Why Is Certification Important? Let Us Count the Ways

September 07, 2017

The impact of professional certification goes far beyond the authority to practice. Certification is a testament to expertise, excellence in patient care, and commitment. This article uses the diverse certification journeys of three oncology nurses to highlight some of the key benefits of certification. Their paths offer direction and motivation to new and experienced nurses in this specialty.

Value of Certification

Lori Williams, PhD, APRN, OCN®, AOCN®, began her certification and practice journey in 1980, when she earned her BSN degree and became a registered nurse. After she started working in the oncology setting, she began to pursue certifications and advanced degrees. She has earned Oncology Certified Nurse (OCN®) certification, Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse (AOCN®) certification, and clinical nurse specialist certification. She also has served on the test development committees for these programs, including a term as chair of the AOCN® test development committee. She currently is a member of the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation’s (ONCC®) Board of Directors.

Williams’ path demonstrates the value of professional development and dedication through testing. She highlights the following benefits to certification.

The ONCC® offers many opportunities for certified oncology nurses to work with the organization, including as an item writer, member of the test development committee, and leaders within the organization. Service with the oncology specialty’s certifying body offers leadership and networking opportunities that enhance personal and professional development.

Promoting Accountability

Mary Feng, BSN, OCN®, has been an oncology certified nurse since 2009, a few years after she began working in surgical oncology. She went on to serve as an OCN® item writer and the OCN® Individual Learning Needs Assessment committee, and later as committee chairwoman.

Certification is important to recent graduates for many reasons. Feng’s work with certification candidates over the years has produced comments such as

Keeping certification status up-to-date is also important for experienced nurses.

Opportunity Knocking

Lucy Licameli, RN, BSN, OCN®, is the current vice president of the ONCC® Board of Directors and has served as a mentor and item writer. She recommends earning certification for the following reasons.

It is important to note that physicians are board certified. To improve and help assure the collaboration among oncology nurses and physicians, it is important that nurses also earn national certification in their specialty.

Licameli urged that oncology nurses view certification as a tool to achieve career goals. Ask yourself: What do I want out of my career? Oncology nursing is more than a job; it is a calling. Nurses in this specialty need credibility, and this is achieved in part by ongoing learning.

Certification Resources

To learn more about certification opportunities in oncology

Editor’s Note: This article is a summary of a presentation given by Lori Williams, PhD, APRN, OCN®, AOCN®, member of the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC®) Board of Directors and an assistant professor at the MD Anderson Cancer Center; Mary Feng, BSN, OCN®, committee chair of the Oncology Certified Nurse Individual Learning Needs Assessment for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; and Lucy Licameli, RN, BSN, OCN®, vice president of the ONCC® Board of Directors and gynecologic/oncology nurse coordinator at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, at the 2017 ONS 42nd Annual Congress.

Copyright © 2017 by the Oncology Nursing Society. User has permission to print one copy for personal or unit-based educational use. Contact pubpermissions@ons.org for quantity reprints.