The Path to Board Certification for Emergency Nursing

The Path to Board Certification for Emergency Nursing

With the country in chaos during the spread of the coronavirus, we’ve published many stories on how to deal with it in various ways. But in addition to dealing with it now, this experience may have gotten you thinking about your career in the future—especially with emergency services.

While the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing (BCEN) will celebrate its 40th anniversary this coming June, we interviewed its leader now to give you information that you may want if you’re contemplating moving into this kind of work and want to know about the Board Certifications available and how to get them.

Janie Schumaker, MBA, BSN, RN, CEN, CENP, CPHQ, FABC, is the Executive Director of the BCEN, which is based in Oak Brook, Illinois. She answered our questions about what board certification for emergency nursing means and how to go about it.

What is the importance of being board certified as opposed to simply earning another kind of certification?

Holding a board certification vs. earning a certificate are often confused and misunderstood.

A board certification, like for example BCEN’s Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN ®) or Trauma Certified Registered Nurse (TCRN®) designation, is an earned credential that demonstrates the individual’s specialized knowledge and skills across an entire specialty body of knowledge. Certification is awarded by a third-party organization, like the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing, and high-quality programs are accredited by an organization such as the Accreditation Board for Specialty Nurse Certification (ABSNC).

Individuals receive their certification after meeting strict eligibility requirements and successfully completing a rigorous national certification examination. In addition, board certifications have ongoing requirements that must be met to maintain the credential, ensuring the holder is sustaining their level of expertise. Certifications are nationally recognized and are appropriately included with the earner’s signature along with their academic credentials.

Where board certification is about validating mastery across a specialty, a certificate and other instruction-based certifications importantly help nurses acquire focused knowledge and skills. Examples of certificates are Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) or Trauma Nursing Core Course (TNCC™).

Board certification is the highest professional credential a nurse can earn, and being board certified demonstrates a commitment to one’s career, patients, and organization.

How do nurses earn this?

Earning a board certification from BCEN requires an unrestricted U.S. RN license or equivalent. Just recently, we announced a new international candidate process that for nurses educated and/or practicing outside the U.S. We recommend that a nurse has two years of practice in the specialty area before sitting for that exam. When ready, nurses complete an application to sit for the exam, chose a testing time and site that works for them, and then take the test on the specified day. Of course, there is much preparation that is necessary prior to the exam.

If nurses think they might be interested in becoming board certified, what do they need to do?

Nurses who are interested in becoming board certified should incorporate preparation into their career plans early. Often it is required or recommended nurses have a certain amount of time working in their specialty area—for example, 2 years.

Start by researching the nursing specialty certification board that provides the credential in your specialty area. Take a look at their website. They will have a candidate handbook that explains eligibility and testing. Each certification exam has a test blueprint or content outline. This is very helpful in determining what to expect on the exam and what to study.

Many certification boards also provide a list of reference books used to create their exams. These can be very helpful to know what resources to use to study. Another thing that is highly effective is for nurses interested in certification to form a study group and prepare for the exam together.

Nurses interested in certification should also ask their employers about the support and resources they offer. Many employers value the impact certified nurses make in the workplace and offer support in various forms. Membership in a professional association can mean you qualify for a discount on certification and recertification fees.

[BCEN’s resource page, which includes everything from content outlines to test anxiety resources is here. Their resource page for students is here.]

How to Incorporate National Nurses Week into Your Recruiting Strategy

How to Incorporate National Nurses Week into Your Recruiting Strategy

Learn recruitment strategies that tie in with National Nurses Week and how they can be a helpful tool in gaining quality nursing staff that you are more likely to retain. With the national nursing shortage still an issue today, recruiting new nurses for your clinical positions as well as enticing new student nurses is a top priority. How you go about recruitment can make a difference in whether potential hires choose your hospital as their place of employment.

The Importance of a Recruitment Strategy

The nursing shortage doesn’t necessarily affect your ability to find new hires. Because many hospitals have difficulty with retention, nurses are often looking for new jobs. There are also still plenty of nursing students entering the profession. The real issue is how to attract them. This is where your recruitment strategy becomes invaluable. It’s also vital to keep in mind that your retention strategy starts with your recruitment efforts. The steps you take to recruit new nurses to your program is also what will make them want to stay if you handle it properly.

According to the American Organization of Nurse Executives, a conservative estimate of the money a hospital spends indirect recruitment costs related to a turn-over is $10,000. Building a robust recruitment strategy that is backed by the same fervor of retention efforts can help eliminate the need for this expenditure.

Why National Nurses Week is the Perfect Opportunity to Utilize Your Strategy

During National Nurses Week, employers take the time to celebrate their nursing staff and recognize the hard job they have. Many times, the best recruitments strategies come down to which hospital showed they were the most invested in their employees. That’s why utilizing National Nurses Week in your recruitment strategy can be so helpful – your current employees have a lot to say in the matter.

While 70% of nurses surveyed in’s salary survey said that salary was of utmost importance for job satisfaction, money wasn’t everything. And salary didn’t just mean the dollars they took home. A high salary may look enticing, but cost-of-living has to be factored in as well. surveyed nurses as well, according to their data, scheduling flexibility and work-life balance often took priority over salary. They also reported that 26% of nurses with existing jobs say they’re contacted weekly by recruiters. Standing out from the competition is a must.

With the market as competitive as it is, healthcare organizations need to find new and unique ways to recruit potential hires. National Nurses Week allows you to highlight what makes working for your facility so outstanding. Below are some options for using this week of recognition to help recruit new talent.

Get Personal

When you begin highlighting your open positions via job boards, mass emails, and other techniques, consider the impersonal nature of such strategies. Rather than sending the same form email to all 50 candidates, personalize each with a message related to National Nurses Week. Contact them to show appreciation, maybe including a discount, freebie, or invite to an event you’re holding. You may also want to point out why they’d be a good fit, using specific reasons that stood out to you during the interview process. Tout their potential and offerings, not yours, during this exchange, and you’ll show them that you’re already a step ahead of the competition.

Show, Don’t Just Tell

Part of the promise is what comes of it. Make sure that you are following up on your promises that you make to your potential hires. Give them proof that you’ve been faithful to your word. Perhaps having special nurse week marketing materials that showcase happy employees talking about what is best about your hospital or having a coffee hour each day where a satisfied family comes in and tells about a nurse at your facility that stood out. The more good publicity you can get from happy patients and current staff, the better it looks. Of course, please don’t force it or coerce it in any way, because doing so will come out and backfire.

Let the Data Drive You

One of the smartest things you can do when it comes to hiring is to defer to the data. Not only by doing your research on how things historically go, but by collecting some data of your own. Asking your potential hires questions regarding why they did or didn’t choose your hospital, which recruitment strategy enticed them the most, and even how they prefer to find a job can all be a great source of information to help drive your recruitment strategies. Involving your potential hires and current nurses can also lead to more trust, as it creates a feeling of being heard and valued, which is a trait that many employees look for in a job.

National Nurses Week is an excellent time to implement this. Along with a note of appreciation to each nurse, include a survey with some of these questions and then a section asking how you can make their job better as well as how you can continue to show your appreciation. Consider incentivizing the return of the survey by making it anonymous or adding a gift upon completion. You can even send these surveys along to student nursing programs, giving the students a personal one-on-one invite to tour your hospital or shadow a nurse for a day. Former nursing staff in good standing could also get a survey asking why they left and letting them know you appreciate them and are remembering them during this week.

Your Existing Nursing Staff Should Not Be Overlooked

Letting your nurses know they are appreciated should be a daily occurrence, but during National Nurses Week, it can be especially helpful. Your existing nursing staff is one of the best ways to find new nurses. If they are happy, they will be more likely to recommend an open position to a friend. This is even more true for traveling nurses who may encounter unhappy employees on their journeys. Be sure to treat them just like the long-term staff and find a way to recognize them as well. Consider treating your nurses to some bonus activities during the week, such as a free meal. If you decide to have events during the week, invite the nurses’ families. And remind them how to care for themselves to maintain a positive work-life balance.

Open Your Doors to New Hires

Having an event during National Nurses Week that is part job-fair and part celebration can go a long way with nursing students and potential hires. Give them an inside look into what working for your hospital would look like. Treat each person as if you are genuinely invested in their success by helping them take steps toward getting their first program acceptance or new job. Along with inviting them in for a tour, give them a chance to meet some of the staff they would be working with, including nurses, management, and doctors. Provide a photographer that can take free headshots for their portfolios. Don’t focus on pushing your recruitment strategy and instead let each person walk away with a booklet that covers the approach along with other relevant information about your hospital. If you impress them upfront, the brochure will be the icing on the cake.

Put Out a Press Release

National Nurses Week is the perfect time to announce something new your program is offering or doing. Recently, the news was released that the US Senate vowed to strengthen academic nursing. They were strategic in announcing it during National Nurses Week. Why? Because nurses are paying attention. It’s their week of recognition, and more news comes across their desk that they might want to pay attention to between those discounts and freebie offers that also inevitably come.

Take a Page from the Book of Success

Ideas abound for how to make an impression on potential candidates. If you’re looking for fresh nursing talent and you’re willing to invest in them early, why not take a page out of Western Governors University’s book? To celebrate National Nurses Week in 2016, they awarded scholarships to nurses across the nation. Your program could offer this to student nurses as well as tenured nurses looking to advance in their careers by going back to school.

A Call to Action: Begin Today

Increasing your chances of attracting top nursing talent takes a focus on your potential hire’s best interests. What do they want? Professional development, flexibility, work-life balance, unique perks, fair pair, tuition assistance, and other such incentives go a long way. Taking a personalized approach and showing how much your facility values its nursing staff will attract more potential hires than you expect. It’s easy enough to implement that you can begin right now. The key is to make sure you continue appreciating your nurses every day of the year, as well. For more information on supporting your staff, nurses, or other departments, see our extensive library of published resources that are designed for those in the healthcare field. 

How Gig Nurses Can Stay Safe During COVID-19

How Gig Nurses Can Stay Safe During COVID-19

Demand for healthcare professionals is at an all-time high due to COVID-19, and this includes gig nurses. Unlike other industries that are shuttering or moving to remote interaction, the nursing profession is facing unprecedented demand. Nurses cannot self-quarantine; they are on the front lines providing care to patients in need day in and day out. Now that the world is in the throes of a pandemic, the question, unfortunately, isn’t if nursing professionals will get sick, but when. And when full-time staff numbers begin to dwindle due to sickness, quarantine, and lack of willingness to work, who will step into healthcare facilities and continue to provide much-needed care? 

Gig Nurses Will be More in Demand than Ever

Before COVID-19, the healthcare industry was already facing a staffing crisis– the nursing shortage. The U.S. simply does not have the number of nurses necessary to meet the rising demand for direct care. 

Fortunately, gig brands have emerged to help optimize the nursing workforce. Driven by smart matching technology and data science, gig work allows nurses to achieve a greater work-life balance. For healthcare facilities, it allows them to augment their own full-time staff, helping to reduce staff burnout and turnover. In times like these, where full-time nursing staff will inevitably burn out (or worse, become exposed to the virus), gig nurses will be integral to filling the gaps in care that facilities desperately have. 

It’s worth noting that the gig economy in nursing, for all its merits, also comes with the alarming reality of extra touchpoints of care. Gig nurses that build their own schedule through staffing apps are likely moving from facility to facility, working varied shift times, and interfacing with more patients — which can increase the risk of exposure across multiple settings. If gig economy companies working in healthcare proceed without necessary caution, they have the potential to exacerbate the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Fortunately, with some thoughtful planning and the application of technology, there are plenty of necessary steps gig economy companies can take to help facilities and their workforce avoid spreading COVID-19 in the healthcare staffing setting. 

Educate Yourself and Stay Informed

Oftentimes, per-diem gig nurses don’t have time to walk through all of a facility’s protocols before their shift, so providing nurses with training that can be completed on their device prior to arriving at the facility is key to ensuring that the entire workforce is well-equipped to treat and prevent the spread of COVID-19. Also, as personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies start to run low, nurses should also be kept informed on best practices to mitigate their exposure, even without adequate PPE on hand. It’s essential that any education is continually updated with the latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC,) and that nurses are retested when those updates go live. 

Up-Front Symptom Screening

Facilities are concerned about who is coming into their facility, and nurses are concerned about who they are working with. To protect facilities, staff, and patients from unnecessary exposure to COVID-19, gig economy companies can implement an online symptoms questionnaire that workers can complete before shifts to confirm they are not experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19. If a nurse confirms they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, they can be removed from the shift without penalty. With the much-needed help of technology, gig brands can implement this screening mechanism in an efficient and effective way so that nursing professionals who are healthy can get back to work, and those that are sick can be removed from the network. 

Keep Track of Exposure Updates

Due to the rapid spread of COVID-19, it is safe to assume that facilities and/or staff will face exposure to the virus, which is why gig companies need to be proactive about their protocol. If a worker or facility reports exposure, technology can contact and alert the entire network of exposed facilities so that workers can take necessary precautions and quarantine themselves, if needed. 

At this stage of the COVID-19 epidemic, whether a nurse works full-time at a facility, or works per-diem at multiple facilities, providing direct care in a healthcare setting presents a high-risk for exposure to the virus. The bottom line is that facilities, their staff, and their patients will need gig nurses to pick up the torch as this pandemic rages on, and gig nurses will need their employers to provide them with innovative solutions to ensure that they can keep themselves, and their patients, safe from COVID-19. 

How to Talk to Your Patients About Vaccinations

How to Talk to Your Patients About Vaccinations

It’s now officially flu season, which means more patients than ever need to get vaccines in addition to the usual shots. But given the rise in anti-vaccination sentiment over the past few years, some patients are suspicious of anyone in a white lab coat who tells them that they, or their children, need vaccinations. Even patients who aren’t “antivaxxers” will likely have more questions about vaccinations than they would have a few years ago, simply due to the uptick in news stories. Here are 10 things to keep in mind as you prepare to talk to your patients about vaccinations:

1. Start a conversation.

In past decades, you might have been able to run through the required vaccination spiel and administered an IM injection without getting a single question from patients. But now we live in a time where misinformation about vaccinations is rife and infectious disease rates are rising due to reduced vaccinations–and people have a lot to say about it. When you’re talking to patients about vaccinations, create a two-way conversation rather than a one-way dump of information that shuts out the patient.

2. Acknowledge their concern and listen to them.

Especially when it comes to their kids, many parents are very concerned about vaccinations and the potentially adverse effects they can have. In these situations, dismissing their concerns outright will often only confirm their perceptions that the medical establishment doesn’t care about their worries, further entrenching this position. Instead, empathize with them, listen to their concerns and communicate that you also want to keep their kids as healthy as possible.

3. Use plain language and specific examples.

Medical jargon means nothing to most patients, and definitely not to their kids. When talking to patients, use language that’s accurate yet easy to understand. It can also help to use specific individual examples to really illustrate the power of vaccines–for example, maybe you know a patient who refused to get the flu vaccine and ended up contracting the flu that season. While a single example isn’t statistical proof, it is easier for patients to grasp.

4. Communicate your credentials.

“Of course, patients should know I’m competent! I’ve been to medical school and have been practicing for years!” you may think. However, there’s a perception among certain groups of patients that so-called outside experts are more trustworthy than doctors, nurses and other medical professionals. If a patient seems reluctant to believe you, you may need to gently work your credentials into the conversation to show that you really do know what you’re talking about.

5. Emphasize the safety of vaccines.

Most patients’ concerns center on vaccine safety and whether or not it will have unintentional side effects. To help assuage their fear, focus on the safety of vaccines and how rare side effects are. Having some numbers about their safety, such as the tiny percentage of people who develop side effects, can also be helpful. (More on using statistics wisely below.)

6. Explain the consequences of diseases.

Over the past few decades, vaccination rates have risen and infectious disease rates have dropped, so many people have no firsthand experience of the illnesses they’re being vaccinated against. In fact, they might not even know what the symptoms are. While it’s great that we’re no longer afraid of so many killer epidemics, this does mean that patients have no idea just how serious these diseases can be. While you should never fear monger, you might need to factually explain exactly what the various vaccinations protect against.

7. Have some numbers handy.

While inundating patients with numbers will likely cause them to glaze over and check out, having one or two well-placed statistics ready can go a long way. For instance, if a patient says that their child doesn’t need the MMR vaccine because “no one gets the measles anymore,” you can point out that there have actually been 1,250 confirmed cases of the measles in the U.S. since the beginning of 2019, many of them linked to a lack of vaccines.

8. Know what the internet is telling them.

In order to successfully debate an opponent, you’d brainstorm all the advantages they’d point out and then find ways to refute them, right? In the same vein, you can’t successfully argue against the anti-vaccination movement without knowing their claims and evidence (or the lack thereof), and most patients are getting this information from the internet. If you’re seeing a lot of patients who are resistant to getting vaccines, it might be worthwhile to explore what the other side is telling them so you can argue against it more persuasively.

9. Make sure your staff presents a united front.

If patients are already predisposed to distrust the medical establishment, this suspicion will only be heightened if they hear one thing from a nurse and another thing from a doctor regarding vaccinations. Meet with your staff regularly to keep them up to date on the latest findings and to establish your talking points. Giving patients two different pieces of information will only confuse them further, so everyone needs to be on the same page.

10. Be prepared for counterarguments.

Despite all these preparations, some patients are still going to have questions and counterarguments for you. Instead of brushing them off or shutting them down, engage with them and show that you care. Try to see the concern and worry fueling these arguments instead of only dwelling on the surface claims. For some people, getting vaccines for their children is a very emotional decision–instead of just a rational one–and you’ll need to proceed accordingly.

As a medical professional, you’re almost always a patient’s most trustworthy source on vaccines, even if they don’t believe it quite yet. Keep these 10 tips in mind as you prepare to talk to your patients about vaccines.

Rebel Nurses: Jalil Johnson’s Journey to Nursing Empowerment

Rebel Nurses: Jalil Johnson’s Journey to Nursing Empowerment

This series takes a look at the stories appearing in The Rebel Nurse Handbook, which features inspiring nurses who push the boundaries of healthcare and the nursing profession. This installment focuses on nurse, writer, public speaker, and acting director of Show Me Your Stethoscope, Dr. Jalil Johnson.

Jalil Johnson found his career in nursing at what might have been the lowest point of a hard life. After graduating from high school, the impoverished Tennessean was struggling. Living from paycheck to paycheck, he ultimately found himself working as a $7.00-an-hour dishwasher. Then came the night—at a time when he had no more than $10 to his name—that Johnson found himself laid off.

During the relentless job hunt that followed, a newspaper ad for free Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) classes caught his eye. Johnson was intrigued, but in his impoverished state, the cost of the course textbooks was beyond his means. As he sat in front of the school planning his next move, he happened to encounter the Dean of the program. The Dean was touched by Johnson’s situation and his astounding resolve. With his encouragement and assistance, Johnson applied for financial aid, enrolled in the CNA classes, and embarked upon a career in nursing.

The CNA training, and later the job itself, changed his life. After getting his CNA, Johnson decided to continue his nursing education. What inspired this decision? Johnson says, “there were many pivotal moments that encouraged me to pursue higher education. An important moment was the sense of absolute fulfillment I felt after working with my first patient as a CNA. Until that point in my life, I’d never actually helped a person with their care, health, or with the simple aim to make their life a little better. When my patient sincerely said ‘thank you so much’ to me that day, I knew I wanted to learn as much as I could about how to do this work. I wanted to expand my ability to have positive impact on people.”

Johnson spent the next two decades climbing the professional ladder: he became an LPN, an RN, was awarded a BSN, went on to take his master’s degree and training as a Nurse Practitioner, and later received his PhD as a nurse scientist. “Each time I completed another degree or level of licensure, my scope of practice and experience changed. The impact I had on patients wasn’t better with more education, but it was different. I enjoyed being challenged in this way. I continued this way of thinking through my studies, including my journey to become a nurse practitioner and nurse scientist (PhD).” Along the way, he worked in positions ranging from traveling nurse, to ICUs and EDs, to substance use treatment programs and behavioral health, and teaching CNA, LPN, RN, and DNP students. “I’ve never forgotten how amazing it feels to empower someone else,” he says.

Empowerment is a keyword for Johnson, who vividly recalls “the powerlessness I often felt throughout my career. Regardless of my level of practice, I always felt that the work and the care could be better, but I never felt I had any power to really change anything. My assumption was that more education would lead to having more say in my practice, and subsequently less feelings of powerlessness. Well, I was wrong about that. The powerless feeling followed me throughout many practice settings and scopes of practice.”

Johnson sought ways to overcome this sense of powerlessness, and found that his views were shared by “hundreds of thousands of nurses out there, who love their work as I do, but also feel like the healthcare system doesn’t work for them or their patients.” Seeking empowerment for himself and his fellow nurses, he began to work in self-advocacy with communities like Show Me Your Stethoscope and Nurses Take DC, and became a writer and public speaker.

When asked what he feels most passionate about in his career, Johnson replies, “I’m passionate about many things. I enjoy caring for my patients and love teaching. However, I’m most passionate about inspiring other bedside nurses to unify behind causes they believe in. As the largest profession within healthcare, I believe nurses have the opportunity to be truly revolutionary if we band together and support each other. This is one of the ideas that motivated me to start writing my forthcoming book, Nation of Nurses, where I discuss specific ways nurses can mobilize and revolutionize healthcare.”

He is also passionate regarding his advocacy groups: “these online communities are filled with bedside nurses who are passionate about improving the nursing and the healthcare system. Honestly, through this work, for the first time in nearly 20 years, I feel like nurses are taking back their power; and this gives me so much hope.”

Tim Raderstorf Talks Nursing and Innovation at TEDxColumbus

Tim Raderstorf Talks Nursing and Innovation at TEDxColumbus

A recent TEDxColumbus talk on innovation and nursing was given by Tim Raderstorf, DNP, RN. Tim is a nurse, teacher, and Chief Innovation Officer at Ohio State University, and co-author of the book Evidence-based Leadership, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship in Nursing and Healthcare.

Raderstorf opened his talk by declaring, “I am a nurse… It impacts how I think, how I care for others. Even how I pay my mortgage.”

He continued by explaining that nurses are not generally seen as innovators. They show up at the top of the list of the most trusted professions—and have done so for years—but they don’t appear on any list of most innovative professions. Sadly, nursing tends to be overlooked for its value in innovation.

We say things like “I am just a nurse,” says Raderstorf. However, he points out that innovation is most impactful when initiated by those who have the firmest understanding of the problems that need to be solved. Ergo, nurses!

As Chief Innovation Officer at Ohio State, Raderstorf is convinced that everyone has ideas that are worth pursuing. Through OSU, he provides what he calls “inspirational capital.”

The vehicle for this capital is the Ohio State University Innovation Studio, run through the OSU College of Nursing. The Innovation Studio travels the country, making 5 tour stops throughout the year, staying at a different location for 7 weeks at a time. The Studio stops are in high-traffic areas, where they invite prospective teams in and ask them what problems they are interested in solving. Using a microfinance model, the Studio awards small dollar amounts to every team that comes through the door with a good idea, ranging from $250 to $500 for the first round of funding. Teams are encouraged to come back with their next round of development for subsequent rounds of funding and continue to return until the end of 7 weeks, at which time there is a pitch day.

Raderstorf suggests that while such a program may sound like a Millennial’s pipe dream, it really is a “Participation Trophy Model of Innovation.” And it’s effective.

Among other studio graduates, a nurse who is a clinical specialist at Ross Hart Hospital headed a team to develop a tamper-proof and tamper-evident tape to go over the port of IVs to prevent opioid addicted patients from gaining direct access to IV lines. With backing from the Innovation Studio, the team ended up with an international licensing deal—after spending just $240.20 to get the idea off the ground. To view Tim Raderstorfs TEDx talk in its entirety, click here.

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