Why I Became Certified

Why I Became Certified

We talked to certified nurses about the value of their credential and how it has advanced their careers. These are their stories.

Certified in occupational health nursing

Why did you become certified 25 years ago? How has it helped your career?

My occupational health nursing career began in 1984, when I got a job with Nestle. Up until that point, I had worked in an intensive care unit at a small hospital and also a stress test office. Before my interview with Nestle, I had my work cut out for me. I had to learn about occupational health nursing quickly so I’d be chosen as the right candidate for this new position. I approached several skilled occupational health nurses and they coached me to prepare for the interview. My lifelong learning had just begun.

In 1989, I was devastated when my position was eliminated due to downsizing at the facility. I loved my work and was faced with some decisions about my future. So I became a self-employed entrepreneur in occupational health and safety. CNA certification became my personal criteria for establishing credibility and marketing my skills to small businesses. While developing my business, I studied for a year before writing the exam in 1990.

In 1991, GE Plastics became one of my clients and, over time, it turned into a full-time position. In 2012, I became an employee of SABIC Innovative Plastics, officially closing my business of 23 years. Like all medical and nursing fields, occupational health evolved; it began with a focus on managing first aid and disability claims and evolved to establishing health and wellness in the workplace, including the psychological safety of employees. Certification was my driver to achieving client contact hours — I often had twice the number of hours needed to recertify every five years — and to learning innovative practices. Emphasis on health and wellness has contributed to the strong organizational culture and physical health and safety of our workplace.

Do you have any messages you would like to share with nurses about the importance of continuous learning and certification?

For those considering certification, I encourage you to take the step forward to build your knowledge and confidence as a change agent in the organization where you work. Certification is a foundational element of specialized nursing and has provided me with a sense of pride and accomplishment. It led me to complete a diploma in occupational health nursing in 2002, a BHSc(N) in 2005, and I became a certified disability management professional in 2016.

What makes you most proud about being certified?

Passing the certification exam and maintaining my credential has always left me with a big sense of pride and accomplishment. The designation of COHN(C) and U.S. reciprocal certification provide me with a sense of accomplishment and success. It has driven me to strive towards completing my strategic goals and objectives.

Certified in neuroscience nursing

Why did you become certified 25 years ago?

25 years ago, I started working at Toronto Western Hospital, which is part of the University Health Network. Our director of education, Brenda Perkins, was my clinical teacher in the neuroscience program. She suggested that we write the certification exam because it would really help us navigate our way, understand the patient disease process, and help us with intervention and our planning. Certification really gives that extra knowledge that makes a difference in your nursing care.

Why have you maintained your certification?

Even now that I’ve moved into rehab, where we have a lot of complex care patients, I like the fact that neuro is still here — it’s everywhere. My motivation to maintain my certification is that there is always something new every five years. I always set myself a goal to answer: What do I want to do this time? My most recent goal, from 2013 to 2018, was to learn more about neuro-oncology. I did a palliative care course related to solid tumours, which can metastasize to the brain or the spine, and the care linked to that condition. You are constantly learning and you can apply it to any area that you are in — because it will be useful along the way somewhere. Every five years, I keep changing my focus of learning. Maybe next time I will be learning about neuro-vascular or something different.

How has certification helped you in your career?

It’s helped me learn about different types of brain tumours. That extra knowledge is extremely helpful. When I get a patient with a certain type of brain tumour, I can understand the condition more fully because I have this additional knowledge. Certification allows me to adjust my nursing intervention based on what the medical treatment has found. When the patient comes back with test results showing a malignant tumor, it helps me understand not only the pathology, but also the treatment and what the patient and his family are up against.

What would be your advice to young nurses entering the specialty?

If you are going to get CNA certification, you have to do it for everything that’s in it. I started in acute care and I’m now in rehab and complex care. Don’t only write the exam because you’re in your own little corridor. Expand! Make sure you are out there learning something new all the time. For certification to work for you and help your practice, you need to be always be out there learning different things about different treatments and the latest knowledge on diseases. What we used to do before may not be relevant — maybe we are not doing it anymore. As patient care evolves, it keeps changing how we treat patients with these diseases.

What makes you most proud about being certified?

People always tell me I have a lot of knowledge. I think to myself, how did I gain that knowledge? It’s CNA certification. It’s motivated me and pushed me to continuously strive for knowledge. I’m constantly learning and seeking opportunities to accumulate the necessary 100 hours activities of continuous learning.

Certified in neonatal nursing, perinatal nursing and critical care pediatrics

“My proudest moment of my career was working with a family and a family member noticed my CNA certifications.”