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Northern Westchester Hospital Leads the Way

by User Not Found on Apr 19, 2012

Left-to-right: Eunice Serton, Claire Doxford, Lois Demaio, Ma Aurora, Amy Chapman, Marie Guerrero, Robin Rubel. 

Northern Westchester Hospital (NWH) in Mt. Kisco, NY, is a 233 bed community hospital located approximately 40 miles north of New York City.  While NWH has similarities to many hospitals, something special makes NWH stand out from other facilities – a remarkably high level of CNOR certification.  NWH boasts an almost 80% certification level among its eligible staff.   Why has it achieved this remarkable level?  The staff at NWH believes a strong commitment to quality, safe patient care must be backed by an equally strong commitment to CNOR certification.  To achieve its certification goals, NWH has a fully integrated plan from education to rewards.  NWH has been nationally recognized for its work by receiving both Magnet designation and being awarded the Planetree Hospital with Distinction, the only facility to achieve both of these highly regarded awards.  While these accomplishments are noteworthy, the most gratifying recognition is at the staff level where nurses see and experience the value of certification every day at the patient bedside.  

What is NWH’s key to success?  According to the staff at NWH it is the consistency in its commitment to certification.  This commitment begins with education which immediately continues with a peer mentorship program where nurses create and nourish relationships with each other.  Nurses are then supported in their career advancement with a clinical ladder program which incorporates certification.  They are also recognized for their specialty certification accomplishments with both financial and non-financial rewards.  Each of these practices inspires nurses’ commitment to excellence and confidence in their clinical practice.

Eunice Serton

Eunice Serton, RN, CNOR has worked at NWH for 34 years and has been CNOR certified for most of that time.  Serton, like so many of her colleagues, first became certified because of her personal commitment to her chosen profession – perioperative nursing.  She recognized the importance of validating her specialized nursing skills and demonstrating her knowledge of the AORN Standards and Recommended Practices through certification.  For Serton, CNOR certification set the tone for excellence in perioperative practice.  As an added benefit, she has found that her dedication to maintaining the credential keeps her up-to-date with best practices and new standards, all leading to improved patient safety. 

Serton’s commitment to certification is shared by many other dedicated nurses at NWH, who in turn pass that commitment on to new OR nurses at NWH.  It has now become the norm for NWH nurses to hold the CNOR credential.   What is most encouraging is that the younger generation is well on their way, as they too have embraced the culture and value of certification.

An equally strong commitment to education exists at NWH.  The Surgical Services Department has almost completed three Perioperative 101 Fellowships, and proudly touts that all of the “Fellows” from the first program have earned their CNOR credentials as a capstone to the program.  The second group is waiting until they are eligible to sit for the exam, and the third is in the process of completing the program and is also well on their way to earning the CNOR credential once they are eligible.

Furthermore, Serton believes mentoring younger nurses is critical to NWH’s ongoing certification success.  Like other NWH nurses with her experience, Serton mentors colleagues through the certification process.   

“It is our duty to be role models and help to show newcomers the way.  Even older nurses who have let their CNOR lapse for a variety of reasons, are jumping back on the bandwagon and joining the rest of us,” said Serton.  Seeing the seasoned nurses alongside the younger generation is a most encouraging trend.

The NWH staff also acknowledges recognition is an important factor in maintaining momentum for growing certification rates.  Rewards and recognition help create both excitement and honor in earning specialty nursing certification. 

William Bernhey, BSN, RN, CNOR, feels that NWH’s success in creating a certification culture is due in part to the financial incentives offered to the nurses.  

Bernhey said, “NWH has always fostered an atmosphere of striving for excellence for all of our staff.  The clinical ladder rewards certification as well as continued education with monetary compensation for each level achieved.  Our administration embraces and promotes the level of care that our nurses provide.”

NWH also recognizes CNOR certified nurses by adding the credential to their official name badges once they pass the exam.  A simple, but highly motivational recognition effort, is a plaque listing the names of all certified nurses which NWH proudly displays on the wall beside the OR control desk. 

NWH and its team of dedicated OR nurses explain why they believe certification is becoming more popular in engaged facilities.  Becoming certified increases a nurse’s level of confidence in their practice as it validates their specialized knowledge, skills and abilities.  Subsequently, the nursing staff at NWH believes their patients receive better quality of care.   

When asked what recommendations she would give to promote certification at a facility, Serton states “If there is any advice I could give to facilities that were looking to drive certification, it would be to set the bar high.  Applaud and recognize your certified nurses, and, if you can, find a way to make it financially attractive.”

If you would like to know more about how you can help drive certification in your facility, or become certified yourself, contact CCI at 888-257-2667 or email us at

Left-to-right: Melissa Cardel, Stephanie Vogl Rosenthal, William Bernhey, Bryan Guss, Nancy Kelly, Trupti Rane.