Certified nurses lead the way on their units




Completing the certification process for individual specialties signifies a commitment to professional growth and a high level of competency.

By Maureen Gilmer, Riley Children’s Health senior writer, mgilmer1@iuhealth.org

Tracie Hart (BSN, RN, CCRN) is 15 years into her nursing career and couldn’t imagine spending it anywhere but the PICU at Riley Hospital for Children.

Hart, who achieved certification as a critical care registered nurse several years ago, has worked nights on the PICU her entire career, grateful for the team around her.

“These are my people. I love my co-workers and our patient population.”

Zoee Anderson (BSN, RN, CPN) also works nights, but she is on 8W, where she started as a registered nurse about three years ago after graduating from Purdue University’s accelerated nursing program in 2020.

She became certified as a pediatric nurse in December 2022, after prepping for the certification exam with study materials provided by her unit leadership.

In recognition of Certified Nurses Day (March 19), we are spotlighting Hart and Anderson to ask why certification is important to them and their team. Certification is the formal recognition of a nurse’s expertise, commitment and excellence in patient care in a particular specialty.

“I initially went through certification as part of the career advancement program, but I’ve kept it up because I like being a go-to person,” said Hart, who is shift coordinator on nights in the PICU.

“I am one of the senior nurses on our unit, and I don’t like when I don’t have answers to things. Having that little bit of extra knowledge has helped me along the way.”

For Anderson, certification is important because it signifies a commitment to professional growth, as well as a high level of competency.

“Furthering my education helps ensure that I am prepared to provide my patients and their families the best care possible,” she said. “The expertise I've gained by becoming a certified pediatric nurse has allowed me to make more knowledgeable clinical decisions regarding patient care. It has also instilled confidence in my critical-thinking skills, which fosters trust and collaboration within the interdisciplinary team.”

Not that it’s a competition, but Hart will tell you that in the PICU, “we have, hands down, the best team of any facility.” Emphasis on team.

“We have to work in such high-stress, acute, critical situations, and we have to immediately come together as one team and know what each other is thinking and work together and do the best we can to help our patients,” she said.

“I think if you’re working in the ICU, you really do want to develop your nursing skills and you want to take care of these people. You want to be there.”

And part of being there is being a resource for the team, so everyone is equipped to provide the best care possible.

“I’m always thinking of our patients and the care we give,” Hart said, whether it relates to changes in procedures or continuing education.

“It’s all information I can carry forward into patient care and educating other nurses.”

While she supports those nurses who decide to prepare for and take the certification exam in their respective specialties, she advises newer nurses in the PICU to wait a bit just to get their legs under them.

“Don’t do it right away when you start your critical care career. You will gain more knowledge as you go.”

And for those nervous test-takers out there, she says: Study, review what you already know, and you’ll be OK.

Hart, whose younger sister, Dr. Whitney Phillips, is a third-year resident at Riley, loves to travel, hang out with family and babysit her niece when she’s not working.

Anderson, who said she was drawn to pediatrics because of the resilience and natural optimism of kids, loves how her patients seem to find happiness in the moment despite the circumstances they face.

When she’s not at the hospital, you’ll probably find her studying. She is in her first year of a pediatric nurse practitioner program.

Anderson also loves CrossFit, talking to her 16-plus houseplants, listening to live music with friends and watching Purdue sports. She played softball at Purdue University Northwest, where she earned a degree in biology in 2019.

Photos submitted and by Mike Dickbernd, IU Health visual journalist, mdickbernd@iuhealth.org