As a Registered Nurse, (RN) becoming a bit more knowledgeable in different areas of healthcare is a great way to make yourself more valuable in the workplace as well as to your patients. Whether you work as a permanent staff member in a hospital, as a travel nurse, or per diem nurse, earning nursing certifications is a step in the right direction.
Becoming certified in a nursing specialty is not only a great step for your career, but it is an even greater step for healthcare as a whole. In fact, some studies have shown that nursing certifications lead to better patient outcomes such as a reduced mortality rate. With your certifications, you can improve the quality of life and care for a patient in need.
There are many specialty areas an RN can work and add to their professional background. Specialty area training can be acquired through onsite hospital programs, online, and in-person specialty courses. While 1-2 basic nursing certifications are required for nurses, there are some especially useful for travel nurses and per diem nurses, since these nurses tend to move around and work in different areas.
Most RNs begin with BLS and ACLS training. Both BLS and ACLS cover life support, BLS pertaining to Basic Life Support and ACLS referring to Advanced Cardiac Life Support. RNs are usually required to have taken BLS and ACLS certification courses to work, and these act as an excellent foundation for further nursing certifications.
Some positives of earning certain nursing certifications are that patients greatly benefit from nurses who have attained expert knowledge in specialized fields and you have a wider set of skills to offer employers. Of course, there are a lot of certifications out there that you can earn, making it hard to know where to begin. We’ve compiled seven of the best nurse certifications you can acquire to make yourself more competitive in the job market. We have also listed programs to try, which courses to take, and other preparations you need for optimal success.
A List of The Best Nursing Certifications
1. Neonatal Resuscitation (NRP) Nursing Certification
Neonatal resuscitation or NRP certification focuses on the emergency resuscitation of newborns, especially premature babies. NRP certification classes cover information such as certain maternal risk factors that can lead to a newborn needing resuscitation as well as teach students CPR and airway management. LIke BLS, these nurse certification courses last just one day and consist of an exam and a practical exam administered at the end of the class. NRP certification is good for two years before you have to renew. Nurses who wish to work or are willing to work in labor and delivery and with newborns need to earn this nurse certification. It is incredibly useful and the valuable knowledge can come in handy at any time. This nursing certification course can be taken in a local class or online with costs varying between $80 and $280.
2. Management of Assaultive Behavior (MAB) Nursing Certification
This certification is useful for all types of nurses, from per diem and travel to traditional, because of how it lends itself to everyday life. While some nursing certifications help to equip you for a medical emergency such as cardiac arrest, certification in Management of Assaultive Behavior helps you go above and beyond preparedness during a typical day in the healthcare field. According to the American Heart Association, managing aggressive behavior in the healthcare field is often a problem among healthcare professionals. Nurses equipped with this certification are trained to effectively de-escalate violent behavior and prevent assaults in hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare settings.
This course teaches you to approach behavioral crises in a calm and rational manner, equipping you with the tools you need to talk your way out of a potentially volatile, situation with a patient, family member, or other individuals. The MAB course offered by the American Heart Association is a four-hour class that teaches students methods of crisis negotiation and intervention. The course itself is perfect for nurses looking to work individually or with a group of other nurses and healthcare professionals. With this certification, you will be able to manage your workspace and engage with patients in a safer, more effective way. This course is recognized by the California State Board of Registered Nursing and costs $60 to enroll and attend.
RN to BSN
Are you interested in furthering your education and taking your current nursing degree to the next level? Many RNs consider furthering their career by earning a higher degree, namely a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN). When you earn a BSN, you are in for a world of positive changes. Increased salary, more responsibility, knowledge, and experience are just some of the positive outcomes of enrolling in an RN-to-BSN Program. Such programs tend to focus on three main areas of study according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing:
Cultural Awareness: This refers to gaining a core understanding of the socioeconomic, racial, and religious factors that can influence how a patient receives treatment and medical care in America. It is important to be both culturally aware and sensitive so that all patients receive optimal care when in need.
Professional Development: Professional development is all about learning leadership, communication, and critical thinking skills for the healthcare field. Nurses can especially use these skills as they hold a number of responsibilities in their day-to-day jobs. Professional development also allows nurses to collaborate with their trusted colleagues so that they can create strong interpersonal relationships and grow both as people and professionals.
Skill-Building: This refers to the intermediate and advanced technical skills you will learn throughout the program. These will allow you to widen your area of practice considerably so that you can effectively treat more patients in need.
There are many RN-to-BSN programs to choose from. In fact, there are over 700 accredited programs throughout the United States with over 400 of them being partially or totally online. Before you can get into an RN-to-BSN program, however, there are a few requirements you must meet first:
Start With Holding Your Nursing License: either an Associate’s Degree of Nursing or a Nursing Diploma will do
You May Have to Complete Some Special Exams: Depending on the program you choose, you may have to complete the Elsevier’s HESI Admission Assessment, which covers mathematics, grammar, biology, chemistry, anatomy/physiology, language skills and vocabulary, and reading comprehension
You Must Undergo a Criminal Background Check: This includes a physical exam and drug screening as well
General Admissions Criteria: This includes but is not limited to a cumulative GPA of 2.0 or higher, a personal essay on your application, and a diploma in nursing or transcript of prior nursing courses.
RN-to-BSN programs are usually 120 credit hours, meaning they are about 2 years long depending on your pace. They require 60 lower division undergraduate courses, 30 upper division nursing courses, and 30 credits earned from practical and clinical training as well as equivalency exams. The cost of an RN-to-BSN program will vary depending on the program you choose and you can learn about financial aid and scholarships here.
3. Acute/Critical Care Nursing (CCRN)
Nurses looking to provide care to critically/acutely ill adult patients either on a per diem basis or as a travel nurse should consider CCRN certification. This nurse certification course prepares you for work in intensive care units, cardiac care units, trauma centers, and critical care transport. To earn CCRN certification, you must have a current U.S. RN or APRN license and must have completed either one of these clinical practice hour requirement options:
Two-Year Option: This option requires you to have practiced as an RN or APRN for 1,750 hours in direct care of critically or acutely ill adult patients within the last two years. 875 of those hours must have been completed in the most recent year before applying for CCRN certification.
Five-Year Option: This option requires you to have practiced as an RN or APRN for at least five years with at least 2,000 hours in the direct care of a critically or acutely ill adult patient. 144 of those hours must have been earned in the most recent year before applying for CCRN certification.
4. AIDS Certified Registered Nurse (ACRN)
Earning your ACRN means you have expert knowledge and experience in providing nursing care for patients suffering from HIV/AIDS. This nurse certification indicates that have been trained to interact with and handle all elements of this disease, including the psychosocial and physical issues that come with it. Nurses who hold this certification usually work in specialty clinics as well as infectious disease units in hospitals. This is a very valuable certification to have and it can only be earned if you are qualified to take the exam, meaning you must already have two years HIV/AIDS work experience.You can learn more about ACRN cost, how long the nurse certification course takes, and renewal policy at the HANCB Organization website.
5. Certified ICU RN (AACN)
Certification in critical care is important and valuable for any nurse. Becoming certified in adult, pediatric, and neonatal nursing gives you a wide breadth of experience to pull from when working in different hospitals and clinics as a per diem nurse. Holding these individual nursing certifications keeps you up-to-date on all the ins and out of critical care nursing, allowing each new space you visit to benefit from your presence and acute knowledge of critical care nursing. Further, these nursing certifications validates your personal knowledge of care for critically ill patients to your peers, patients themselves, and even hospital administrators and other colleagues.
How to get certified
To earn this certification, you must currently hold an up-to-date and unencumbered license as an RN or APRN in the U.S. Practiced as an RN or APRN for 1,750 hours in direct care for an acutely/critically ill patient within the last 2 years. 875 of these hours must have been earned in the most recent year prior to application.
Practiced as an RN or APRN for at least 5 years with at least 2,000 hours of ex[erience in direct care of an acutely or critically ill patient. Of those 2,000+ hours, 144 should have been earned in the most recent year before applying.
The CCRN exam can be taken all year round from Monday to Saturday. There are also over 300 testing centers across the United States. To learn more about this option, visit here.
6. Trauma Nursing Core Course (TNCC) Certification
You can earn your TNCC in just two days thanks to the Trauma Nurse Core Course offered by the Emergency Nurses Association. This certification course is designed to provide nurses with “core level” trauma knowledge and psychomotor skills necessary for the delivery of care to a trauma patient.
You will learn through lectures and practical skill stations on a Saturday and Sunday respectively to earn your certification card if you are an RN, and C.E. credits for LVNS and paramedics. The card verifies successful completion of the course and program, allowing you to work in the trauma ward and with trauma patients. Registration for your course should take place one month before the course date and cost can range between $600-$700 for enrollment and your textbook. There are any TNCC certification programs to check out, but you can begin your search here.
7. Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse (AOCN) Certification
This certification indicates that you have met all the requirements to become a specialized nurse in the oncology field, making you an even more valuable hire as a travel nurse or per diem. Before you can take the AOCN exam, however, you must have completed 1000 from the last two and a half years of nursing work in oncology. In addition to this, you must have completed continuing education credits of 10 hours in oncology work before the exam. Though this nurse certification course has more requirements than others, it is a useful certification to hold due to high demand and patient need. Finally, you must know the eight major categories of oncology knowledge before engaging with this certification type. Some categories include the quality of life issue and the physiological effects of cancer on the body. Learn more about this certification type as well as program duration, renewal fees, testing, and more here.
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