Certificate Programs, Certification, and Credentialing
Health Care Practitioner Accreditation
Certificate Programs and Certification--How Do They Differ?
A certificate program is an educational program that awards a certificate after the program is completed. Certificate programs are open to anyone and they provide the learner with specific skills and knowledge. They are often useful in the workplace as a way of demonstrating additional knowledge or skill in a subject area. They are helpful to individuals who are seeking to improve their knowledge in a particular area, obtain continuing education credit toward a national certification, or change careers. A certificate of completion is awarded at the end of the program. Credentials (i.e. "letters" after a name) are not awarded for a certificate program.
Often, healthcare organizations will offer their own internal "credentialing" program to teach their staff specific skills or procedures. These programs are often designed to meet the criteria of that specific organization and involve a combination of classes, an exam, and practicum. These programs apply to the practice within that organization since they are usually not certified by an independent, third-party agency. This type of certificate program is not nationally recognized and does not award credentials.
A certification refers to an earned credential that demonstrates specialized knowledge, skills, and experience. Certification is a voluntary process of validating knowledge, skills, and abilities beyond the scope of the nursing (or other healthcare) license. Certification is awarded by a third-party, nongovernmental entity. Certification candidates receive their credential only after they meet strict eligibility criteria and successfully completing a standardized exam. Credentials are nationally recognized and they are also portable so they can be used in all states and all organizations. Certification credentials are often good for a period of time (such as 5 years) and include ongoing requirements that must be met to keep the certification current. The recertification process usually includes a combination of continuing education and experience in the subject area to ensure that credential holders have maintained a specific level of expertise in their specialty and that they participate in activities that support competency in their specialty.
Certificate vs. Certification Exams
Often an exam is required to complete a certificate program. This exam is very different from a certification exam. Certificate exams are developed by the organization that created the course content. Certification exams are comprised of standardized exam questions based on national studies of job analyses and nursing/health care roles. Certification exams are administered in a secure and proctored environment, they undergo regular statistical psychometric analyses that measure the fairness and difficulty of the exam questions.
For further information about certification, check these agencies.
Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE) http://www.credentialingexcellence.org/
National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) http://www.credentialingexcellence.org
American Board of Nursing Specialties (ABNS) http://nursingcertification.org/
Nursing Credentialing Organizations
Select one of the major credentialing entities listed below to learn more about their respective certification programs for nurses.
- American Nurses Association
- American Nurses Credentialing Center
- American Holistic Nurses' Certification Corporation
- American Association of Critical Care Nurses
- Professional nursing associations in specialty practice areas
The American Nurses Association/American Nurses Credentialing Center
- identifies nurses with strong professional development standards
- is a measure of professional competency
- is recognized by all state boards of nursing and the U.S. military
- validates nurses' skills, knowledge, and abilities
- empowers nurses within their profession
- contributes to better patient outcomes
The ANA's credentialing arm, the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), is the largest nurse credentialing organization in the United States. More than 250,000 nurses have been certified by ANCC since 1991.
The ANCC offers certification for nurses, nurse practitioners, and advanced practice nurses in more than two dozen specialties. For further information on ANA/ANCC certifications, visit their Web sites.
American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Corporation
The American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Corporation (AHNCC) offers certification for holistic nurses. Nurses are certified at several levels. ALLEGRA Learning's courses are accredited by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and several certificate programs are also nationally endorsed by the American Holistic Nurses Association. Many of these courses/certificate programs meet the education requirements for the AHNCC national certification exam in holistic nursing.
American Association of Critical Care Nurses
The American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN) offers its own credentialing program specifically for critical care nurses. Like the ANA/ANCC, an AACN credential requires a qualifying examination and has its own set of requirements which RNs must meet in order to take the credentialing examination.
AACN offers certification for staff nurses in multiple areas including:
- acute care
- critical care
- progressive care
- cardiac medicine
- cardiac surgery
- advanced practice (clinical nurse specialist)
- nurse manager and leader
Other Professional Nursing Associations in Specialty Practice Areas
Several professional nursing associations representing various specialty areas have their own credentialing programs. Some offer credentials that compete with the credentials offered by the ANA/ANCC while others offer credentials for specialties for which the ANA/ANCC do not have an equivalent. Each nurse is encouraged to perform the appropriate research on the credential that he or she feels meets their own specific career needs before making a selection. The list below provides you with some resources for that research.
- Addictions Nursing International Nurses Society on Addictions
- Ambulatory Care American Academy of Ambulatory Care
- Diabetes Educators National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators
- Emergency Nursing Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing
- Gastroenterology Nursing American Board of Certification for Gastroenterology Nurses
- HIV/AIDS Nursing HIV/AIDS Nursing Certification Board
- Infectious Disease Nursing Certification Board of Infection Control and Epidemiology
- Infusion Nursing Infusion Nurses Certification Corporation
- Legal Nurse Consultants American Legal Nurse Consultant Certification Board
- Nutrition Support National Board for Nutrition Support Certification
- OB/GYN National Certification Corporation
- Maternal, Neonatal Nursing National Certification Corporation
- Neonatal Nurses National Association of Neonatal Nurses
- Oncology Nursing Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation
- Orthopedic Nursing Orthopedic Nurses Certification Board
- Pain Management American Academy of Pain Management
- Pediatric Nursing Pediatric Nursing Certification Board
- Perioperative Nursing Competency & Credentialing Institute
- Plastic Surgical Nursing American Society of Plastic Surgical Nursing
- Peri- and Post-Anesthesia Nursing American Board of Perianesthesia Nursing Certification
- Rehabilitation Nursing Association of Rehabilitation Nurses
- School Nursing National Board of Certification for School Nurses
- Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nursing Certification Board
Emergency Cardiovascular Care Credentialing
- Cardiovascular Care/Life Support Courses for Health Professionals
- Basic Life Support Health Care Provider Course (BLS)--A half-day course designed to provide a wide variety of health care professionals with the ability to recognize life-threatening emergencies, provide CPR, use an AED, and relieve choking in a safe, timely, and effective manner. Noncertified, licensed, and nonlicensed health care professionals attend this course.
- Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support Course (ACLS)
- Pediatric Advance Life Support Course (PALS)
- Cardiovascular/Life Support Courses for the public include CPR for Family and Friends, Heartsaver AED, and Heartsaver First Aid
- CPR and First Aid Courses for professional rescuers, community members, and workplaces.
- Emergency/Trauma Nursing Courses