Why Should You Get Certified?
Certification Makes a Difference
Certification in oncology nursing makes a difference—to patients whose care is provided by oncology certified nurses, to employers who must staff their facilities with qualified and experienced nurses, and to the individual nurse who attains certification.
What is Nursing Certification?
Certification is the formal recognition of specialized knowledge, skills and experience in nursing. It is demonstrated by achieving standards identified by a nursing specialty to promote health outcomes. Certification assures the public a nurse has completed all eligibility criteria to earn a specific credential. It also promotes the development of specialty nursing by establishing minimum competency standards and recognizing those who have met the standards.
Certification—It’s More than an RN License
An RN license signifies a nurse has entry-level knowledge to provide care for patients, and is the minimum requirement for professional nurses. An RN license doesn’t indicate whether a nurse has obtained knowledge beyond the minimum, but certification does.
Certification is a voluntary process. It signifies a nurse has experience and specialty knowledge beyond the entry level. Certification examinations in oncology nursing are based on current professional practice, and validate a certified nurse’s knowledge is up to date.
Patients Value Certification
Certification can help patients feel confident about their caregivers. To patients with cancer and their families, certification means the nurse is a qualified caregiver.
When it comes to patient care, knowledgeable nurses are better equipped to recognize problems and take action. In a recent survey, certified nurses scored higher on knowledge of pain and nausea than noncertified nurses.1 Nausea and pain are among the symptoms that most often concern patients with cancer.
In addition, public awareness of certification has grown. Nearly 8 out of 10 people surveyed were aware that nurses could be certified in a specialty area—in fact more aware of nurse certification than teacher or physician certification.2
Nurses Grow Through Certification
Certification can offer personal and professional rewards to the individual nurse who attains it. An overwhelming majority of nurses surveyed said certification validates specialty knowledge, enhances professional credibility, and contributes to feelings of personal accomplishment.3
Professional rewards for certification can vary. Certification is often required for advancement to higher levels on the career ladder, or it may open doors to new professional opportunities. In some instances, certified nurses receive financial incentives in the form of salary differentials or bonuses. A 2006 salary survey indicated certified nurses had an average annual income that was $9,200 higher than nurses who weren’t certified.4
Employers Benefit from Certification
Certification in oncology nursing can help employers who are faced with several challenges, including:
- A continuing shortage of experienced nurses
- An aging population that is at greater risk for developing cancer
- A healthcare system that is experiencing increasing public scrutiny
Supporting certification can help employers recruit and retain highly qualified nurses, by contributing to job satisfaction. Given the high costs associated with staff turnover, supporting certification can be a wise investment.
An aging population is creating demands for nurses who are knowledgeable about cancer care. Approximately 77% of all cancers are diagnosed in people age 55 or older.5 By the year 2030, more than 1 in 5 U.S. residents are expected to be 55 or older.6
Certified nurses can help employers distinguish themselves in the healthcare marketplace. Certification of nursing staff can factor into accreditation granted by agencies such as the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, or distinction by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Magnet Recognition Program™. Certification is also recommended by the Association for Community Cancer Centers Standards for Cancer Programs, and the American College of Radiation Oncology Standards for Radiation Oncology.
Options in Oncology Nursing Certification
In the specialty of oncology nursing, several certifications are available. The OCN® (Oncology Certified Nurse) credential recognizes nurses who have attained basic level certification focusing on adult care. The CPHON® (Certified Pediatric Hematology Oncology Nurse) credential identifies nurses who have attained basic level certification in pediatric care. Role-specific advanced certifications also are available, including AOCNP® (Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner) and AOCNS® (Advanced Oncology Certified Clinical Nurse Specialist). The CBCN® (Certified Breast Care Nurse) credential offers a comprehensive certification for nurses who practice in breast care. Along the entire continuum of cancer care, certified nurses are prepared to deliver knowledgeable, specialized care.
Certified nurses must meet specific eligibility criteria for nursing experience and specialty practice, and pass a rigorous multiple-choice examination. Certifications granted by ONCC are valid for four years and may be renewed by a combination of specialty practice hours, professional development activities or retesting.
More information about certification can be found at www.oncc.org.
1 Coleman, E.A. Effect of Certification in Oncology Nursing on Nursing Sensitive Outcomes. Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing. Volume 13, Number 2.
2 Harris Interactive, Inc. American Association of Critical Care Nurses Survey. November 2002.
3 Value of Specialty Nursing Certification Survey-Executive Summary. May 2006. American Board of Nursing Specialties.
4 Mee, C.L. Salary Survey. October 2006. Nursing 2006. Springhouse Corporation.
5 Cancer Facts & Figures 2009. American Cancer Society. Retrieved October 30, 2009 from http://www.cancer.org/downloads/STT/500809web.pdf.
6 Projections of the Population by Age and Sex for the United States: 2010-2050. US Census Bureau. Retrieved October 30, 2009 from http://www.census.gov/population/www/projections/summarytables.html