Whether you just passed the NCLEX, the national examination for nursing licensure, or have been working as a nurse for decades, reaching new heights at work is achievable. In a field as varied as nursing, professional development opportunities run the gamut from obtaining a certification to joining a membership organization. The following resources can help nurses find success at different stages in their careers.
Nursing Certifications and Examinations
Nursing certifications are administered by organizations or boards, most of which are organized by specialty.
Nurses list their certifications after their names in the form of an initialism. For some nurses, that often begins with RN, which stands for registered nurse. The initials that come after RN indicate a commitment to expertise in a chosen specialization. You can earn your RN certification after graduating with an associate or bachelor’s degree and passing the NCLEX. A job as a registered nurse comes with a range of responsibilities including creating care plans for patients and administering medication.
Other nurses have an LPN certification, meaning they are licensed practical nurses. This certification is more limited in scope than an RN but still allows the nurse to provide basic patient care such as wound dressing.
Nurses with certifications may garner better compensation and may qualify for more professional opportunities.
Most certifying organizations require candidates to have worked at least two years in a specialty before qualifying to test.
Below are some key nursing certifications along with requirements:
The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) offers the critical care registered nurse certification (CCRN certification).
- Complete patient care practice hours: two-year plan (1,750 practice hours) or five-year plan (2,000 practice hours) options offered.
- Once approval to test is received, schedule and prepare for the exam.
- Renewal for this AACN certification is not required.
Registered nurses looking to become legal nurse consultant certified (LNCC) must go through the American Legal Nurse Consultant Certification Board (AALNC). The exam for this certification is offered twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall.
- Complete 2,000 hours of qualifying legal nurse consulting.
- Have a minimum of five years of experience as an RN.
- Recertification is required every five years.
The American Nursing Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers many certifications, including the ambulatory care nursing certification (RN-BC, which stands for registered nurse-board certified) and nurse executive (NE-BC). ANCC exams are available year-round.
- Practice the equivalent of two full-time years as an RN.
- Complete a minimum of 2,000 hours of clinical practice in certifying specialty within the last three years.
- Complete 30 hours of continuing education in certifying specialty within the last three years.
- ANCC certification renewal takes place every five years.
Lippincott, an online hub for continuing nursing education resources, provides a comprehensive nursing certifications list including various nursing specialty certifications. It requires a free sign-in to view.
Top Websites on Nursing Jobs and Careers
Individuals hoping to find a nursing job have numerous online resources available to them.
If you’re wondering what jobs your nursing degree affords you, you may find our Nursing Career Path infographic useful. The infographic details degree requirements, salary expectations and career outlook for different nursing jobs.
Alternatively, if you have figured out what type of nurse you’d like to be, you should target websites dedicated to your area of interest. Nurse practitioner (NP) job seekers can refer to our resource page which covers the scope of practice and provides steps to becoming an NP.
Using unique search features, the following nursing job websites can help nurses find job matches that align with their goals.
American Nurses Association (ANA) Career Center
Backed by the credibility of the largest nursing organization in the United States, the ANA job search site allows users to search by specialty, type, and location. Use a keyword search to further narrow results.
American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) Career Center
For nurses who’ve already found a niche, conducting a job search through a specialty association’s website can be far more useful than using a more generic career website. The AACN job website targets critical care nurses and allows them to select search criteria including sub-specialty, location, work time commitment, and travel.
With millions of page views per day, the AllNurses job page covers a variety of specialties. Use the license tab to narrow your search, then add a location, employer type and salary requirements to find your preferred position.
Targeting local health organizations or care areas that you’re passionate about is another way to find your desired job. Below are two examples of websites that job seekers with specific interests might want to look at:
- The Veteran’s Health Administration is a key resource for job seekers who may want to work with veterans or have an interest in public service.
- If you’re looking for a career in community health care, start with your local department of health and human services.
While looking for different types of nursing jobs, it may be worth looking at the 2018 list of nursing salaries by state from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). While looking for different types of nursing jobs, it may be worth looking at our list of nursing salaries categorized by degree type, or the 2018 list of nursing salaries by state from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Amenities, workplace climate and proximity of a job to family and friends are important to consider when taking the next step in your career but earning potential may also be a priority. You can access more national employment data by using the BLS occupational employment statistics query system.
Nursing Journals and Nursing Research Articles
Nurses have a profound influence on the health education and care of patients. It’s important to be in possession of or have access to accurate information. When looking to validate a certain practice, leverage the expertise of the following peer-reviewed resources and databases:
CINAHL: Covering 50 nursing specialties, this database houses the most recent and reliable sources in nursing research and evidence-based medicine.
PubMed: Maintained by the National Library of Medicine, this database and its search engine allow you to access numerous nursing research articles.
Cochrane Library: This British-based database is the gold standard of scientific evidence. If you’re unsure of a practice, Cochrane Review articles can help you track down your answer.
Lippincott: With its “Smart Search” tool, Lippincott’s page can be customized to match your research needs. Sign up for e-newsletters that will keep you at the top of your specialty game and bookmark the clinical guidelines you need in your everyday practice.
Google Scholar: Google Scholar searches scholarly databases and gives you a comprehensive list of published studies and articles that cover your query. Set dates to narrow down to recent publications and use the “cited by” feature to identify articles from reputable sources.
MedlinePlus: This user-friendly site run by the National Institutes of Health offers free resources to educate nurses and patients. Learn by system, medication or medical condition.
Nursing Associations and Networking
Nurses use networking to enhance skills, offer and gain support and, grow their careers. Joining the right nursing associations is a key step to staying current with the fast-moving field and can help you find professional mentors. The association a nurse joins will have a lot to do with their specialization.
American Nurses Association (ANA)
Representing 4 million nurses in the United States, the ANA is a juggernaut when it comes to policies that improve nurse work conditions, give voice to patients and elevate the role of the professional nurse. ANA membership is an investment in the future of nursing.
National League for Nursing (NLN)
As the first nursing association in the United States, the NLN represents and supports nurse educators in their academic and community roles. Continuing education, certification, conferences and policymaking are among the many benefits of membership.
Oncology Nursing Society (ONS)
The ONS offers the career growth and networking opportunities expected of a professional organization, as well as the latest in evidence-based research to equip nurses with the knowledge to improve and save lives.
American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN)
If you’re committed to critical care or are looking to connect with intensive care unit professionals, the AACN membership is something you should consider. Producing its own scholarly journal to keep its members abreast of current events, AACN is a powerhouse that keeps members engaged.
Society of Pediatric Nurses (SPN)
With continuing education and webinars, the SPN equips pediatric nurses with the tools and resources they need to gain specialized knowledge.