Professional certification is a voluntary designation earned by individuals who demonstrate an exceptional level of competency, skill, and knowledge in their field.
The Accreditation Board for Specialty Nursing Certification defines certification as:
The formal recognition of the specialized knowledge, skills, and experience demonstrated by the achievement of standards identified by a nursing specialty to promote optimal health outcomes.1 After meeting defined eligibility criteria, a certification candidate achieves a nationally recognized credential through successful completion of a rigorous examination.
The National Organization for Competency Assurance (NOCA) characterizes certification as follows:
The certification of specialized skill-sets affirms a knowledge and experience base for practitioners in a particular field, their employers, and the public at large. Certification represents a declaration of a particular individual's professional competence. In some professions certification is a requirement for employment or practice.2
NOCA identifies the benefits of certification, as:
- Higher wages for employees in the form of bonuses, education assistance or higher salaries.
- A more productive and highly trained workforce for employers.
- Prestige for the individual and a competitive advantage over non-certified individuals in the same field.
- Enhanced employment opportunities.
- Assisting employers in making more informed hiring decisions.
- Assisting consumers in making informed decisions about qualified providers.
- Protection of the general public from incompetent and unfit practitioners.
- Establishment of a professional standard for individuals in a particular field.3
The American Nurses Credentialing Center describes certification this way:
"Board certification" is a term that has been used for a number of years by various healthcare professions, typically by medicine, to distinguish individuals who meet a pre-defined educational preparation for practice and are able to demonstrate competency, usually through passing an examination.
This certification is conferred by a specialty board or group of professionals who establish the criteria (education and testing standards). The same process occurs in nursing through the boards on certification of individual nursing certifying bodies.
Board certification recognizes nurses who have met the educational preparation required for the role, the specialty practice requirement necessary (advanced practice nurses meet this specialty requirement through their educational preparation), and who have passed the board certification exam.
Board certification is an important way to distinguish that a nurse has a met a level of distinction and knowledge indicating professional nursing practice. Board certification also gives the public some assurance that the individual must engage in lifelong learning to maintain and renew their certification, and in the case of advanced practice nurses their authorization/licensure to practice. The public recognizes the significance of this achievement and it provides some assurance that the individual who is caring for them has acquired a predetermined level of knowledge in the specialty area of practice.4
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- ANCC Commission on Certification, January 2008