Arming Asthma Educators

Vol. 11 •Issue 7 • Page 38
Arming Asthma Educators

Credentialing Process Created to Standardize Instruction

Asthma educators’ role has become more prominent in the past decade, as research has shown that knowledge is crucial to patients’ successful disease management.

“We know that asthma education makes a difference in patients’ lives because they become partners in their care,” said Linda Ford, MD, FACAAI, FAAAAI, AE-C, chairwoman of the National Asthma Educator Certification Board (NAECB). “Educated patients tend to control their asthma better because they know how to assess their symptoms and self-manage their condition based on written asthma action plans from their physicians.”

As more and more patients take the reins of their asthma management, it becomes increasingly important for educators to make sure they relay accurate medical information. That’s why the NAECB will offer their first certification exam for asthma educators on Oct. 1. The board hopes the test will arm asthma educators with standard guidelines to teach patients about their asthma symptoms and treatment.

“Misinformation can be the worst thing in the world,” Dr. Ford said. “By providing a certification process, patients and health care providers will be assured that information obtained from a certified asthma educator (AE-C) is based on scientifically sound concepts of disease management.”

In the United States, many asthma educators do their job well, Dr. Ford explained. These educators probably received their training either “on the job” or through organizations such as the American Lung Association and the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy, and Immunology, which offer certificate programs. Through its credentialing process, the NAECB can ensure AE-C’s are providing their patients with the same level of expertise across the board. Its goal is to bring quality into the arena of asthma education, said Laurel Talabere, PhD, RN, CNS, CPNP, AE-C, a member of the NAECB board.

When researching test questions, the board queried 2,000 asthma educators throughout the country to determine in what subjects future AE-C’s should be well versed. The computerized exam consists of 175 multiple-choice questions presented as recall, application and analysis items. Some of the areas covered are asthma conditions, patient and family assessment, asthma management and organizational issues.

“We hope that once the exam is up and going people will want to improve their skills and knowledge before they take the exam,” Dr. Ford said. She added that the ALA, the AAAAI and other organizations are working to develop programs that could serve as refresher courses for those individuals wishing to earn the AE-C credentials.


If individuals wish to take the exam, they can apply to the NAECB. Two groups are eligible for the test: currently licensed and/or credentialed medical professionals, and individuals who have been active asthma educators who aren’t licensed. Members of the latter group must have performed a minimum of 1,000 hours of supervised asthma education to be considered for admission to the exam.

“We wanted to be very inclusive and open to all who are now doing asthma education,” Dr. Ford said.

Interested applicants can apply now by contacting the NAECB for an application and handbook or by checking the board’s Web site, .Dr. Talabere said.

Once the board examines and approves an application, test takers can schedule an appointment to sit for the exam. The test will be available across the 50 states in at least 110 testing centers, mostly at H&R Block offices. Centers will offer the test year round, and the testing fee for new AE-C candidates will be $275. Those who fail the exam and wish to retake it can do so for a fee of $150. There’s no limit to retakes within one year of applying.

Exam takers will have to arrive at their testing center 15 minutes prior to test time. If they pass the exam, they will be notified of earning AE-C credentials immediately following the test.

The NAECB expects about 2,000 health care workers to participate annually. “We are not sure about the number of people who will request to be seated for the exam at this time,” Dr. Ford said. “There are many disciplines that contain asthma educators who may have an interest in extending their knowledge and becoming certified.”

AE-C credentials are valid for five years before an educator must get them renewed. At this time, the only way to recertify is to take the exam. The NAECB anticipates receiving accreditation from the National Organization for Certifying Agencies by spring 2003.

“I think many asthma educators will be quite interested in taking this test,” Dr. Talabere said. “We need to continue marketing the exam, but once it gets started, people will seek it out. They will recognize the importance of asthma certification and share this opportunity with their colleagues.”

For more information about the NAECB or asthma educator credentialing, visit

Debra Yemenijian is editorial assistant of ADVANCE.