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Maria Chiera, RN, BScN,MN, CNN(C)

Certified in neuroscience nursing

Why did you become certified 25 years ago?

25 years ago, I started working at Toronto Western Hospital, which is part of the University Health Network. Our director of education, Brenda Perkins, was my clinical teacher in the neuroscience program. She suggested that we write the certification exam because it would really help us navigate our way, understand the patient disease process, and help us with intervention and our planning. Certification really gives that extra knowledge that makes a difference in your nursing care.

Why have you maintained your certification?

Even now that I’ve moved into rehab, where we have a lot of complex care patients, I like the fact that neuro is still here — it’s everywhere. My motivation to maintain my certification is that there is always something new every five years. I always set myself a goal to answer: What do I want to do this time? My most recent goal, from 2013 to 2018, was to learn more about neuro-oncology. I did a palliative care course related to solid tumours, which can metastasize to the brain or the spine, and the care linked to that condition. You are constantly learning and you can apply it to any area that you are in — because it will be useful along the way somewhere. Every five years, I keep changing my focus of learning. Maybe next time I will be learning about neuro-vascular or something different.

How has certification helped you in your career?

It’s helped me learn about different types of brain tumours. That extra knowledge is extremely helpful. When I get a patient with a certain type of brain tumour, I can understand the condition more fully because I have this additional knowledge. Certification allows me to adjust my nursing intervention based on what the medical treatment has found. When the patient comes back with test results showing a malignant tumor, it helps me understand not only the pathology, but also the treatment and what the patient and his family are up against.

What would be your advice to young nurses entering the specialty?

If you are going to get CNA certification, you have to do it for everything that’s in it. I started in acute care and I’m now in rehab and complex care. Don’t only write the exam because you’re in your own little corridor. Expand! Make sure you are out there learning something new all the time. For certification to work for you and help your practice, you need to be always be out there learning different things about different treatments and the latest knowledge on diseases. What we used to do before may not be relevant — maybe we are not doing it anymore. As patient care evolves, it keeps changing how we treat patients with these diseases.

What makes you most proud about being certified?

People always tell me I have a lot of knowledge. I think to myself, how did I gain that knowledge? It’s CNA certification. It’s motivated me and pushed me to continuously strive for knowledge. I’m constantly learning and seeking opportunities to accumulate the necessary 100 hours activities of continuous learning.