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Like many registered nurses, one of the things that probably initially attracted you to nursing was the promise of exceptional pay. Right out of nursing school, you should be able to get a nursing job that offers a pretty good salary and other benefits. However, if you aspire to move through the ranks and want access to the best positions and most competitive pay, it helps to earn certain certifications.
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- Trauma Nursing Care Course (TNCC)
- Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP)
- Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse (AOCN)
- Basic Life Support (BLS)
- Emergency Room Pediatric Course (ENPC)
- AIDS Certified Registered Nurse (ACRN)
- Pediatric Advanced Life Support Course (PALS)
- Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS)
- STABLE Program
- National Institute of Health Stroke Scale (NIHSS)
Unlike advanced practice specializations like Certified Nurse Midwife, which require a graduate-level education, the certifications that are outlined below are typically available to entry-level nurses. None require a master of science in nursing, or MSN.
1. Trauma Nursing Care Course (TNCC)
This certification verifies that you have the skills that are needed to properly manage and care for trauma patients. This certification is required for some nurses, including those who work in trauma centers and ERs. When it is required, employers usually pay for it. Otherwise, you can expect to pay around $300 to take the course, which runs 16 to 20 hours. In return, you will receive a four-year certification.
2. Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP)
Developed based on guidelines that have been set forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics, or AAP, and the American Heart Association, or AHA, this certification confirms that you have the skills that are needed to provide emergency care and resuscitation to newborns. You can obtain this certification by completing a four-hour course, which typically costs around $140. It may be free if you work in labor and delivery, the neonatal intensive care unit or in another neonatal area, as your employer may pay for it.
3. Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse (AOCN)
To obtain this certification, you must take and pass a certification exam. However, you won't be eligible to sit for the exam without meeting certain requirements. You must have at least 1,000 hours of experience in oncology within the last 2.5 years of your nursing career. You must also complete 10 hours of continuing education credits in oncology.
4. Basic Life Support (BLS)
Technically, all registered nurses are required to have this certification. It also must be maintained, so it is crucial not to let it lapse. Make sure to obtain this certification from an AHA instructor and that the course is an AHA-sanctioned course. Upon completion, you will receive a certification that is valid for two years. At the two-year mark, you must renew the certification. It costs around $50 to do so.
5. Emergency Room Pediatric Course (ENPC)
If you find yourself gravitating toward caring for infants and enjoy the fast pace of the ER, you may want to obtain this certification. It is often required for nurses who work in NICUs and ERs. If so, your employer may cover the cost of obtaining the certification, which is around $300. For that price, you will be able to complete a 16-hour program and come away with a certification that lasts for four years.
6. AIDS Certified Registered Nurse (ACRN)
Registered nurses who work directly with patients who are HIV positive or who have AIDS typically obtain this certification. As an AIDS certified registered nurse, or ACRN, you will be responsible for assisting patients with the physical, psychological and social issues that go along with the disease. You will also work to educate their families to ensure that they receive optimal care and support. ACRNs typically work in infectious disease units within hospitals, and many work in specialty clinics. To receive this certification, you'll need at least two years of experience in working with HIV/AIDS patients.
7. Pediatric Advanced Life Support Course (PALS)
This certification shows prospective employers that you have the expertise that is needed to effectively resuscitate and stabilize infants and children who are experiencing cardiopulmonary arrest, which is otherwise known as heart attack. If you want to work in the ICU, NICU, ER or pediatric department, you will likely be required to obtain this certification. If so, the cost will likely be covered by your employer. Otherwise, it costs around $140, and you get a two-year certification.
8. Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS)
Offered by the AHA, this certification demonstrates that you are capable of participating in or managing a code. Nurses who work in ERs and ICUs are usually required to have this certification, but it can be a great way to boost your marketability. If it's required, your employer will probably pay for it. The course, which costs around $150 and results in a two-year certification, teaches you how to identify different heart rhythms and to identify basic arrhythmia.
9. STABLE Program
The "STABLE" in this certification is an acronym that is used to remind nurses of the six parameters or assessments that should be performed to determine a patient's overall stability. These are sugar, temperature, airway, blood pressure, lab work and emotional support. Upon completing an eight-hour course, which costs around $150, you will receive a two-year certification that will show prospective employers that you possess these crucial skills.
10. National Institute of Health Stroke Scale (NIHSS)
Unlike the other certifications on this list, this one is completely free. You can even work toward it on your own and at your own pace, as it is offered online and is a self-paced program. This certification shows that you understand how to assess a stroke patient and how to determine the severity of a stroke. Once you have completed the course, you'll get a two-year certification that is sure to make you more marketable.
As you can see, you don't have to spend a fortune or waste a lot of time to obtain crucial nursing certifications. Later in your career, you might consider going back to earn your MSN so that you can move into an advanced practice specialization.