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Credentialing Definitions

Credentialing is a term applied to processes used to designate that an individual, programme, institution or product have met established standards set by an agent (governmental or non-governmental) recognized as qualified to carry out this task. The standards may be minimal and mandatory or above the minimum and voluntary. Licensure, registration, accreditation, approval, certification, recognition or endorsement may be used to describe different credentialing processes but this terminology is not applied consistently across different settings and countries. Credentials are marks or “stamps” of quality and achievement communicating to employers, payers, and consumers what to expect from a “credentialed” nurse, specialist, course or programme of study, an institution of higher education, hospital or health service, or healthcare product, technology, or device. Credentials may be periodically renewed as a means of assuring continued quality and they may be withdrawn when standards of competence or behavior are no longer met. [Styles MM and Affara FA, 1997, ICN on Regulation: Towards 21 st Century Models]

International Council of Nurses (ICN), downloaded 1/1/2006 from

Certification is a process by which a non-governmental agency or association certifies that an individual licensed to practice a profession has met certain predetermined standards specified by that profession for specialty practice. Its purpose is to assure various publics that an individual has mastered a body of knowledge and acquired skills in a particular specialty.

American Nurses Association (ANA), The study of credentialing in nursing: A new approach . Kansas City, MO: American Nurses Association, 1979, p. 67.

Professional certification is the voluntary process by which a non-governmental entity grants a time-limited recognition and use of a credential to an individual after verifying that he or she has met predetermined and standardized criteria. It is the vehicle that a profession or occupation uses to differentiate among its members, using standards, sometimes developed through a consensus-driven process, based on existing legal and psychometric requirements. The holder of a professional certification is called a certificant.

Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE), ICE Guide to Understanding Credentialing Concepts, 2005, p. 5. Downloaded 11/30/10 from


Recognition is a process whereby one agency or association accepts for specified purposes the credentialing status of and the credentials conferred by another credentialing body.

American Nurses Association (ANA), The study of credentialing in nursing: A new approach . Kansas City, MO.: American Nurses Association, 1979, p. 72.

Standard — Authoritative statement enunciated and promulgated by the profession by which the quality of practice, service, or education can be judged.

American Nurses Association (ANA), Nursing: Scope & Standards of Practice , Washington, DC, 2004, p. 115

Standards are authoritative statements by which the nursing profession describes the responsibilities for which its practitioners are accountable. Standards reflect the values and priorities of the profession and provide direction for professional nursing practice and a framework for the evaluation of this practice. They also define the nursing profession's accountability to the public and the outcomes for which registered nurses are responsible.

American Nurses Association (ANA), downloaded 11/18/10 from ANA Standards for Excellence®

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