Recently, a hospital client of ours asked about nursing education related to Magnet Status.
Once upon a time, that conversation might have been exclusively about degrees (the “BSN” in RN to BSN).
But this one was about something different – certifications.
For anyone tuned in, it shouldn’t be a surprise. Professional certifications – short-term skills in general -- are booming themes across industries. Gaps are a concern for everyone. And the rapid pace of change has employers thinking not just about long-term degrees, but paths to the skills needed in the here and now.
Those concerns have heightened significance in healthcare. The industry’s unique business model links provider success to skills in a profound way; not just in patient outcomes (which is of course the gold standard), but reimbursement as well. And quality of service starts with the expertise of the provider – explaining why certifications are often a condition of hire. “Earning a certification demonstrates ongoing competency in a specialty and provides professional credibility,” one nursing administrator told Nurse.com about why certifications are good for nurses. “It demonstrates commitment to lifelong learning and professional development.”
There are a lot of good reasons for nurses to pursue certifications. But we’ve seen them become increasingly popular with healthcare employers as well. Five good reasons why:
They remove barriers to career advancement: Advanced degrees require time, money, and confidence. Understandably, nurses considering them often need assurance they’re moving toward the right specialty. Certifications provide a cost- and time-effective entry, making them an ideal starting point for even greater achievement. “Many facilities make a concerted effort to remove barriers,” wrote Nurse.com, “so nurses feel supported and encouraged to become certified in their specialty.” Cementing the point further is the effect such programs have on participation, with one provider (a client) experiencing a 28% percent uptick in participation after certification rollout, with only a 2% increase in spend.
They support your recruitment and retention strategy: If you ask nurses (and we did), you’ll hear that finances and schedules are top concerns. And both (better pay, more predictable schedules) improve with more advanced clinical roles – something that will require education to achieve. The picture gets even clearer when you see that education benefits outranked even sign-on bonuses in recruitment power, with a quarter of up-and-coming young nurses saying they wouldn’t even consider a job without them.
They support your provider-reimbursement rates: Healthcare’s unique model rewards payment based on quality of service. Certifications support that on two fronts – further improving nurse’s financial picture (completed certificates often net bonuses) and building credibility with patients. “Studies have shown that certified nurses,” one nursing director told Nurse.com, “have a significant impact on patient care and patient safety.”
They allow you to measure your progress: Nurses are pursuing certifications. Don’t you want to help funnel them toward needed specialties – and know where your weak/strong points are? Building certifications into your education program helps you match employees’ goals with your organization’s, giving you an important window into what you have, what you’re short on, and how to get what you need.
They move you along toward Magnet Status: It’s true that degrees (particularly for nursing leaders) are a big part of Magnet Status. But certifications play a big role, too. “When earning Magnet designation,” explained Nurse.com, “healthcare facilities must demonstrate staff has achieved, or is in the process of achieving, specialty or practice certification.”
Finally skills today are so transient, we don’t even know what we don’t know. Certifications – and in fact, all education programs that reimburse beyond degrees -- bestow agility, and the ability for people to explore proficiencies as they develop. It’s the reason so many healthcare employers are gravitating toward programs that support both individual skills (certificates, certifications, etc.) and degrees.
That kind of short- and long-term thinking is in everyone’s best interests.