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Reply by Barnum to Osborne on Licensure, Certification, and Accreditation

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March 17, 2004

Response by Barbara Stevens Barnum to letter by Deborah Osborne on "Licensure, Certification, and Accreditation" by Barbara Stevens Barnum, RN, PhD, FAAN (August 14, 1997)

Dear Ms. Osborne:

Congratulations on pursuing your BSN and for being involved and interested in your profession. I think it's important that nurses respond to things in writing more often. That's really the only way a writer can tell if people read what she/he intended to say.

With that in mind, let me make a few comments on your response. One misunderstanding that's easy to clear up is where you said that I "implie(d) that certification is offered to any and all." What I said was, "Most certification programs are limited to nurses but there are some certification programs open to health or human services professionals from diverse fields." I can see that, without clarification, you might have thought I meant that as a bad thing. Actually, I was just stating a matter of fact, and in truth, many such certifications are appropriately open. When I wrote that statement, I was thinking of certain certifications open to nurses and social workers—where both groups have studied the relevant content. I don't know about Massachusetts, but here in New York, there are many psychology/psychoanalytic programs open to nurses and social workers, and it would be a shame if certification were only open to half of them. However, circumstances such as that were never meant to mean that certification was open to "any and all." So I’m glad you let me clarify.

Another point that, again, may reflect a matter of tone. You thought when I used the phrase, "love affair with certification," I meant it derogatorily. Alas, I’m hardly ever against love affairs of any sort. And, having worked with the British system, I think it has great merits. I am not against certification—or our love affair with it. I do think it can be confusing to see large numbers of certificate credentials following a name, and that’s just a fact of life. The fact is that we didn’t create certification programs in a systematic way—certification is messy, and perhaps that’s the way it is with most love affairs. There is a price to be paid either way—confusion with so many different options, or the opposite danger: too little choice if certifications were highly limited and regimented.

On the whole, I think we agree, whatever the system complications, certification is a wonderful thing, and because it asserts quality specialty care, has only good effects on the care delivered.

Sincerely,
Barbara Barnum, RN, PhD, FAAN
Barbbarnum@aol.com

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