ANCC Nursing Certification

While not required by law for Registered nurses (RNs), board certification is beneficial for career-minded nurses. Nursing certification provides employers with a fair and accurate assessment of a nurse's skills in in a given specialty. Certification is attractive to employers, and certified nurses may merit a higher pay-level than those who are not certified. Magnet hospitals (those qualifying under the ANCC Magnet Recognition Program) particularly seek board-certified nurses. In addition, some institutions may require supervisors or head nurses to be board-certified.

American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) of American Nurses Association (ANA) is the largest nurse credentialing organization in the United States, and provides board certification in over 42 specialties, ranging from Medical-Surgical Nursing to Nurse Executive. Certification is also granted by a number of other organizations.

The ANCC was established in 1990 by the American Nurses Association (ANA). The ANCC was the result of years of work by the ANA, beginning in 1966, to provide a means for the recognition of professional achievement and excellence in each of its divisions, as well as a decision to develop certification programs.

By 1972, three practice divisions had established guidelines for certification, and this number increased to five by 1973. ANA formally announced a national certification program in 1973 to recognize excellence in the clinical practice of nursing. A year later, the first certification examinations were announced and administered.

ANA’s Commission on Assessment and Renewal recommended the establishment of ANCC in 1990, and it was incorporated as a separate nonprofit organization. In 1991, however, ANCC became a subsidiary of ANA. At that point, ANA’s certification, accreditation, and magnet programs were shifted to ANCC.


ANCC’s accreditation program was started in 1974 by ANA to recognize organizations, or their components, that provide continuing education for nurses meeting high standards established by its volunteer peer review process. The peer review process measures adherence to those standards by organizations that apply for accreditation.

ANCC’s Magnet Recognition Program® was formed as a result of a 1983 study done by the ANA to identify the variables that create a favorable work environment for nurses. The program provides recognition to hospitals that meet its criteria for attracting and retaining well-qualified nurses who promote patient care.

The Pathway to Excellence® program was initiated in 2007 after ANCC acquired a Texas Nurses Association program aimed at improving nurse retention and quality of care in small, rural hospitals. Pathway to Excellence recognizes hospitals that meet its standards for providing a nurse friendly environment.

The Institute for Credentialing Innovation was established in 1998 to develop, execute, and manage products and services supporting ANCC’s accreditation, credentialing, pathway, and magnet programs. It provides educational products and services for nurses and healthcare organizations in a variety of forms, including online learning, review manuals and seminars, regional workshops and symposiums, national conferences and consulting services.

ANCC’s Institute for Credentialing Research was formally established in 2005 to support research for all of ANCC’s programs and to encourage research revealing how credentialing contributes to excellence in nursing and healthcare.

A growing number of requests for ANCC’s services from overseas led to the establishment of Credentialing International in 1999. In 2009, however, it was disbanded, and outreach to the international community was continued by ANCC within each program area.

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