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As the U.S. health care system continues to evolve, industry demand for more highly educated nurses is growing. Data from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing shows current and prospective nurses are responding to rising education requirements: enrollment in all types of programs at nursing schools across the country increased from 2010 to 2011.
Some nursing schools offer graduate certificates that allow nurses to expand their expertise and meet critical areas of need in the nursing profession. Offered to nurses with a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree, graduate certificates are designed to enhance nurses’ professional competencies and prepare them to apply for national certification in specialized disciplines.
“As the patient population becomes more diverse, and the delivery of care more complex, nurses with advanced knowledge and skills can influence the quality of care that patients receive,” says Carole Eldridge, director of graduate programs for Chamberlain College of Nursing. “With expertise in in-demand disciplines, nurses can also expand their current scope of practice and increase their professional marketability.”
Chamberlain offers online Graduate Certificate Programs for MSN-prepared nurses to hone their expertise in either education or informatics, with or without practicums; practicum is optional for students with practical application experience in their area of study. Graduates of the Graduate Certificate in Nursing Education Program will be prepared to take the National League for Nursing’s Certified Nurse Educator (CNE) exam, and graduates of the Graduate Certificate in Nursing Informatics Program will be prepared to take the American Nurses Credentialing Center Informatics Nursing exam.
Graduate certificate programs help meet the Institute of Medicine’s recommendations for nurses to achieve higher levels of education and for nursing schools to find new ways to prepare nurses to better meet evolving patient needs. They can also help nurses respond to areas of need in the health care workforce.
One such area is nursing education. U.S. nursing schools turned away more than 75,000 qualified applicants from baccalaureate and graduate nursing degree programs in 2011 due, in part, to insufficient faculty. Without enough educators, the industry cannot prepare enough incoming nurses to respond to the growing national shortage.
Health care informatics is another fast-growing field. A 2012 report by Jobs for the Future and Burning Glass Technologies measured online job postings from 2007 to 2011 and found that health care informatics positions grew by 36 percent, while total online job postings for that same period grew by only 6 percent.
The modern health care setting is dependent upon nurses with the specialized knowledge to oversee implementation of innovative information technology, such as electronic health records. Nurses with a graduate certificate in nursing informatics can be prepared for a variety of related roles, including clinical informatics analyst, informatics nurse specialist or chief nursing information officer.
The increase of graduate certificate programs demonstrates that academic leaders and nurses are committed to building a strong, well-educated workforce that is prepared to address the health care challenges of tomorrow.