A Cleveland Clinic Hospital’s Nursing Team Levels Up With Certifications

Group goal-setting and support bolster achievement

Lutheran Hospital certifications

In healthcare careers, lifelong learning is critical for optimal patient care and for ongoing professional growth. With the help of teamwork and encouragement from leaders, eight perioperative nurses at Cleveland Clinic Lutheran Hospital recently earned certifications. Three received certifications in operating room nursing, three in ambulatory surgery nursing and two in post-anesthesia nursing.

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“Certification not only reassures patients that they are receiving care from highly trained individuals, but it also reinforces the value they bring to the table,” says Ashley Morrison, MSN, RN, Nurse Manager, 4A Procedures / 4B Outpatient Surgery / PACU. “This is an opportunity for our nurses to enhance their skills and showcase the expertise they offer the patients and families in their care.”

Working Together for Success

Increasing certifications is a key goal for the hospital’s perioperative department this year, and leaders — particularly nurse managers and assistant nurse managers — offered ongoing support. This included raising awareness about the benefits of the certifications as well as the resources at their disposal, such as a program called Take Two.

“If enough nurses come together and plan on taking the exam in a specified period of time, they will have two opportunities to do so,” says Bryan Coyle, BSN RN CNOR, Assistant Nurse Manager at Lutheran Hospital’s operating room. “If they don’t pass the first time, they have three to six months to retake the test at no additional charge.

“Knowing you can take advantage of this program if you need it can offer additional confidence and incentive to the nurses considering taking the exam,” he adds.

In addition to the second chance, he says, there’s value in a group of colleagues also working toward certification at the same time. It is beneficial for the nurses to study together and prepare for the examination. Every nurse who achieves certification, he adds, demonstrates to peers that they can be successful as well.

Nursing leaders also invested in updated resources for the team, including relevant textbooks and other study materials. “We made sure the nurses had the necessary tools to study for the exams,” says Coyle. “These resources, especially flashcards, were very helpful as they prepared.”

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“Certification demonstrates a high level of clinical competence and skills, and is important for professional growth,” says Kathleen Gonzalez, DNP RN, Nursing Director of Peri-Operative Services. “It is inspiring to see the nurse manager team come together to support their frontline caregivers so that they have the resources needed on the unit for success.”

Rick Discenza, BSN RN CNOR, Assistant Nurse Manager in Lutheran Hospital’s operating room, notices that earning additional certification can help patients and their families feel more confident about care. “When patients see that certification on your badge, it signifies why they chose Cleveland Clinic,” he says.

From a professional standpoint, he adds, it strengthens your resume and helps with career advancement. “If your institution is willing to help you become a better nurse, why wouldn’t you take advantage of that opportunity?”

Institutional Support

Building certification momentum among nursing staff depends on support at all levels of the healthcare organization. This includes being proactive and encouraging, and offering incentives.

For instance, Cleveland Clinic now pays the upfront costs of certification.

“There is a significant financial commitment to pay for the examination and by hospital handling those costs from the beginning, staff members may be more likely to decide to take the exam,” Coyle says. “Nurses no longer have to pay for the exam and wait for reimbursement. There are few times in life where one examination can make such a substantial lifetime salary improvement, as it literally pays to be certified.”

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Goal setting and open-lines of communication are also important. Gonzalez notes that certification is part of perioperative team’s established Outcomes and Key Results (OKRs).

This may be helpful for other organizations looking to encourage more nurses to earn certifications.

“Push for employees to put it as their individual development plans,” she suggests. “Bring up certification during check-ins and annual performance reviews to see what support they need from leadership to reach their individual goal.”

“Having team discussions and highlighting the advantages of certification is one of the best ways to get people on board,” Morrison says. “Ongoing conversations and encouragement are key when it comes to getting more nurses certified.”