We celebrate Certified Nurses Day™ to honor the excellence certified nurses bring to the profession, their specialty, and ultimately, optimal patient care. Nurse specialty certification continues to be a respected and demonstrable recognition of expertise in knowledge, skills, and abilities (Chappell et al., 2019). Over 30 years ago, the Association for Nursing Professional Development (ANPD) witnessed the birth of the nursing professional development (NPD) specialty certification, offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. And in 2021, over 4,900 high-achieving nurses held NPD certification.
For those not yet certified, nursing certification can be a highly desired achievement, and at the same time, a daunting pursuit. Solomon et al. (2016) found that nurses who self-identified as being likely to pursue certification possessed three characteristics: they completed a certification review course in the previous three years; they were a member of a national nursing organization; and they had a colleague who was certified (p. 44). In addition to membership benefits, ANPD continues to support NPD practitioners in obtaining certification by offering a variety of certification preparation opportunities through instructor-led and learner-directed formats, as well as a range of resources for NPD-certified nurses to remain current in their practice.
Recently, three accomplished instructors of ANPD’s NPD Certification Preparation Course discussed their own certification journey, the value of NPD certification, and their experience serving as course instructors. Tabitha Kinlaw, MBA, MSN, RN, NPDA-BC, CNOR, ONC, Mary Holtschneider, MEd, MPA, BSN, RN, NPDA-BC, NREMT-P, CPTD, and Jo-Ann R. Robinson, DNP, APN-BC, RNC-OB, NPD-BC share their stories.
How did you prepare for your own NPD certification exam?
Tabitha Kinlaw, MBA, MSN, RN, NPDA-BC, CNOR, ONC
In the words of Alexander Graham Bell, “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” Living these words was crucial to my success in passing the NPD-BC exam in 2017. When I started the certification journey, I crafted a detailed, targeted plan to ensure my success. That plan spanned about three months, allowing me to schedule studying in small, targeted chunks and move through the material purposefully and methodically. It also prevented me from getting overwhelmed and cramming. Another key action in my plan was to take ANPD’s NPD Certification Preparation Course, which helped me focus my studies according to the test content outline and helped me build upon my strengths and target my studies to my areas of opportunity. I also took advantage of the sample test included with my cert prep course, which allowed me to become familiar with the format of the test questions and further highlighted potential areas of needed focus. I also found it helpful to supplement my studies with resources such as ANPD’s Core Curriculum for Nursing Professional Development.
In addition to helping me successfully pass the NPD certification exam, the cert prep course allowed me to see the vast scope of an NPD practitioner’s responsibilities and potential impact, thereby fostering growth in my role. As I reflect on my journey to NPD-BC certification, I am honored and humbled to now serve as an ANPD NPD Certification Preparation Course instructor alongside Mary Holtschneider, who taught the cert prep course I took as a participant. This full-circle moment underscores that with preparation, dedication, and mentorship, goals and dreams do come true.
How has certification added value to nursing, to the NPD specialty, and to your career?
Mary Holtschneider, MEd, MPA, BSN, RN, NPDA-BC, NREMT-P, CPTD
As we celebrate Certified Nurses Day™, it is important for us to honor that initial nursing licensure is just that — initial licensure. This pivotal step to becoming a licensed registered nurse means that we are safe to practice, though it is only the start of our professional journey. Attaining specialty certification is the next step to demonstrating knowledge and commitment to our practice. We must also articulate this achievement to our healthcare colleagues, patients, and the public so that they can also appreciate the significance of certification.
Though certification is a voluntary process, it is becoming increasingly valued by employers and is required for some nursing roles. Many nurses enter the NPD specialty after achieving certification in a clinical practice area, such as critical care, ambulatory care, or others. Because the practice of NPD is distinct from other nursing specialties, preparing for and attaining NPD certification by NPD practitioners must be supported and expected.
I have been proudly certified in NPD since 2005 and have taught ANPD’s virtual and in-person NPD Certification Preparation Courses since 2010. It is an honor to share my passion for NPD with others who are dedicated to elevating the NPD nursing specialty and articulating our contributions to healthcare. Being certified has afforded me both job and volunteer opportunities, one of which was the honor to serve on the Steering Committee that developed the requirements for NPD certification at the advanced level.
What is it like for you to now teach the Certification Preparation Course?
Jo-Ann R. Robinson, DNP, APN-BC, RNC-OB, NPD-BC
I started teaching the ANPD Certification Preparation Course almost 20 years ago. It started by responding to an email calling for instructors and I have enjoyed teaching ever since. I feel fortunate to mentor NPD practitioners in meeting the high standards required to attain certification. It is always a wonderful experience traveling the country teaching a live multi-day, in-person course and meeting other NPD practitioners who have the same enthusiasm and desire to advance our specialty.
During COVID, we were challenged to move the course to a virtual platform to meet the demands of the pandemic. Kari Schmidt, Mary Holtschneider, and I worked with ANPD staff to develop an interactive program that allows NPD practitioners to take the course anywhere and offers the flexibility of sessions scheduled over four afternoons. We wanted to facilitate networking and discussing best practices in this new format, which we did by creating a live virtual course fostering robust interactions for both participants and instructors. It was exciting to be part of this new addition to our complement of certification preparation offerings.
Teaching the Certification Preparation Course continues to be a valuable part of my professional journey. I’m passionate about preparing others for the NPD certification exam and sharing my 30 plus years of experience. The best feeling is to receive an email from someone who attended the course and hear the news, “I passed!”
Chappell, K., Jeong, D., ElChamaa, R., Lundmark, V., Kendall-Gallagher, D., Salt, E., Newhouse, R., Johantgen, M., Reeves, S., Moore, D., Olson, C., Van Hoof, T., Price, D., Campbell, C., Danilovich, N., Kitto, S. (2019). Constructing a sensitizing definition of certification in nursing for research purposes: A hybrid methodology using consensus-building approach. The Journal of Nursing Administration, 49(1), 12-18. doi:10.1097/NNA.0000000000000701
Dickerson, P.S. (Ed.). (2016). Core curriculum for nursing professional development (5th ed.). Association for Nursing Professional Development.
Harper, M., & Maloney, P. (Eds.) (2022). Nursing professional development: Scope and standards of practice (4th ed.). Association for Nursing Professional Development.
Solomon, D., Lahl, M., Soat, M., Bena, J., McClelland, M. (2016). Strategies to influence RN specialty certification. Nursing Management, 47(8), 38-46. DOI: 10.1097/01.NUMA.0000488858.54323.80