A national research agenda is needed to promote inquiry into the impact of credentialing on health care outcomes for nurses, patients, and organizations. Credentialing is used here to refer to individual credentialing, such as certification for nurses, and organizational credentialing, such as American Nurses Credentialing Center Magnet recognition for health care organizations or accreditation of providers of continuing education in nursing. Although it is hypothesized that credentialing leads to a higher quality of care, more uniform practice, and better patient outcomes, the research evidence to validate these views is limited. This article proposes a conceptual model in which both credentials and standards are posited to affect outcomes in health care. Potential research questions as well as issues in research design, measurement, data collection, and analysis are discussed. Credentialing in nursing has implications for the health care professions and national policy. A growing body of independent research that clarifies the relationship of credentialing in nursing to outcomes can make important contributions to the improvement of health care quality.
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