ICP certification: Looking back, looking forward

Ensuring CIC validity by keeping abreast of change

(Editor’s note: Lisa Docken, RN, BSN, CIC, president of the Certification Board of Infection Control and Epidemiology, recently assessed current trends and future directions for the certification process for Hospital Infection Control. Her answers to our questions are provided below.)

What is the history and mission of the Certification Board of Infection Control and Epidemiology (CBIC)?

CBIC is a voluntary, autonomous, multidisciplinary board whose mission is to develop and administer a certification process designed to measure knowledge mastery of infection prevention and control and applied epidemiology. CBIC’s vision is to promote quality health care through certification of professionals engaged in infection control and epidemiology.

The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemio logy (APIC) founded CBIC in September 1981. The organization was the result of a local APIC chapter project, initiated by APIC New England in 1977, to investigate the concept of certification. CBIC was established as a voluntary, nonprofit agency, administratively and legally separate from APIC. The board of directors is appointed by APIC and includes professionals representing the major disciplines and practice settings in the field of infection control, in addition to one consumer director representing the public.

The first certification examination was administered in 1983. In the first two years of the examination, a total of 1,234 professionals successfully certified. Since then, the number of currently certified professionals has grown to 3,851.

What is the main purpose of certification?

CBIC established a voluntary certification process, the principal purpose of which is to protect the public through three identified goals:

• Provide and measure a standard of knowledge desirable for practicing professionals.

• Encourage professional growth and individual study.

• Recognize formally those individuals who fulfill the requirements for certification.

Specific objectives defined to meet these goals were developed consistent with standards established by the National Organization for Compe tency Assurance (NOCA). CBIC still adheres to the standards set forth by NOCA, and in 1995 received accreditation from the National Com mission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), the accreditation body of the NOCA. CBIC is one of only 34 certifying bodies with this distinction.

Who is eligible to be designated CIC (certified in infection control)?

Certification and use of the designation CIC is conferred only upon those professionals who meet specific eligibility requirements and successfully pass a 150-question proctored examination. Eligibility requirements include at least two years’ experience of defined infection control practice and with a current license or registration as a medical technologist, physician or registered nurse, or a minimum of a baccalaureate degree. The examination content is based upon a job analysis conducted to ensure the content is current, job-related, and representative of the responsibilities of infection control professionals in the United States and Canada with at least two years of experience.

How often must the test be taken?

In order to maintain a certification, practitioners must recertify every five years. Recertification may be done by repeating the proctored examination, or by taking the Self Assessment Recertification Examination (SARE). The SARE is a self-paced, independently administered 150-item examination. The content of the SARE is geared toward the experienced infection control professional.

Does the certification process evolve with the profession to reflect current practice?

A Job Analysis (JA) survey is conducted at least every five years, or more frequently if there have been significant changes in the practicing field. The JA is a detailed survey that identifies tasks and procedures pertinent to professionals in the field of infection control. A statistically representative sample of professionals in the field is surveyed to determine the current practice of the profession. Through analysis of the JA findings, a content outline is established. The content outline specifies which tasks and responsibilities are included in test development. The job analysis process ensures that the content outline upon which the examination is developed represents the current practice of infection control. It is the process by which CBIC ensures validity of the certification process.

What are the primary benefits of certification?

In June of 1997, CBIC conducted a survey of its certificants. A total of 3,581 surveys were mailed and 1,426 were returned, for a 39.8% response rate. Nearly 90% of the survey respondents indicated they sought certification for personal satisfaction. Increased credibility (87%) and professional growth (83%) were the second and third reasons for becoming certified. In addition, 44% indicated they sought certification to fulfill requirements of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations or other standards; and 31% indicated it was a requirement of their job.

When asked what advantages, if any, were gained from certification, the following responses were received: personal satisfaction (90%); perceived competency in infection control (83%); professional recognition (60%); increased professional involvement (25%); salary increase (10%); and promotion (3%).

Has certification become more important with changes in health care delivery?

Certification is becoming more and more important, not only in the field of infection control, but universally among professionals. Changes in health care are resulting in a competitive work force where demonstration of competency is expected. The awareness and influence of informed consumers of health care will continue to drive regulatory agencies and employers to promote or require certification of its professionals.

What are future issues of importance to CBIC?

Although faced with new opportunities and challenges, the primary purpose and goals of CBIC have remained intact. The practice of infection control has changed at a rapid pace in recent years. Maintaining a valid certification process based upon current practice requires the board to keep a constant watch on changes influencing our practice and profession. This presents a great challenge as the practice of infection control and applied epidemiology extends beyond the traditional borders into unique and diverse practice settings. Meeting the needs of the novice and advanced professional, keeping pace with changes in technology and test administration methods, and striving to meet the demand for global certification internationally are all part of our strategic positioning as we prepare for the 21st century.