Vol. 15 •Issue 4 • Page 11
New Test to Certify Asthma Educators
Asthma educators don’t grow on trees. Because of that, the National Asthma Educator Certification Board (NAECB) is currently developing an asthma certification program to help determine which medical professionals have the ability to educate people about asthma.
NAECB expects to have a test available for that purpose some time in September. In order for patients to be educated properly about their asthma, symptoms, preventive measures and treatment, they need a good teacher, according to an NAECB official.
“We started this program to raise the level of education in this country,” said Linda Ford, MD, AE-C, chair of National Asthma Educator Certification Board. The point of the test is to assure the expertise of asthma educators around the country. “That way if a certified asthma educator counsels a person who has asthma, we know what to expect about the quality of asthma education.”
The certification will also give an employer an understanding of a potential hire’s knowledge of asthma and how well they might be expected to educate individuals with asthma. “Right now, asthma education runs the gamut from very poor to very good,” Ford said.
The certification board is composed of representatives from a variety of disciplines dealing with asthma: a pulmonogist, allergists, nurses, RTs, behavior scientists, pharmacists and health educators.
ASK THE EDUCATORS
To establish a data base, the board asked nearly 2,000 asthma educators to rate items on a “task list” to determine which tasks were important for an asthma educator and which ones were not. From that job analysis, veterans of various disciplines dealing with asthma are writing the test itself.
Qualified licensed credentialed professionals will be eligible to take the test. Non-credentialed individuals can apply to the board for an exception. “We don’t want to be overly exclusive,” said Ford, “but we do want to make sure that people understand that if they want to pass this exam, they have to have some background and training in asthma.”
As things stand, there are wide variations in asthma education in the country ranging from those who can teach it well to those who know only the basics, Ford said.
“We want to raise the standard higher. We know education is helpful and improves the quality of life for the person who has asthma,” she added. “Those with a good education are more inclined to control their asthma than those who have not had that education.”
The certification board expects to have a study handbook available in May which will be available from the NAECB web site and around the country through local American Lung Association constituents and other interested organizations. It is anticipated the test will be offered at approximately 110 computer centers across the nation at a cost of about $275.
The NAECB will be the only group to certify asthma educators nationwide. Those who pass may be employed by a hospital, doctor, specialist or managed care organization. “There are many different organizations that would want the services of a certified asthma educator program because they can be assured the level of knowledge of their employee,” Ford said.
It is anticipated the National Organization for Certifying Agencies (NOCA) will grant accreditation to the NAECB once the NAECB has developed the examination and has granted certification. “We cannot even apply for accreditation until we have certificants of the examination,” Ford explained. The board has also applied to the American Medical Association CPT Editorial Panel for obtaining reimbursement for asthma coordination and counseling, Ford said.
“The test is important for RTs because it is another avenue for us to pursue,” said Sindee Karpel, MPA, RRT, AE-C, associate professor at the Borough of Manhattan Community College and a respiratory therapist on the NAECB board.
Therapists will probably want to take the test, she said, “because asthma is something we already specialize in. We treat asthma patients all the time and one of the mainstays of RT and asthma education is a part of our daily routines.”
Karpel, an asthmatic herself, has been involved with asthma education for the past 20 years through the American Lung Association and the Allergy and Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics.
“I think the test will go over well and it is something everyone is waiting for,” she said.
Caroline Crispino can be reached at [email protected].