[By Cyndi Miller Murphy. MSN, RN, CAE, ONCC Executive Director]
Various providers may refer to their programs as “certification,” but each may not represent the same level of achievement. For example, attendance at a continuing nursing education (CNE) program is a very different level of achievement than preparing for and passing a comprehensive, broad-based certification exam such as an OCN ® test.
Although each program serves an important purpose in nurses’ professional development, savvy nurses need to know the difference and what it means for them. Here are the definitions of various certification and certificate programs to which the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC) subscribes.
Certification: This is a voluntary process by which a nongovernmental entity grants a time-limited recognition and use of a credential to individuals after verifying that they have met predetermined and standardized criteria. It assesses
mastery of the knowledge and skills required to competently perform in a profession or provide a specific service. Examples include all of the ONCC certifications (OCN ®. AOCN ®. CPON ®. CPHON ®. CBCN ®. AOCNS ®. AOCNP ® ).
Assessment-based certificate program: This is a short, non–degree-granting program that provides instruction and training around a narrow set of knowledge, skills, and competencies. It designates that participants have passed a post-test derived from the course objectives. An example is the ONS/ONCC Radiation Certificate Program.
Certificate of attendance or participation: This certificate is issued after an educational program and indicates only that participants have attended the program. Usually, knowledge learned during the program is not assessed. The certificates often are used to document that nurses have obtained CNE in a specific content area. An example is the annual ONS Congress.