Does our expertise matter?
This is the first question to be addressed: Does nursing expertise matter during times of crisis? The answer is a resounding YES! (For the purposes of this blog, “nursing expertise” is defined as expert knowledge in any specific area of nursing, whether or not you have earned ANCC certification for this knowledge.)
While your specific area of expertise may not directly relate to the outbreak, your in-depth knowledge and critical thinking ability are needed like never before. As front-line health care workers, you have the ability – and even the duty – to report out, to be a voice of reason, to speak up within your sphere of influence. It is your expertise that gives you credibility, not just the letters after your name.
If that was your immediate reaction to my statement above, good. That means you are a critical thinker, a skeptic of uncorroborated assertions.
You became an expert through hard work and careful attention to detail. And this, more than your specific area of expertise, is what makes you a valuable asset during a crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
Among proponents of a liberal arts education, as well as those who favor a bachelor’s-only entry into nursing, there is a dictum that no learning is ever wasted, no matter how unrelated to your eventual career. There are doubtless some exceptions to this theory, but in a study of patient outcomes and education levels of nurses in units, there was a small but significant positive correlation (Blegen 2012). What I found most intriguing, though, was a meta-analysis of that study and others (Biel et al, 2014; Gigli et al, 2020). The authors concluded that it was impossible to tell, based on the existing studies, whether the certification process has a significant effect on the skill of nurses, but posited that nurses who already were self-motivated and actively learning might be more likely to pursue certification.
In other words, while certification appears to be positively correlated to better patient outcomes, the real reason may be that individuals who are already going above and beyond are the ones who pursue certification.
Regardless of which comes first, one thing is clear. Curiosity and dedication to excellence improve patient outcomes. Nurses’ expertise and hard-won knowledge does matter.
What to do with this?
Okay. So, our expertise matters. Now what?
Nurse specialty certification is certainly a stellar option as your next step. Hop on over to the ANCC Certification page and check out the multitude of certifications that are available. You are bound to find one that fits your interests.
Beyond that, though, there is a whole realm of possibilities.
If you are the scholarly type, and enjoy writing, you may want to dig into the literature and start trying to put together the bigger picture. Offer to write up what you find and share inhouse, or with local news publications. If you are particularly brave (and assuming your employer is cool with it) you may want to appear on a local television or radio program as an expert voice.
If advocacy is your thing, there has never been a better time to use your voice. Call, email, or otherwise contact local and regional legislators, and encourage them to adopt the measures that you see as necessary for optimal health. (I’m not going to tell you what that should be. Not only do we as a profession have a variety of expert opinions, but the landscape is rapidly changing and is not the same in different geographic locations or types of health care.)
However you choose to do it, there is a place for your expertise in this pandemic, or in any time of crisis.
Blegen MA. (2012) Does certification of staff nurses improve patient outcomes? Evidence-Based Nursing;15:54-55.
Biel M, Grief L, Patry LA, Ponto J, Shirey M. (2014) The Relationship Between Nursing Certification and Patient Outcomes: A Review of the Literature. http://nursingcertification.org/resources/documents/research/certification-and-patient-outcomes-research-article-synthesis.pdf
Gigli KH, Davis BS, Ervin J, Kahn J M. (2020). Factors Associated with Nurses’ Knowledge of and Perceived Value in Evidence-Based Practices. American Journal of Critical Care, 29(1), e1–e8. https://doi.org/10.4037/ajcc2020866
Whitehead L, Ghosh M, Walker DK, Bloxsome D, Vafeas C, Wilkinson A. (2019) The relationship between specialty nurse certification and patient, nurse and organizational outcomes: A systematic review. Int J Nurs Stud. May; 93:1-11. doi: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2019.02.001. Epub Feb 8.