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  • Writer's pictureJeanette Zocco

The Value of Nursing Specialty Certification

Updated: Mar 22

Nursing Specialty Certification
Nursing Specialty Certification

Specialty certification is a formal means of standardizing and validating knowledge, skills, and abilities specific to an area of study. Taking the extra step to become certified demonstrates competence in a specialty area and reflects a commitment to continued professional growth and development (Dierkes et al, 2021, Institute of Medicine, 2015). Literature has shown that specialty certification paired with BSN education or higher, is associated with improved patient outcomes in lower failure to rescue and mortality rates (Kendall-Gallagher et al, 2011). Direct relationships have also been found between nursing specialty certifications and quality outcomes including fall rates, hospital-acquired infection rates, and improved work environments (Wei et al. 2023). Thus, the value of nursing specialty certification extends well beyond the individual nurse to the patients they serve and the organization within which they work.

Benefits of obtaining Nursing Specialty Certification

  • Increased job satisfaction

  • Potential career ladder advancement

  • Safer care environments for patients

  • Improved clinical outcomes 

  • Increased knowledge and professional growth

  • Greater employability

  • Enhanced professional credibility and opportunities

  • Recognition and/or compensation (hospital dependent)

  • Potential for improved nursing retention and recruitment (Dierkes et al, 2021) 

Facility and Nursing Characteristics Associated with Increased Certification 

A retrospective study by Dierkes et al (2021) evaluated facility and nurse characteristics linked with specialty certification within California, Florida, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. It included 17% Magnet hospitals and 20,454 participating nurses. Of note, hospitals with Magnet designation are required to meet and maintain specific thresholds of specialty certification among their nurses. Most participating hospitals were described as medium or large in bed size, minor or major teaching, and high technology. Results showed the following characteristics associated with increased odds of certification:

  • Better quality work environment ** (most significant)

  • BSN nurses 

  • Major teaching hospitals and those with > 250 beds

  • High-technology hospitals

  • Senior, experienced nurses (> 15 yrs of experience)

  • Full-time status

  • Specialty areas: operating room, oncology, hospice, maternity, intensive care, pediatrics and emergency department 

  • Magnet hospitals 

In summary, specialty certification can benefit patients, nurses, and hospitals. Higher odds of certification are associated with Magnet status, BSN education, positive work environments and specific clinical areas. For boots-on-the-ground staff, certification can be empowering by providing increased clinical knowledge, confidence, credibility, job satisfaction, professional growth, and skills to help maintain patient safety. 

Looking for a certification resource?  To elevate nursing practice and support Obstetric and Neonatal Quality and Safety certification for labor & delivery and mother-baby nurses- check out this study guide available on Amazon:

Copyright by Jeanette Zocco RNC-OB, C-EFM, C-ONQS


Dierkes A., Schlak A., French R., McHugh M., & Aiken L. (2021). Why some nurses obtain specialty certification and others do not. Journal of Nursing Administration, 249–256. doi:10.1097/NNA.0000000000001009

Board on Health Sciences Policy; Institute of Medicine (2015). Future Directions of Credentialing Research in Nursing. National Academies Press (US)

Kendall-Gallagher D., Aiken L., Sloane D., & Cimiotti J. (2011). Nurse specialty certification, inpatient mortality, and failure to rescue. Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 43(2): 188–194. doi:10.1111/j.1547-5069.2011.01391.x

Wei H., Haddad L., Nwokocha T., Powers M., Wei A., Carroll Q., & Ballard N. (2023). Organizational culture and roles in promoting nurse specialty certifications: A qualitative study in the United States, International Journal of Nursing Sciences. 10: 189-198.

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