Do Specialty Credentials Really Make a Difference?

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Respiratory therapists can earn specialty credentials in areas ranging from adult critical care to neonatal-pediatrics. But do these advanced credentials really impact their career trajectories? Three managers say the answer is yes.

Highly preferred

Kenny Winn, MHA, RRT, FACHE, director of respiratory care at Atrium Health Cabarrus in Concord, NC, definitely pays attention to the specialty credentials he sees on the resumes of job applicants in his department. “Specialty credentials are preferred,” he said. “When hiring clinical specialists roles, specialty credentials are highly preferred and part of the growth plan.”

When it comes to the PFT laboratory, he notes that an RPFT is a must-have for anyone applying for a position.

Daniel Ventimiglia, BS, RRT, RPSGT, RST, manager of respiratory care services, sleep disorders, and pulmonary rehabilitation at Tampa General Hospital in Tampa, FL, has similar expectations for his applicants. “Specialty credentials are being used in our organization as part of succession in programs and leadership, and initial hire for the level of entry into the organization,” he said.

His department is made up of core teams that support a variety of service lines, and for some of those lines, a specialty credential is essential. For example, therapists who want to work in the women’s and children’s service line, which encompasses the neonatal/pediatrics population in the Children’s Hospital, will need to have the NPS.

“Having this credential allows you to enter on our career pathway at a higher level with a combination of years of service,” he said.

To reach Level 3 in his department, a therapist needs both four years of experience and a specialty credential. In addition, therapists with at least four years of experience who are interested in a leadership position, such as a team or shift lead, will need to have a specialty credential as well.

Specialty credentials are a part of the career ladder program at Atrium Health, too, says Winn.

In his department, a therapist needs an ACCS, NPS, CPFT, or RPFT to move into Levels III and IV. While the RPFT is most likely to net a staff member a post in the PFT lab, he notes the ACCS and NPS credentials are most likely to “put someone into a position for promotion.”

Support is available

At Yavapai Regional Medical Center in Prescott, AZ, Director of Respiratory Services Scott Cerreta, BS, RRT, encourages his staff to earn advanced credentials by incorporating them into his annual performance review.

The hospital will reimburse therapists for exam fees associated with advanced NBRC credentials and offers monetary support for prep materials.

“We purchased department training materials for advanced credentials and encouraged all staff to share their prep materials with others to help keep the costs down,” he said. “This also promoted group study and a motivation to stick with it.”

Help with exam prep and exam fees is in place at Tampa General too.

“Our organization has what we call a Skill Enhancement Program that reimburses for the study/review information or course, as well as for a passed test,” he said. “We offer review courses as groups two times a year for the ACCS and NPS onsite to support the credential and our team members.”

He is proud that 33% of his staff have now earned specialty credentials through this process.

Raising the bar

Clearly, specialty credentials can increase your chances for advancement. So what’s the payoff for the department and the hospital?

Winn believes specialty credentials help therapists make the shift from simply performing task-oriented work to performing knowledge-oriented work. As more and more staff members earn specialty credentials, more and more other staff members start considering whether they should do the same as well.

“It is important to raise the bar of the individual clinician, and we are seeing that it starts to become positively infectious,” he said.

Ventimiglia says specialty credentials help ensure his team members are up-to-date on the latest knowledge in their areas of specialization. Having these team members invest the time in maintaining these credentials enhances the department’s overall education process.

“One of the most important things for your own career development and enjoyment is the ability to continually learn and grow,” he said. “We feel specialty credentials are just as important as formal education.”

Learn more about all of the credentials offered by the NBRC, including the pulmonary function technology credentials and the specialty credentials, here.

For a good overview of exam prep courses offered by the AARC, read this article published in Career News late last year.

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