The Role Of Credentialing in Nursing

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Nearly a decade ago, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) called for nurses to take a greater role in America’s healthcare system by handling more responsibilities and achieving higher levels of education.  Nurses have heeded the call and continue to seek credentialing that validates nursing skill, knowledge, and ability.

Nurses reviewing information on tablet

Nurse credentialing is available in a vast array of skill sets and comes with an alphabet soup of post-nominal initials. Healthcare leaders say credentialing has a solid place in nursing because it expands education by recognizing and encouraging professional developments and achievements.

“As healthcare has become more complex, it has become increasingly vital to assure the public that healthcare professionals are competent,” the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN), the world’s largest nursing specialization organization, said.

Credentialing is available to registered nurses (RNs) and advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). In seeking credentialing, some APRNs also earn post-graduate certificates in specific fields, including Family (Individual Across the Lifespan) Nurse Practitioner (FNP), Forensic Nursing or Nursing Education.

Everyone with interest in the U.S. healthcare system—including patients, medical facilities, and other nurses—consider credentials as a vital part of modern nursing.

Benefits of Earning Nursing Credentials

About 40 boards and centers offer credentialing in various nursing specialties. Among the most prominent are the AACN, the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), and the Medical-Surgical Nursing Certification Board (MSNCB).

Each certifying body has its own set of requirements, which typically includes a master’s degree, hours of experience, and successful completion of a certification exam. Most of the certifying bodies are members of the Accreditation Board for Specialty Nursing Certification (ABSNC). To be certified as an accredited board, organizations must meet more than a dozen standards, including advanced testing security and standardized eligibility criteria for test candidates.

For nurses, credentialing begins after successfully completing the National Council Licensing Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) exam and following the steps for individual state licensure.

From there, a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) provides advanced credentialing that promotes greater career diversity and healthcare aptitude. At Duquesne University, students have the option of earning an online MSN degreewith specializations as an FNP, forensic nurse, and nurse educator. After an MSN degree, Duquesne University students can also earn post-master’s certificates and, later, an online Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or online doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) in nursing.

Experts say advanced credentialing is advantageous for nurses, their employers, and the public. The AACN noted some of the benefits as follows:

  • Americans prefer nurses who have specialty certification. A survey cited by the AACN said 73 percent of American consumers are more likely to select a hospital that employs a higher percentage of nurses with certifications and advanced credentials.
  • With the increasing complexity of healthcare, specialty nurses are more important than ever because they have the skills and experience to help patients.
  • Nurses with advanced education are happier at their jobs and less likely to seek employment in a new workplace. Certification boosts confidence in nursing and provides personal career satisfaction.
  • Continuing education better prepares nurses to make informed decisions. One of the leading malpractice insurance firms, Marsh Affinity Services, offers a 10 percent discount for certified acute and critical care nurses.

Displaying Nurse Credentials

All nurses earn various certifications and credentials that allow them to legally practice. In 2009, the American Nurses Association (ANA) outlined its official position on credentialing, saying it is an “essential component to designate levels of attained education and licensure, certification, and professional achievement.”

The ANA recommends credentials be displayed in a standardized manner across the field of nursing to ensure “credibility and competence to the consumer of nursing care.”

“Standardized use strengthens a unified understanding of credentials among nurses, within the healthcare delivery system, and for healthcare consumers,” the ANA stated.

The ANA recommends credentials be displayed in order as follows:

  1. Educational degrees: The highest earned degree goes first, including doctoral degrees (Ph.D. and DNP), Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), or Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN).
  2. Licensure: The licensure required to practice nursing including RN or LPN.
  3. State designation or requirement: Advanced level of practice, including APRN, Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), and Nurse Educator (NE).
  4. National certification: Certification awarded by an accrediting body (such as the ANCC), including Family Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified (FNP-BC).
  5. Awards and honors: Recognition for outstanding achievements, including Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing (FAAN).
  6. Other certifications: Including non-nursing certifications recognizing additional skills.

For example, if Susan Jones, an RN, earned a MSN and has a nursing certification in critical care nursing (CCRN), her credentials would be displayed as follows:

  • Susan Jones, MSN, RN, APRN, CCRN

Nurses who have more than one of the same type of credential should list the highest education degree first. Usually, listing one degree is sufficient. For nurses who have a second degree in a relevant field, it can be listed as well.

For example, if Susan Jones also has a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) and is working in an executive position in healthcare, she can list her credentials with the high non-nursing degree leading the list:

  • Susan Jones, MBA, MSN, RN

Most states require credentials on legal documents, such as prescriptions and medical records. Credentials are also vital in professional activities, such as speaking engagements, research publications, and during legal or legislative testimony.

Nursing credentials are also beneficial for nurses who plan to enter advanced degree programs.

About Duquesne University’s Online Post-Master’s Certificate Program

Nurses who have earned an MSN degree and plan to further their credentials should pursue online Post-Master’s Certificates. The University’s specialization program—Family (Individual Across the Lifespan) Nurse Practitioner, Forensic Nursing or Nurse Education and Faculty Role—allow nurses to expand their skillset and open their career options.

At Duquesne University, the online post-master’s certificate coursework allows candidates to continue their careers while learning new skills. For more information, contact Duquesne University today.