Becoming a Nurse: Certification and Certificates
There are considerable differences between certification and certificates. Educational organizations and schools give certificates to indicate that a person completed a program, while certifying agencies certify an individual's mastery and competency via a set of standards. For example, a nurse can receive a certificate in complementary-alternative medicine (CAM) after completing an 11-hour continuing education course, but that does not indicate that the nurse has achieved a level of mastery in CAM.
The American Legal Nurse Consultant Certification Board (ALNCCB) certifies legal nurse consultants through their Legal Nurse Consultant Certified (LNCC) program. To meet their criteria for certification a person must be a licensed registered nurse who has practiced for at least five years, and who has evidence of completing 2,000 hours of legal nurse consulting experience in the last three years. Once this criteria is met, the nurse then successfully passes a certification exam. The ALNCCB clearly delineates between certification and certificate:
Certification versus Certificate
|1. Results from a standardized assessment of a nurse's knowledge, skills, and competencies in a specific area||1. Results from an educational activity|
|2. Usually requires professional experience||2. May be for novices or experienced nurses|
|3. Awarded by a third party, usually a standard-setting organization and usually not for profit||3. Awarded by the educational organization that provides the educational activity; usually for profit|
|4. Indicates mastery and competence according to set standards, usually via an application or examination||4. Indicates a course or series of courses other than a degree|
|5. Standards set through a defensible, professionally recognized process that results in an outline of required knowledge and skills||5. Course content determined by providing agency or institution; usually not standardized|
|6. Typically results in credentials to be used after name, such as LNCC (Legal Nurse Consultant Certified)||6. Usually results in a notation on one's resume|
|7. Has ongoing requirements to maintain certification or to recertify so that nurses show they continue to meet the requirements for certification||7. Nothing further occurs once course is completed and certificate is awarded|
The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) is the largest nursing credentialing organization in the world. More than 75,000 advanced practice nurses are currently certified by the ANCC, which offers nursing certification in 26 different areas. The ANCC certifies nurses in their specialties or at advanced practice levels. Nurses can be ANCC certified in the following specialties: ambulatory care, cardiac rehabilitation, cardiovascular nursing, case management, college health, community health, geriatric nursing, high-risk perinatal (before/during/after birth) nursing, home health, informatics (technology), maternal-child nursing, medical-surgical nursing, nurse executive, nursing professional development, pain management, pediatric nursing, perinatal nursing, psychiatric mental-health nursing, and school nursing. ANCC certified advanced practice nurses are nurse practitioners, clinical specialists, or other specialists. ANCC certified nurses can renew their certification every six years through continuing education, academic credits, presentations, publications, and/or preceptorship, as well as the completion of 1,000 hours of clinical practice in their certification area, or they can retake and pass the certification exam.
There are other organizations that certify specific areas of nursing. The Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (www.pncb.org) has certification programs for pediatric nurses and primary care pediatric nurse practitioners, and the only certification program for acute care pediatric nurse practitioners. The American Midwifery Certification Board (www.amcbmidwife.org) certifies nurse midwives, and the Council on Certification of Nurse Anesthetists (www.aana.com) certifies nurse anesthetists. Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners can become certified through the International Association of Forensic Nurses. These organizations also have methods for maintaining or renewing certification.
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