Meet the BCEN 2023 National Certification Champion: RWJBarnabas Health Emergency Departments

On September 28, 2023, BCEN was pleased to announce our 2023 National Certification Champion Award – Healthcare System category winner:    


RWJBarnabas Health Emergency Departments

Throughout New Jersey


What does being named a BCEN National Certification Champion mean to your organization and the communities you serve?

RWJBarnabas Health (RWJBH) is honored to be named the 2023 BCEN National Certification Champion. It represents the culmination of years of focused attention promoting certification and success for all Emergency Department registered nurses. Being a BCEN National Certification Champion underscores RWJBH’s commitment to nursing excellence and the professional growth and development of our staff.

What sets nurses who have earned the CEN, CPEN, TCRN, CTRN, and/or CFRN apart in their daily practice and in their professional development trajectories?

Certification is a differentiator and commitment to lifelong learning.  It is a major accomplishment and the culmination of hard work and focused study. The nurses who have earned the Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN) and these other important certifications demonstrate a dedication to patient care and commitment to their career development.

Successful BCEN certification increases a nurse’s level in the Clinical Ladder Program. During Certified Nurses Week, certified ED RNs are recognized for their achievement. In the Magnet designated hospitals, the BCEN certified ED RNs are candidates for the Magnet Nurse of the Year Award. Furthermore, certified ED RNs are encouraged to mentor other exam candidates and to share their experience of certification.

What are the positive outcomes you are seeing and tracking as the number of BCEN-certified nurses increases?

The RWJBH ED RN Certification program has had many positive results. In addition to the increased number of certified ED RNs, the program has created a “CEN buzz” in the system. ED RNs are talking about certification, they are asking questions, they are planning to pursue certification as a professional goal, and they are expressing a huge interest in learning. It feels like a “hum” throughout the entire system.

This program has also increased the collaboration between the ED Clinical Nurse Educators who have formed the Emergency Nursing Education Collective in order to formalize their work together. We are finding that the staff are energized and excited about their accomplishments.

There is an increased ED nurse engagement in the RWJBH system. Certification preparation is offered to any new registered nurse joining our system. This has helped recruitment, retention and reduction in ED nurse vacancy rates. Our ED nurses are supported, and their professional growth and development is encouraged.

What do you most want other organizations to know about why and how to support nursing specialty certification?

At RWJBarnabas Health, we are focused on providing a pathway for nurses to attain certification along with the tools and support to create an engaged and motivated workforce that delivers a higher level of care for our patients. The key, our system has found, is to encourage BCEN certifications, including the facilitation of corporate exam purchases, study materials, free CEN review courses, mentorship and unconditional support. These methods are facilitated by the collaboration of the Clinical Nurse Educators and the ED Directors of Nursing and a commitment by nursing leadership to support certification.

Here’s what RWJBarnabas Health nurse leaders had to say about the value and impact of supporting board certification and what it means to be named a BCEN National Certification Champion:

“These keys are helping to open the RNs’ excitement and commitment to learning, professional development and the huge professional achievement in certification. This helps our ED RNs to feel better about themselves and ED nursing after a long and difficult struggle [during the pandemic]. This is leading all the RWJBH ED RNs back to their love of and commitment to emergency nursing. And most of all, this is great for our patients.”

— Cathlyn Robinson, MSc(A), RN, CEN, TCRN, Director of Operations, Emergency Services Line, RWJBarnabas Health

“RWJBarnabas Health is honored to be named the BCEN National Certification Champion. This award represents the culmination of years of focused attention by nursing leadership to promote and facilitate ED nurse certification coupled with a highly motivated and passionate nursing staff who are dedicated to their patients as well as their professional development. We are so proud of our certified nurses and their commitment to lifelong learning.”

—Nancy E. Holecek, Executive Vice President, Chief Nursing Officer, RWJBarnabas Health

Learn how to build a Culture of Certification Support from all 3 of BCEN’s 2023 National Certification Champion Award winners here.