only available to state-licensed registered nurses. The purpose of a nursing certification is to provide a specific level of education related to a medical specialty.

Nursing certification is managed and issued by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), which is one of the most recognized credentialing institutes in the US. The certification process is a combination of education and clinical experience. Nurses can be employed in a specialty without certification, but can obtain higher salaries with the appropriate nursing certification.

The ANCC offers the different nursing certificates, based on the different types of registered nurses. Nurse practitioners have advanced nursing education credentials and are able to provide a higher degree of care. All nursing certificates issued to nurse practitioners have NP after the name of the specialty.

Clinical nurses have education and experience that is focused on a specific patient type or illness. All nursing certification issued to clinical nurse specialists end with "CNS," which stands for clinical nurse specialists. There are also advanced level certificates available in more specialized areas, such as diabetes management, forensics nursing and nurse executive.

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To get a nursing certification, select the certificate that you want to obtain from the list of options available to you. Each course syllabus provides a course outline, materials required and a list of schools where the course will be offered. Online options are increasingly popular and provide the opportunity to study on your schedule.

Select the course delivery method that works best for you, register for the course with the ANCC and pay the required fee. As you work through the course material, take advantage of the additional resources that are available. These include study groups, multiple choice test banks, online review seminars and weekend review courses.

Schedule the exam date for the course you are taking and write the exam. A minimum mark of 70% is required to pass a nursing certification course. The results will be mailed to you within six to eight weeks.

Upon successful completion, be sure to provide a copy of the certificate to your human resources department. Let your manager know that you have obtained the nursing certification. While nurses with certification make more money on average, you may need to move into a different position to take advantage of the credentials that you have obtained.

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JaneAir
Post 4

@ceilingcat - I think it's difficult for anyone not in the medical field to keep track of all the different people you might see in one doctors visit!

I personally feel a lot more comfortable dealing with a clinical nurse specialist than just a regular nurse if I'm going for something specific. I guess what I mean is, I think an regular nurse is fine for standard visits. But if I'm going to a doctor who is a specialist, I think the nurses who work with him ought to be specialists in that discipline too!

ceilingcat
Post 3

I'm really glad I came across this article. I feel like when I go to a doctors office these days, it's so hard to keep track of who is who! It seems like everyone has a ton of letters after their name! MD, RN, CMA, CNA....who can keep track of all that?

I actually visited a specialist recently, and the nurse who did part of my visit had "CNS" after her name. I was curious as to what that meant, but I never got a chance to ask her! Based on this article, I assume she is a clinical nurse specialist. Very interesting!

dfoster85
Post 2

@ElizaBennett - Being a midwife is certainly a noble calling, but I wouldn't recommend it as a career unless you really feel that pull.

The biggest money for special registered nurse certification is in nurse anesthetist. Many of them make more than pediatricians! The hours are a lot more predictable than midwifery. It's definitely a lot of responsibility, because if something goes wrong, you kill the patient, but if you're comfortable with the high stakes, it's a great way to go.

I had a wonderful nurse anesthetist for my C-section, this buff guy with a shiny bald head named Charles. He reminded us to bring a camera to the OR and took our first family photo. He seemed like he enjoyed working deliveries.

(On the other hand, not such a fan of the nurse anesthetist who did my epidural. The first one didn't take and they had to call the anesthesiologist to do the second. Longest forty-five minutes of my life!)

ElizaBennett
Post 1

If you're starting your career as a nurse, another nursing certification program you might want to consider is Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM). Requirements vary by state, but it's generally a master's degree and it's generally equivalent to a nurse practitioner.

In some areas and with the right doctor support, nurse-midwives do home births. Most, though, deliver in hospitals and hospital birth centers. They do prenatal care and, of course, deliver babies. Generally, they do uncomplicated vaginal deliveries for relatively low-risk moms.

It's certainly a lifestyle commitment, but the demand for midwives is rising. Many OB offices have one or more midwives on staff to help with the patient load, and many women prefer to deliver with a midwife.

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