Meet the new kids on the credentialing block

Three major agencies get in on credentialing

The crowded field of case management credentialing just got a little more crowded. Three major health care agencies have either already taken the plunge or are gearing up to offer brand-new credentials for case managers and other quality professionals. They are the American Nurses Credentialing Center, the Center for Case Management, and the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.

Here’s a status report:

The American Nurses Credentialing Center’s (ANCC) Nurse Case Manager (RN-NCM) credential.

The Washington, DC-based ANCC’s nurse case management credential got off to a rocky start even before the inaugural examination in October 1997. Originally, officials from the American Board for Occupational Health Nurses (ABOHN) in Hinsdale, IL, approached ANCC about developing a case management credential jointly "so there would not be such a proliferation of certifications," says Sharon Kemerer, executive director of ABOHN. "Initial indications were that they were interested in that. But then they decided to develop [a case management credential] on their own that is very hospital-based, very medical."

Plunging forward on its own, the ANCC ran into difficulties by failing to regard case management as a core specialty, a stance that alienated case managers. As a result of complaints over its position as well as problems with the October 1997 test, the ANCC revised its eligibility requirements this year. (See our directory of credentials on p. 232.) Even so, fewer than 200 case managers have taken the exam to date. (See test results, above.)

The Center for Case Management’s Case Management Administrator Certified (CMAC) credential.

The South Natick, MA-based Center for Case Management has been debating the value of case management certification for the last 10 years, says Robyn Ripley, director of consulting support services. "There are so many different certifications for case managers," she says. "There are also that many definitions of case management. As a result, there’s a lot of potential for confusion around credentials and credentialing. That’s why we kept our hat out of the ring for so long."

Last year, however, officials at the Center decided the time had come to inaugurate a new credential to address what they considered a relatively ignored group: case management administrators. "Case management administration has really set itself apart and crossed those boundaries across case management realms," Ripley says. "That’s where we felt that we could add some value."

The first examination for the Case Management Administrator Certified (CMAC) credential was held Oct. 24, 1998. (See chart listing elements of the CMAC credential, at left.) While test results weren’t available at press time, Ripley reports that the candidates who applied to take the test represented a wide variety of care settings. "The test reflects across the continuum, and so far the interest that we’ve received for it has gone across the continuum as well," Ripley says. "We’ve had payer-based case management administrators very interested in the program, as well as people from rehabilitation and acute care, so it’s a nice mix."

Ripley acknowledges, however, that turnout for the first test was low. This may have been due in part to the credential’s eligibility requirements, which include having a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree and years of experience either as a case manager or case management administrator.

The Center for Case Management is reviewing applications for the April 1999 examination. (For more information about the CMAC, see our credentials directory, p. 232.)

The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations’ "Diplomate of the Academy" credential.

The Oakbrook Terrace, IL-based Joint Commission’s credential is supposed to complement the CPHQ credential and apply to a broad range of health care professionals, including hospital department heads, service chiefs, medical records professionals, clinicians, and upper-level health care executives. Unlike the CPHQ, however, it’s largely education-based, complete with a formal curriculum and course work.

The program model calls for 160 hours of course work, about three-quarters of which would be done through self-paced distance learning technologies. Depending on how much time each enrollee wants to spend on the distance-learning component, it would move more quickly or slowly, says Bruce Ente, MA, director of educational services development at the Joint Commission.

If a candidate spent four or five hours a week on the 120-hour distance learning segment, it would take about six months. That would be followed by 40 hours of graduate-level on-site seminars, either at the Joint Commission or at one of its university partners. The on-site course work could be taken in one continuous week or over two to three weekends. The courses might even be offered on a night-school basis over the course of 15 weeks per semester. The cost of the program hasn’t been decided, but Ente says it will be priced similarly to comparable-length professional continuing education programs. Much of the topical content will relate to Joint Commission standards.

Janet L. Maronde, RN, CPHQ, executive director of the Healthcare Quality Certification Board in San Gabriel, CA, questions whether the Joint Commission’s credential will be able to attract many candidates. She points out that the program sounds similar to the old Quality Institute developed by the National Association for Healthcare Quality a few years ago. "It was a comprehensive masters’-level course that cost well over $5,000" — a price that most quality professionals could not afford, Maronde says.

She’s also concerned that the Diplomate credential may not have an experience requirement for eligibility. "It’s almost like the difference between a certificate or degree, and a national certification, which is a combination of experience, education, and performance on an exam that’s based on actual practice," she says.

The academy will pilot-test its curriculum and distance-learning media next year. The program will first be tested with Joint Commission surveyors, then applications will be accepted for enrollment in 2000. For more information, contact Bruce Ente, director of Educational Services Development at the Joint Commission. Telephone: (630) 792-5960. E-mail: bente@jcaho.org.