Fostering professional development and improving the psychological health of nurses through the North American certification process in critical care

Geneviève Beaudoin, Marie Alderson, Lyne St-Louis


Background: National certification in a nursing specialty is reported, in some articles, as a key approach to generate psychological and professional growth of nurses. Intensive care units generate, by their structure and the complexity of the clinical situations encountered, a high level of physical and psychological stress for nurses. These stressors affect job satisfaction, retention, and job attraction toward those intensive care units. One of the solutions proposed, in the literature, is continuous education to improve nurses’ personal and professional development. Nurses gain the opportunity to enhance their autonomy and control over practice through certification, which can lead to empowerment.

Methodology: A critical review of the literature was conducted for a master’s program to explore the impacts of the certification process on nurses as well as on patients and organizations. North-American manuscripts published from 2001 to 2013 were selected using Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), Medline (PubMed), Proquest, PsychINFO, and EMBASE (Ovid) databases. University library catalogues and national associations’ Internet resources were also consulted. Papers were classified by type of document and main subject. Overall, 105 articles were found and 45 excluded.

Principal Findings: Studies have shown that the certification process in a specific specialty such as critical care has been beneficial for nurses, patients, and organizations. It increases nurses’ professional satisfaction, autonomy, self-confidence, and empowerment. The certification process is also potentially linked to a decrease in morbidity and patient mortality. Finally, on an organizational level, the certification process is linked to an increase in recruitment and retention of nurses. However, most studies have used correlational and retrospective study designs, which might be considered biased. The literature review elicits the lack of research that can establish causal links between the variables and the quasi absence of quantitative benefits related to certification.

Conclusions: From the articles reviewed, it can be hypothesized that the certification process could potentially generate many benefits and represent a promising approach to enhancing empowerment for intensive care nurses. Organizations and patients can also benefit from knowledgeable, satisfied, and empowered health care professionals. In addition, there are potential benefits for the organizations if they provide the necessary support systems to promote and help nurses throughout the certification process. This can ultimately improve the psychological health of nurses. Researchers should seek evidence-based studies to support the information provided in the literature review.


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Journal of Nursing Education and Practice

ISSN 1925-4040 (Print)   ISSN 1925-4059 (Online)

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