Graduate certificates help nurses advance

As the U.S. health care system continues to evolve, industry demand for more highly educated nurses is growing. Data from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing shows current and prospective nurses are responding to rising education requirements: enrollment in all types of programs at nursing schools across the country increased from 2010 to 2011.

Some nursing schools offer graduate certificates that allow nurses to expand their expertise and meet critical areas of need in the nursing profession. Offered to nurses with a Master of Science in Nursing degree, graduate certificates are designed to enhance nurses' professional competencies and prepare them to apply for national certification in specialized disciplines.

Graduate certificate programs help meet the Institute of Medicine's recommendations for nurses to achieve higher levels of education and for nursing schools to find new ways to prepare nurses to better meet evolving patient needs. They can also help nurses respond to areas of need in the health care workforce.

One such area is nursing education. U.S. nursing schools turned away more than 75,000 qualified applicants from baccalaureate and graduate nursing degree programs in 2011 due, in part, to insufficient faculty. Without enough educators, the industry cannot prepare enough incoming nurses to respond to the growing national shortage.

Health care informatics is another fast-growing field. A 2012 report by Jobs for the Future and Burning Glass Technologies measured online job postings from 2007 to 2011 and found that health care informatics positions grew by 36 percent, while total online job postings for that same period grew by only 6 percent.

- Brand Point