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Top Certifications for New Grad Nurses

Certifications for New Grad Nurses

Amanda graduated six months ago and is still trying to land a job. Her friends are urging her to obtain as many nursing certifications as possible in order to appear more marketable. Amanda knows most of these courses are expensive, and on top of the course fee, she will have to purchase a pricey textbook. There are many companies out there targeting new nurses like Amanda with educational offerings, and she wants to spend her money and her time wisely.

Do certifications for new grad nurses boost resumes? Or do they just break your pocketbook? Here’s what you need to know, and how not to get conned.

The Top Certifications for New Grad Nurses

Basic Life Support (BLS)
BLS is required for all nurses. Never let it lapse, as it’s a professional expectation to maintain your BLS. Not to mention if it lapses you will have to take a full provider course instead of a renewal course.top certifications for new grad nurses

Always:

  • Take BLS from an American Heart Association (AHA) instructor (not an AHA copycat)
  • Take the  AHA healthcare provider courses (not a non-healthcare provider course, and not Hands Only BLS)

BLS renewal courses are four hours long, and can cost under $50.00, but costs vary according to the instructor/company. AHA does not dictate costs. A two year provider card is issued. More information

PROs: Professional requirement    CONs: None

ECG Courses
Unlike ACLS, PALs, and NIHSS certifications, ECG courses are not standardized. Anyone can offer an ECG course, and the length may vary from a few hours to a few weeks. At the end of the course you may be issued a “Certificate of Completion”, but these are homegrown and do not carry an expiration date or convey a provider status.

Therefore, hospitals put little stock in an ECG certificate of completion, and instead test for competency by administering their own Basic Arrhythmia Competency Test. Basic Arrhythmia Competency  is required for ICU, Stepdown, Tele, and ED nurses. Many hospitals also require it for L&D (to recover a C-section), and MedSurg (remote tele) nurses.

The value in taking an ECG course is that you it prepares you to take and pass the Basic Arrhythmia Competency Test.

PROs: Very good for professional development. Prepares the learner to pass Basic Arrhythmia Competency.   CONs: If required for your job, the employer will provide this course for free, and most will pay you to attend.

Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support Course (ACLS)
ACLS is an AHA course that trains health care providers to participate in or manage a code. ACLS is ten to twelve hours long and is generally required for ED, ICU, as well as Tele, Stepdown, and sometimes MedSurg nurses, depending on the organization.

top certifications for new grad nursesA prior good understanding of Basic Arrhythmia is important, as you will be expected to identify rhythms. The course is interactive, with scenarios and simulations. ACLS  courses can cost around $150.00, but costs vary according to the instructor/company. AHA does not dictate costs. A two year provider card is issued. More information

PROs: Shows initiative    CONs: If required for your job, the employer will provide this course for free, and most will pay you to attend. ACLS skills are better learned once you have attended a few codes, and have some clinical context to build on.

National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale (NIHSS) 
NIHSS is offered by the National Stroke Association. It prepares learners to assess a stroke patient using video scenarios, and to rate the stroke severity on a standardized scale.  Offered in a self-paced, online training format,  the course is free. The certificate is good for two years.  More information

PROs: Shows initiative, and seen as a value by Stroke Certified organizations.  Good for professional development and knowledge.  CONs: If required for your job, the employer will pay you to attend.

Trauma Nursing Core Course (TNCC)
This 16- or 20-hour intensive course was developed by the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) and prepares the learner to manage trauma patients.

Not all EDs are trauma centers, and nurses in those EDs are not required to have their TNCC.  TNCC courses can cost around $300.00, including textbook, but cost varies by instructor/company. A four year provider card is issued. More information

PROs: Shows initiative and may be helpful for an ED position   CONs: Specific to trauma and trauma EDs only. If required for your job, the employer will provide this course for free, and most will pay you to attend.

Emergency Nursing Pediatric Course (ENPC)top certifications for new grad nurses
This 16-hour comprehensive course was developed by the ENA. It provides ED nurses with the knowledge and skills to care for pediatric patients.

ENPC courses can cost around $300.00, including textbook, but cost varies by instructor/company.  A four year provider card is issued. More information

PROs: Shows initiative and may be helpful for an ED position   CONs: Specific to EDs. If required for your job, the employer will provide this course for free, and most will pay you to attend. 

Pediatric Advanced Life Support Course (PALS)
The 14-hour AHA PALS course prepares pediatric nurses to resuscitate and stabilize infants and children  experiencing cardiopulmonary arrest.  PALS is often required for ED, ICU and Pediatric nurses. PALS  courses can cost around $140.00, but costs vary according to the instructor/company. AHA does not dictate costs. A two year provider card is issued. More information

PROs: Shows initiative and may be helpful for a position working with pediatric patients.  CONs: If required for your job, the employer will provide this course for free, and most will pay you to attend.

PALS skills, like ACLS,  are better learned once you have attended a few codes, and have some clinical context to build on.

Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP)
NRP is based on the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and AHA Guidelines for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Emergency Cardiovascular Care of the Neonate and trains the learner for emergency care and resuscitation of the newborn.  NRP courses are offered as a blend of self-study, online exam, and a classroom skills/simulation portion.

The simulation portion is about four hours long. NRP courses can cost around $140.00, but costs vary according to the instructor/company. It may be required for L&D and NICU nurses, depending on the facility. A two year provider card is issued. More information

PROs: Shows initiative and may be helpful for a position working with neonates.  CONs: If required for your job, the employer will provide this course for free, and most will pay you to attend.

S.T.A.B.L.E. Program
S.T.A.B.L.E. is a neonatal  program that focuses on stabilizing newborns. S.T.A.B.L.E. stands for the six assessment parameters taught in the course: Sugar, Temperature, Airway, Blood pressure, Lab work, and Emotional support. It’s an 8 hour class, and can cost around $150.00, including textbook, but costs vary according to the instructor/company. A completion card is good for two years. More informationtop certifications for new grad nurses

PROs: Shows initiative and may be helpful for a position working with newborns. CONs: If required for your job, the employer will provide this course for free, and most will pay you to attend.

 

Final Tips on Certifications for New Grad Nurses

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For new grads, amassing certifications has almost become de rigueur. But this push never came from hospitals. Hospitals understand that while accumulating certifications does show initiative, it does not convey expertise. Training without clinical experience/application is simply didactic knowledge.

Don’t spend more than you can afford and compare prices. Some companies charge more than others. Don’t take anything unnecessary. For example, taking an IV certification course in CA is not necessary.

top certifications for new grad nursesWatch out for poorly defined courses such as “Pharmacology” and consider why you should take a course which you already took in nursing school. Think twice about bundled courses, such as “ECG and Pharmacology”.

Take only AHA courses for PALS, BLS, and ACLS. There are companies that offer “100%” online courses, and that is a dead give away that they are not AHA affiliated. AHA always requires a live skills check before issuing a provider card.

The AHA, and AAP  do not endorse nor are they affiliated with ANY fully online certification program.

The best way to get your resume way noticed? Read Sample Resume  and How to Write a Resume with no Experience

 

Until next time friend,

Nurse Beth

You can also come visit me at Ask Nurse Beth career column at allnurses.com for all kinds of  entertaining and informative career questions and answers, and to submit your own question 🙂

 

About Beth Hawkes (133 Articles)
Nice to meet you! I'm a Nursing Professional Development Specialist in acute care, a writer, speaker and career columnist.
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