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Nursing Certification Programs

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Whether you're interested in a nursing career or are already a nurse and want to specialize in a particular aspect of nursing, a nursing certificate program could be the right educational path for you. Two common types of nursing certificates are:

  • Licensed practical nursing or licensed vocational nursing certificate, which prepares you to enter the field of nursing as a licensed practical or vocational nurse (LPN or LVN, depending on your state of residence)
  • Advanced specialization certificate, primarily available for registered nurses (RNs) or nurses with a master's degree who want to specialize.

LPN Certificate

LPN certificates generally take between one and two years of full-time study to complete. Part-time study can take longer and accelerated programs can be completed in less time. LPN certificate programs, which are most commonly offered by community colleges, vocational schools and hospital nursing centers, are available on-campus and in hybrid format. In the hybrid format, some course work is available online while the lab work and practical experience components need to be completed in a classroom or clinical environment.

Following completion of an accredited certificate program, students are eligible to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN). Individual state nursing boards may have additional requirements to be licensed to practice nursing in the state.

LPN Certificate Course Work

Individual programs vary, but most require prerequisite course work in math, physiology, anatomy, microbiology and psychology, as well as general education core courses in life sciences and communication. Nursing courses can include introduction to clinical nursing, intensive anatomy and physiology including all of the human body organs and systems, psychology and psychiatric nursing, pediatric and geriatric nursing, pharmacology and medications, trends in nursing and career management.

Advanced Nursing Specialization Certificates

Nursing certificates are available in a number of disciplines and can increase nurses' knowledge and skills in a specialized area of nursing, prepare them for promotion to management positions such as nursing director/manager or program manager/coordinator, or qualify them to teach at the postsecondary level.

Most programs require the candidate to hold a current nursing license and some require that the candidate already have a bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree, depending on the certificate. Each program has its own admission, prerequisite coursework, and completion requirements.In addition, these programs may require a minimum number of years of experience for admission, as well as clinical practice for completion. Certificate programs normally take from two to four semesters part-time to complete. Certificate course work may meet nursing continuing education requirements for license renewal, and some schools allow certificate course work to be transferred to a master's degree program.

Many types of certificate programs exist nationwide. Here is a sampling of different certifications and their specialization:

  • Forensic Nursing Certificate. This program is appropriate for nurses who are interested in the investigative process and victim advocacy. Forensic nurses serve as a vital part of a multi-disciplinary forensic team that can include law enforcement, victim advocates and members of the legal system. Coursework can include introduction to forensic science in health care settings; crime scene investigation and preservation; courtroom testimony; forensic approaches to blunt force and firearms injuries, domestic violence, human abuse injuries and mental health assessment.
  • School Nurse Certificate. This program helps prepare nurses for work in a school setting. Some nursing schools deliver this program fully online, while others deliver it in a hybrid format with online coursework plus an internship or field placement on-site. Course work can include school nursing theory and trends, child development and educational psychology, and school health services and policies.
  • Teaching/Learning in Nursing and Health Sciences Certificate. This certificate program is suitable for those who want to become a nursing or health care faculty member or Certified Nurse Educator. Coursework can include instructional techniques, design and implementation of a curriculum, student evaluation and assessment, and the application of teaching and learning theories and strategies to instruction in nursing and the health sciences. A master's or doctoral degree in nursing is generally a requirement for entry into the program. This certificate may also qualify recipients who have previous teaching experience to take the Certified Nurse Educator Examination.
  • Administrative Nursing Leadership Certificate. This certificate program brings together nursing and administrative skills, offering course work in fiscal management, human resources, organizational behavior, strategic planning, operations management and health care information systems. Completion of the certificate may qualify recipients who have a master's degree to take the Clinical Nurse Leader Certification Examination.

Specialized nursing certificate programs may also help nurses work towards a nursing certification in a specific field. Nursing certifications are different from a nursing license. While a license proves that a nurse has passed certain standards of general nursing knowledge and competence, certification indicates that a nurse has specialized knowledge of and skills in a particular medical field. Nurse certifications typically require that candidates fulfill specific educational requirements and/or take an exam confirming their skills in a certain field of nursing. Examples of nursing certifications include the Cardiac-Vascular Nurse certification, the Ambulatory Care Nurse certification, and the Certified Critical Care Nurse certification. Several nurse certification institutions exist, and two examples of such organizations are the American Nurses Credentialing Center and the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses.

An LPN nursing certificate can help you begin your nursing career, while a specialty nursing certificate can help you advance your nursing career. Both types of certificates may be offered at least partially online at certain institutions, which makes earning one convenient whether you plan to attend a full-time or enroll in a part-time program while working.

Sources:

Berkeley College, "Practical Nurse Certificate"
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, "Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses"
Essex County College, "LPN Certificate"
Howard Community College, "LPN Program"
UC Riverside Extension, "Professional Certificate in Forensic Nursing"
University of Illinois at Chicago,"Teaching/Learning in Nursing and Health Sciences Certificate"
University of Illinois at Chicago, "School Nurse Certificate"
Kaiser Permanente, "Southern California Nursing Pathways"
American Association of Critical-Care Nurses
American Nurses Credentialing Center


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