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The Potential of Microcredentials in Perioperative Nursing

By Dawn Whiteside, MSN, RN, CNOR, NPD-BC, RNFA, and James Stobinski, PhD, RN, CNOR, CSSM(E)

As mentioned in previous columns, CCI is heavily engaged in the professional literature of perioperative nursing and the credentialing industry. Recently, we came upon two relevant blog posts. The first post is by Nicola Heath on microcredentials and the second is by Liz Sebag-Montefiore on the related subject of upskilling. We would like to expand on these topics and speak to the application of our profession.

Heath tells us that microcredentials are a new model of learning that have the potential to address the need for “ … upskilling and retraining in the digital economy.” (2020). She describes microcredentials as, “ … chunks of certified learning offered in short courses.” Microcredentials can be used to validate competency in a narrow skill set using diverse assessment methods and learning activities. The reader should not construe the rise of microcredentials as a substitute for well-established credentials such as the CNOR certification or the BSN degree, but rather as a supplement or enhancement to these achievements.

Sebag-Montefiore describes upskilling as, “ … the process of teaching your employees new skills … and new jobs which require specialized skillsets … ” Upskilling can fill vacancies and creates opportunities for employees. The OR setting is replete with new technology and workflows that generate a need for new skillsets. The combination of the need for upskilling and the utility of microcredentials can be a most opportune match and we believe each has application in the perioperative setting.

To meet these salient needs CCI recently launched its Strategic Management microcredential, covering one subject from the CSSM certification. This credential is offered to a wide audience, including health care professionals who are not currently holding a certification with CCI. Learners must complete multiple activities that include a SWOT analysis, strategic planning exercises and reflective learning activities in our Learning Management System (LMS). Completion is documented with a digital badge, another new offering by CCI. The digital badge is on a certificate that may be shared directly to social media. CCI believes the new model of learning inherent in microcredentials and the use of an LMS has great potential and we have begun efforts to develop materials pertinent to perioperative nursing.

The flexibility of microcredentials and the need for upskilling are an opportunity to address succession planning needs. We also believe that the microcredential model can be integrated with credentialing and certification processes to provide meaningful, ongoing professional development for perioperative nurses. We see these offerings as fulfilling eligibility criteria for certification testing, satisfying recertification requirements and as standalone credentials. We are working closely with a diverse group of for profit and not-for-profit sponsors to develop additional microcredentials in the coming year.

It is our belief that our profession should take ownership of the professional development needs for upskilling and retraining in a time of rapid change. We concur with the sentiment expressed by both Heath and Sebag-Montefiore that formal degrees granted years ago may not meet the current continuous professional development needs of perioperative nurses. Microcredentials allow for focused learning consistent with a philosophy of lifelong learning; a concept expressed in the Future of Nursing report (2010). These new methods of learning can enhance existing human capital and dovetail nicely with succession planning initiatives.

CCI is encouraged by the materials submitted thus far by the early adopters to our first microcredential offering. The documentation and evidence of learning far exceeds what is currently seen in continuing education courses. We will have a large presence at the 2020 OR Today Live conference as we are based in Denver. CCI welcomes the opportunity to meet with you and discuss your ongoing professional development needs which may include certification and microcredentials.


Institute of Medicine. (2010). The future of nursing: Leading change, advancing health. Accessed March 5th, 2020 from:
Heath, N. (2020). [blog post]. It’s a small world: Skilling up with micro-credentials. Accessed February 27th 2020 at:
Sebag-Montefiore, L. (2019). [blog post]. Upskilling the Workforce. Accessed February 27th, 2020 at:



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