What Is Medical Certification?

Certification indicates that you meet a certain standard of competence in your medical field career, and can give you a competitive advantage, more job opportunities, a higher pay scale, and job security. Medical certification means an individual has received extra training or has passed extra credentialing tests that prove his or her competency in a certain specialty. Certifications are sometimes specialty specific. For example, certification in the Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP) is required for doctors and nurses working in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). This means these professionals must know how to resuscitate a neonate, or newborn 28 weeks of age and less. NRP certification is not required of doctors and nurses who primarily work on an adult medical-surgical unit. One certification is definitely required of all individuals working in health care and that is basic life support (BLS). This is cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and most hospitals and health care facilities demand that all employees involved in patient care hold this certification. Even nurses' assistants and unit secretaries should be BLS certified should they ever be called upon to assist in the resuscitation of a patient or coworker.

For upper level practitioners, being board certified in their specialty promotes improved patient care for the health care consumer. Physician assistants must pass the PANCE exam upon graduation from a PA program. Once they pass this test, they are allowed to have the letter "C" added at the end of their PA credential (i.e., John Smith, PA-C). This ensures that the PA has graduated from an accredited PA program and passed the required national board certification exam for physician assistants. This is required for all PAs. Most nurse practitioners in the United States are nationally board certified. According to the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, "Most Nurse Practitioners (NPs) are nationally certified in their specialty area and are recognized as expert health care providers" (2010). This assures the health care consumer that nurse practitioners have advanced training beyond their basic nursing education and have passed a national board exam that tests their nursing/medical knowledge and proves their ability to deliver competent medical care to patients. Many employers require even their lower level employees (medical assistants, technicians) be certified in their areas of interest as well. Medical assistants can take the Medical Assistant Certification/Recertification exam given by the American Academy of Medical Assistants (AAMA). Passing this exam demonstrates professionalism on the part of the medical assistant and makes them a more attractive job candidate than those without certification.

Health care providers should investigate their profession's specific requirements regarding certification then prepare themselves for possible classroom experience and/or a board exam. Becoming certified in your field is beneficial to both you and your patients. Certification of medical professionals at all levels of health care instills confidence in the health care consumer.

Last Updated: 05/21/2014

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