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Nursing Certification: More than Alphabet Soup (Podcast)

Earning a specialty certification, and the right to use its acronym after your name, signifies expertise and a commitment to patient care

There are nearly 200 nursing certifications encompassing the breadth of specialties within the profession. With so many options – and nurses often on the move from one position to another – some wonder why they should become certified.


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“Other than the personal benefits of the achievement, for the [healthcare] organization it really signifies that you have a drive for patient care,” says Katelynn Milliken, MSN-Ed, MBA, RN, CPHON, Magnet Program Manager at Cleveland Clinic Akron General. “We know based on research that certified nurses provide higher quality of care.”

As a member of Nursing Shared Governance at Akron General, Milliken participates on a sub-council promoting certification. In a recent episode of Cleveland Clinic’s Nurse Essentials podcast, she discusses nurse specialty certification, including:

  • How to decide when the time is right and which certification to take
  • Personal and professional benefits of certification
  • Advice for nurses on how to prepare for exams
  • Financial incentives offered by many healthcare organizations, including payment of exam fees
  • The decision to pursue recertification or a second certification in another specialty


Click the podcast player above to listen to the episode now, or read on for a short edited excerpt. Check out more Nurse Essentials episodes at my.clevelandclinic.org/podcasts/nurse-essentials or wherever you get your podcasts.

Podcast excerpt

Podcast host Carol Pehotsky, DNP, RN, NEA-BC: What would you say to that nursing student about, when is it the right time? When have I had enough experience to even try? And you and I both had that similar, “I don’t know that I want to be in this specialty when I grow up.” So, how do they make that decision about that first certification?

Milliken: Yeah, it can be really difficult at first to think, “If I get this specific certification, I kind of need to stay in this field.” And that’s not really the case.

So, when I actually have nursing students – or what I tell people to tell nursing students – is that it’s not just a way for personal achievement, but also a way to learn more about the patients that you’re caring for.

We all in nursing school get a range of topics that we learn about. But after nursing school, you go into a particular field of nursing, and there’s all these things that you didn’t learn about. And we all have to do continuing education units (CEs) regardless for our license. And one of the prerequisites, you could say, to become certified is you have to have so many CEs to become certified in that area.

So, it’s actually a really great way to learn when you’re a brand-new nurse – to seek out particular learning CEs in that particular field – so that you can learn more to be a better nurse. And that could go toward your certification.

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