Carol E. Heiser, RN, ND


January 21, 2010

Today’s military nurses must respond to daunting challenges, caring for patients in a variety of settings from field hospitals and aircraft carriers to rehabilitation centers and outpatient clinics. As this patient population grows and acuity intensifies, certification of nurses plays a significant role in ensuring these nurses have the specialized knowledge, skills, and experience to meet the demands of the Military Health System (MHS).

In its mission, the MHS states it is “prepared to respond anytime, anywhere with comprehensive medical capability to military operations, natural disasters, and humanitarian causes around the globe, and to ensure delivery of world-class healthcare to all Department of Defense (DoD) service members, retirees, and families.”

Military nurses serve as part of one of the largest healthcare systems in the world. According to the Henry Kaiser Family Foundation, the MHS incurs annually more than $211 billion in expenses to provide care for approximately 8.3 million active-duty military personnel and 9.5 million retired military personnel, family members, and other eligible beneficiaries.[1]

Such an enormous responsibility requires the highest levels of clinical excellence, and certification encourages and recognizes nurses for meeting this expectation. Not only does certification provide rewards for nurses who serve their country, it promotes professional development, which in turn benefits millions of servicepersons and veterans.

According to the Veteran’s Health Administration (VHA) and the Defense Manpower Data Center, there are over 40,000 nurses employed in VHA facilities and thousands more nurses in the armed forces serving in the Army, Navy, Air Force and U.S. Public Health Corps.[2]This system is also the world’s largest combined clinical training setting for nursing students, with 1 in 4 acquiring clinical skills through the VHA/DoD, again underscoring the need for highly competent, certified nurses as preceptors.

To make the certification testing process more accessible for military nurses, The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and its testing administration partner, Prometric, offer computer-based exams through hundreds of testing centers across the world. More information on testing can be found at: Applicants needing to test in a paper and pencil format can also be accommodated through the DANTES military testing sites. All of the eligibility requirements, registration, and application review processes for ANCC exams administered internationally are the same as those submitted domestically. However, there is an additional $125 fee.

There has never been a better time for our nation’s military nurses to become certified. In May, 2008, VHA initiated the "Let’s Get Certified Campaign," providing significant pay and recognition incentives for achieving specialty certification. In its first year, the campaign generated such an overwhelming response that it was extended through May 2010. The VHA, in Phase II invited their DoD partners to adopt the initiative.

These incentive programs are in collaboration with over 40 certifying bodies such as ANCC. Many of these organizations offer special discounts on application fees as well as on preparation study materials for certification exams. Nurses in both the VHA and DoD systems have new opportunities to advance their careers and earn cash awards. In VHA, these incentives are given only to newly certified nurses and positions that require certification as a condition of employment are also excluded from the program.

VHA’s Office of Nursing Services is encouraging healthcare facility participation by offering 2 additional national awards -- the Certification Development and the Certification Achievement Awards. These are aimed at motivating facilities to promote certification activities that will increase the number of certified nurses. Organizations will be selected on the highest numbers of new certifications, highest percentage of nurses certified, and innovative strategies used to achieve these goals. Plaques, recognition events, and cash will be awarded, with funds earmarked to support the tenets of the Magnet Recognition Program®. The VHA developed a comprehensive toolkit with promotional posters, fact sheets, and other resources to assist facilities in developing their local "Let’s Get Certified" campaign and the toolkit was shared with DoD in Phase II so that these military nurses could take advantage of the program.

Given the numbers of military nurses and patients, this certification campaign will have tremendous impact on the delivery of health care. Research has demonstrated that a certified nurse workforce improves clinical outcomes and patient safety.[3]

Furthermore, nurses who become certified have reported feeling more empowered in their practice, thus making them more likely to remain in their positions longer, an important strategy in addressing the nursing shortage. These nurses reporting receiving validation by having demonstrated they met national standards and achieved personal growth.[3,4]

In this time of pressing concern for health care reform, the military has a great opportunity to demonstrate the value of the "Let’s Get Certified" campaign. By replicating VHA’s model, this program provides many tangible strategies for implementation of a similar certification campaign. For more information, contact Mary Seaman, MS, RN, NEA-BC, Director of Staff Relations/Nursing, James Haley VA Hospital at or (813) 979-3672.

For information on career opportunities, educational benefits and more about becoming a military nurse, please visit the following Web sites:

Veterans Health Administration
Army Nurse Corps
Navy Nurse Corps
Air Force Nurse Corps
U.S. Public Health Corps

This content is provided by American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) for publication on the website.

The American Nurses Credentialing Center's (ANCC) internationally renowned credentialing programs certify nurses in specialty practice areas, recognize healthcare organizations for nursing excellence through the Magnet Recognition® and Pathway to Excellence® Programs, and accredit providers of continuing nursing education. In addition, ANCC offers an array of informational and educational services and products to support its core credentialing programs.

ANCC is passionate about helping nurses on their journey to nursing excellence. Visit ANCC's web site at

The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) is a subsidiary of the American Nurses Association (ANA).


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