Nurse Keith: Nursing Education and Certification as Keys to Success

Nurse Keith: Nursing Education and Certification as Keys to Success

When a nurse desires to move his or her nursing career forward, there are many means to that end. Certification and further formal education are both viable pathways to professional development and a positive nursing career trajectory. 

An inspired and meaningful nursing career

Professional growth as a nurse is a singular experience, not a one-size-fits-all predetermined pattern. While earning an initial nursing degree and license are essential, the rest is up for grabs and determined by the goals and aspirations of each individual nurse.

Whereas one nurse’s idea of professional fulfillment and success is the achievement of a terminal degree (DNP), another nurse’s ultimate goal is to maximize his skills in triage, assessment, and trauma in hopes of working with Doctors Without Borders in war-torn areas around the globe. Another nurse may want a bachelor’s degree and a position as a school nurse. Every path is equally valid.

A journey within the nursing profession need not look a certain way, even as professors, colleagues, and others tend to prescribe the path they feel is most efficacious. Each nurse must choose what makes the most sense based on financial need, family obligations, available resources, interests, strengths, and personal aspirations. Whether certification, higher education, or hands-on experience is pursued, the desired end result is an inspired and meaningful nursing career.

Certification can matter

Not all nurses pursue certifications in their chosen area of nursing specialty, but those who do may find certain doors opening that may not have otherwise been ajar.

Certain units or employers favor nurses who have chosen to double down on their expertise and demonstrate a serious commitment to excellence in their chosen specialty. The earning of a professional certification shows how a nurse values his or her career path and development as a healthcare professional.

Certification may open doors to employment opportunities, but it also has an impact on self-esteem. Some certification processes are quite rigorous, and nurses can receive a personal boost from achieving certified status.

Likewise, certifications add another layer of professional depth to a nursing resume as a professional statement of serious intent to develop deep expertise.

The higher education pathway

As mentioned earlier, some nurses doggedly pursue a terminal degree in hopes of achieving the maximum level of nursing education possible. This is a laudable aspiration if it fulfills the nurse in meaningful ways.

Other nurses find that simply moving from ADN to BSN is a satisfying professional leap that provides increased marketability and opportunity. With the acknowledgment that some hospitals are closing their doors to nurses with an ADN, elevation to a bachelor’s can be a prudent move.

There are myriad masters-level programs for nurses and nursing leaders, including but not limited to healthcare administration, informatics leadership, and a variety of clinical specialties for both primary and acute care nurse practitioner. The road to becoming a clinical nurse specialist is also well represented in the halls of higher nursing learning, and the need for such specialized nursing care will certainly rise with the ageing of the worldwide population.

The plethora of choices available to nurses seeking to further their formal education is astounding in the 21st century. Nurses have come into their own as valued and valuable members of a dynamic healthcare ecosystem, and opportunities abound for the achievement of leadership and clinical excellence.

The path is personal

In the final analysis, the path to nursing career fulfillment does not lie either with certification or higher education; in fact, it may lie entirely outside of either of those constructs. However, for a majority of nurses, earning certification and higher degrees are a personal path to professional empowerment and career satisfaction.

Certification and education require a great deal of commitment of time and personal resources. Nurses should not feel beholden to seek such heights for the sake of doing so. Rather, nurses should consider their choices, weigh their options, and select the road that will take them in a positive and inspired direction for both their personal and professional growth.

Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, NC-BC is a holistic career coach for nurses, award-winning nurse blogger, writer, podcaster, speaker, consultant, author, and popular career columnist. With two decades of nursing experience, Keith deeply understands the issues faced by 21st-century nurses. Keith’s two podcasts, RNFM Radio and The Nurse Keith Show, offer inspiration and practical support to nurses seeking to create meaningful, satisfying lives and careers. Keith’s message of savvy career management and professional satisfaction reaches tens of thousands of nurses worldwide. He can be found at

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