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Nurse certification refers to the formal qualifications a nurse must have. There are several basic types of certification a nurse can complete in order to be qualified and legally allowed to act as a nurse within a state. Once a nurse has completed basic qualifications and become licensed and certified, the nurse can obtain additional experience and education to obtain certification in a specified area of nursing.
In order to work as a nurse, nurses must obtain a basic minimum degree. There is more than one way to do so. Different types of basic education required for certification have different requirements.
A nurse can become a registered nurse, or RN. This can generally be done through taking an associate's degree program at a community college. The nurse must then also obtain work experience, usually through the form of an internship.
Alternatively, a nurse can pursue further formal education by obtaining a bachelor's of science in nursing, or a BSN. This is done at a four-year college. Generally, the nurse will have to fulfill basic educational requirements to get her degree, and she also must take sufficient classes specific to nursing. Work experience is often required in such cases as well.
Once a nurse has obtained an associate's or bachelor's degree, within the United States she must take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). This tests her basic knowledge of nursing skills that she will need to function as a nurse. Each of the 50 states within the United States requires that nurses complete this national exam to become licensed and obtain nurse certification.
Once a nurse is licensed, she may obtain nurse certification in a specific field of nursing. For example, a nurse may obtain nurse certification in neonatal nursing if she wishes to work primarily with infants in the neonatal unit. A nurse can also become a diabetes nurse, a nurse midwife, a maternity nurse, an oncology nurse, or another type of specialized nurse. Many hospitals and academic institutions offer coursework that allows a nurse to obtain nurse certification in one of these particular fields.
Generally, both work experience within the particular field of medicine and the passing of an exam to test basic knowledge is required for a nurse to obtain this type of additional certification. Some hospitals will require a nurse working in particular units or departments to have this certification. In other cases, certification can make a nurse a more attractive candidate for a given job.