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Certified nurses put advanced expertise to work in order to help patients heal

What does it mean to be a certified nurse? To honor national Certified Nurses Day, we asked two of our University of Minnesota Health nurses to explain.
Keum-ok Voght (left) is a rehabilitation nurse at the West Bank of University of Minnesota Medical Center. Susan McGrath (right) is a nurse manager specializing in perianesthesia at the East Bank of University of Minnesota Medical Center. Both have obtained advanced nursing certifications.

What is a certified nurse?

Simply put, certified nurses have received an advanced board certification from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) in one of many medical specialties. This could include pain management, oncology, critical care, hospice care, or numerous other specialty areas.

On March 19, the ANCC celebrates national Certified Nurses DayTm —an event honoring the important role of certified nurses in patient care. In order to become board certified, a nurse must successfully pass an exam. Once certified, the nurse must maintain the certification every three to five years by logging continuing education hours or retaking the exam.

University of Minnesota Health has 693 nurses who have obtained national board certification in their chosen area of expertise. Together, they work with other care providers to ensure that each patient receives comprehensive, compassionate care.

 In honor of Certified Nurses Day 2018, we asked two of our certified nurses to tell us more about their certification—and how their advanced expertise enables them to provide expert care for our patients.

Susan McGrath, RN, BSN, PHN, CPAN, CAPA, is a nurse manager specializing in perianesthesia at the East Bank of University of Minnesota Medical Center. Keum-ok Voght, RN, BSN, CRRN, is a rehabilitation nurse at the West Bank of University of Minnesota Medical Center.

Please tell us more about your nursing background.

Susan: I became a nurse 15 years ago after working at Fairview Health Services as a nursing station technician. I obtained my registered nursing license and then moved to Australia, where I worked in the intensive care unit and the surgery unit of a large hospital. When I moved back to Minnesota in 2014, I returned to University of Minnesota Health, working as a nurse manager in perianesthesia. In that role, I provide nursing assistance for patients before and after anesthesia.  

Keum-ok: I have been a nurse for 23 years, and joined the organization in 2005. In 2010, I became part of the Acute Rehabilitation Center (ARC) on the West Bank of University of Minnesota Medical Center. There, I provide rehabilitation nursing for patients so that they can return to their home or community safely.

Why are you passionate about nursing?

Keum-ok: In the rehabilitation center, I work with a talented and compassionate team to maximize the function and quality of life of each patient and to support patients so that they can return to their home or community and live as independently as possible. We serve patients in need of comprehensive inpatient rehabilitation—which includes stroke, spinal cord injury, organ transplantation and heart surgery patients. Our patients are scheduled for three hours of therapy a day, including weekends. It is gratifying for me to work with my team to help each person regain their independence.

Why is receiving board certification important for nurses?

Susan: Receiving board certification allows me to attend educational opportunities that focus on the special needs of our patient population. Through the training, I have developed a better understanding of specific patient needs and best practice standards in my chosen specialty area. Because of my certification, I am better equipped to care for patients post-anesthesia. I know more about pressure injury prevention and integrative pain management for patients recovering from surgical procedures. Any specialty certification affirms your dedication to nursing and serving patients in your specialty area.

How does your specialty board certification allow you to better serve patients?

Keum-ok: In my role as a rehabilitation nurse, I see many patients who are recovering from complex surgeries and strokes. Board certification gave me greater knowledge in my area of expertise. Now, I can more effectively monitor and educate patients or family members and help them tackle medical, emotional and functional challenges. These challenges can include anything from aspiration, infection, or risk of fall to depression. This expertise is important because our patient’s outcomes depend on our ability to accurately assess their progress and health and deliver the best care.

Learn more about our physical rehabilitation services.

How does your specialty certification allow you to offer additional expertise in your nursing care?

Susan: I do everything I can to ensure that our patients receive the best and safest care possible. As a nurse, I am always trying to predict the “what ifs” of any medical situation in order to keep the patient safe. Board certification builds a strong base for my nursing profession and helps me accomplish that goal. I use my specialty knowledge to collaborate with colleagues and provide the expert care our patients deserve.