Emergency NPs get portfolio credentialing alternative

CLICK to Email
CLICK for Print Version

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, for HealthLeaders Media, September 18, 2012

A new program from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) will provide an alternative credentialing method for emergency nurse practitioners. It also opens the door for credentialing for other, more niche nursing specialties.

Typically, nurses take an exam to get specialty certifications. But this new program, which is scheduled to launch in late 2013, offers portfolio credentialing as alternative method for issuing board certification.

Ellen Swartwout, senior director of certification and measurement services at ANCC, told me that although it's a new methodology, it will "follow the same accreditation standard that one would follow to create an exam." For example, content experts in the subject area will recommend eligibility criteria, and portfolios will be subject to peer review.

The emergency nurse practitioner certification will require competencies over and above the NP role.

"It has to be at a level that's reflected at being an expert not just an entry level," Swartwout says. "This is really considered a specialty on top of that nurse practitioner role."

Portfolio requirements for the new emergency specialty would be around practice hours and continuing education. Requirements would also include an online application, resume, self evaluation, clinical narrative, and recommendations from supervisors.

"They would have to highlight throughout their portfolio their practice and professional accomplishments," Patsy Deyo, ANCC's product manager of certification programs, explained.

The portfolio credentialing program isn't simply exciting news for nurse practitioners who are exam-phobic, though. According to Swartwout and Deyo, it could open up brand new avenues for nurses in niche specialties to get board certifications.

Here's how Swartwout explained it: To give an exam, "you have to have a large enough pool of nurses to…make sure it's a reliable exam." But some specialties are so small that there really aren't enough people for that.

"There's a lot of specialization out there," she says. "If you didn't have enough people for an exam…there was really never another option."

Portfolio credentialing is an alternative, and it's just as rigorous. "That's really important to the credibility of the program," Swartwout says.

This will be a renewable credential, Deyo says. Emergency nurse practitioners would have the same type of requirements for continued practice hours and education for maintaining their certification.

Having a larger roster of certified nurse specialists isn't just good news for nurses; it's good for patients, too. I'm reminded of a study published earlier this year which found that critical care units with higher percentages of RNs holding national specialty certifications had lower rates of central line-associated blood stream infections (CLABSI) and catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTI). Specifically, Critical Care Registered Nurse certification was associated with lower rates of CAUTI, and Cardiac Surgical Certification was associated with lower rates of CLABSI.

Swartwout says the new credentialing program is "something that the nursing community has really been asking for to acknowledge the specialization in any area of nursing." She says they hope to expand the program to other specialties.

"We would like to open up to others that may be interested in having that in their area," Swartwout says. But, she adds, "it has to be a recognized area…there'd be some criteria."

However the programs transpire, they will no doubt provide a chance for nurses whose expertise is advanced and very specialized to get recognized in an area where they might not have been able to do so before, and that, say Swartwout and Deyo, is exciting news.

"We think that this is something that the nursing discipline has needed for some time," Swartwout says. "We are very excited to be able to provide that credentialing piece."

Source: HealthLeaders Media