SUMMIT, NJ — A nurse at Atlantic Health System’s Overlook Medical Center is one of only two certified emergency nurses in the country and the only one from New Jersey to receive national recognition from the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing (BCEN), the benchmark for board certification across the emergency nursing spectrum.

Jude Lark, BSN, RN, CEN, CCRN, emergency services clinical nurse educator, received BCEN’s 2020 Distinguished CEN Award earlier this week.

“This award brings to light all the resilient and very capable certified nurses that we have developed here at the Overlook Emergency Department (ED)," said Lark. "Over the past six years, we have increased our certified nurses by 52 percent. It has made an impact, and I have seen that.

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“I have always thought that certification represents excellence in your field. I am so honored and extremely proud. I just hope every single day that I can make a difference in one of the team members I work with.”

BCEN’s Distinguished Awards recognize one top nurse in each emergency nursing specialty who demonstrates clinical and professional excellence while supporting and advocating for others to earn their specialty board credentials. Nurses who earn the CEN and CPEN designations have demonstrated advanced knowledge, expertise and clinical judgment in the mixed/adult and pediatric emergency specialties, respectively. BCEN also recognizes one top trauma and one critical care transport nurse with national awards each year.

“Jude is an extraordinary emergency nurse, and BCEN is proud to honor her commitment to excellence through CEN certification,” said BCEN Executive Director Janie Schumaker, MBA, BSN, RN, CEN, CENP, CPHQ, FABC. “As an innovative educator, the nurse residency program Jude spearheaded for Atlantic Health System and the daily encouragement and support she gives her peers and colleagues at Overlook as they strive to earn their emergency nursing board credentials is a master class in how to build a certified emergency nurse workforce.”

These annual national awards recognize one board certified emergency nurse and one board certified pediatric emergency nurse from among nearly 40,000 Certified Emergency Nurses (CENs) and more than 5,200 Certified Pediatric Emergency Nurses (CPENs), respectively.

“There is no greater champion for the certification and training of emergency nurses at Overlook than Jude Lark,” said MaryPat Sullivan, MSN, RN, CNS, chief nursing officer for Overlook Medical Center. "From the moment our nurses join us at orientation, Jude sets the goal for them to attain their CEN within a year, and then works diligently to help them achieve it. She is the consummate emergency department nurse—proficient, professional and compassionate—and is highly deserving of this national recognition.”

To assist all ED professional nurses in obtaining their CEN within a year, Lark has organized as well as facilitated six on-site CEN and CPEN review classes with national speakers over the past five years and worked to increase the number of nurses attending—resulting in a 35 percent increase in attendees from the initial class.

Lark has also been instrumental in working with the Nursing Education Department in providing tuition reimbursement for all nurses who apply for the CEN or CPEN exam, even if they do not pass on the first attempt. 

“The exemplary nursing care that our patients receive throughout Atlantic Health System are a result of our relentless efforts to help our nurses attain advanced training and certification,” said Trish O’Keefe, RN, Chief Nursing Officer for Atlantic Health System and president of Morristown Medical Center. “So many of these efforts in recent years have been thanks to Jude’s dedication and versatility. She truly stands out among her peers and is highly deserving of this recognition.”

As part of being an innovator this past year, Lark developed the first ED nurse residency program for new graduate registered nurses (RN) across all of Atlantic Health System’s emergency departments. Lark included all new graduate RN, as part of their professional development and orientation program, the two-day CEN review course. 

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Lark was able to multi-task and organized the very first virtual CEN review course with 55 nurses in attendance and 39 ED nurses registered. Atlantic Health’s ED leadership made a collaborative decision to keep the course scheduled since there was such increased interest in course preparation as well as a highly energized ED team under her facilitation.

Lark has developed a weekly newsletter which includes a CEN or CPEN question with answers provided the following week. Discussion occurs during daily huddles to keep the team motivated, supported as well as encouraged to maintain their certification.  All certified nurses’ certificates are proudly displayed on our “Wall of Excellence” for all to see.

ED team members are encouraged to attend state ENA as well as national ENA conferences, for which Lark has written abstracts, presented posters, as well as participated on panels.  She has assisted ED team members in this area as well.  ED Leadership, which includes the educational team and the number of certified nurses, as well as educational degrees.

To learn more about Lark, visit this Q&A she participated in with BCEN.