Certification is the criterion standard of professional practice, distinguishing excellence in nursing care, mastery of knowledge, skills, and abilities beyond the scope of professional licensure. It is the validation of an individual nurse’s qualifications for practice in a defined area. Becoming certified is a personal and professional commitment that demonstrates the value that the individual nurse places on higher standards of practice and lifelong learning. The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) Beacon Award for Excellence, Magnet Recognition Program, and Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award all recognize certification as a key component of nursing excellence in specialty practice. Both the general public and nurse professionals increasingly recognize the need for practice on the basis of evidence to provide safe, quality patient care. In today’s rapidly changing and complex health care delivery system, certification is becoming the standard by which bedside practice and the impact of nursing care on patient outcomes are measured. This article will provide a review of current best practices in creating a culture of certification, including the journey of 3 hospitals selected as the 2010 Best Practice Roundtable presentations at the AACN National Teaching Institute.

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