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Is national certification worth it

Is National Certification Worth It?

          What started out six years ago as a simple quest to become «qualified» to manage the activity department at a local Rehab has developed into a pursuit for «self».  Back then, I spent several weeks exploring my options and discovering resources for my new found profession.  The lure of being a nationally «certified» activity professional not just a «qualified» director won out. 

            I got an application and began to fulfill the requirements.  I found the nearest «certified trainer» to me was two hours away, halfway across the state.  Nonetheless, I contacted her and made arrangements to take the basic course with her, because that was all that was required on my national application.

            Eight weeks later, I had my certificate of completion in hand, and was in route to fulfilling the required hours of service, and getting transcripts from my alma mater.  Two years pass as I earned the 4,000 hours required.  Alas, with all my paperwork in hand, I mailed my application out.

            Somewhere in the middle of all of this, I accepted a new position at a manor very near my house.  One day, after I started, I got a call from National Headquarters.  They had received my application, but it was incomplete.  I was missing the advanced course work.

            It seemed that somewhere between me getting my original application and my submitting it, they had changed their requirements to include the advance course as mandatory for all certifications.  It was part of an initiative to improve the educational system by which they wanted recognition.

            I accepted their offer of provisional certification.  The stipulation:  I was required to complete the advance course within four years.  So I once again set out to find a «certified trainer» to teach me part two, the advanced course.  I found one, this time she was half a continent away.  We made arrangements and I completed the course.  Nine months later with my certificate of completion in hand and seeing that I only need to complete an additional 200 hours of consulting experience, I chose to jump to the head of the class and get the top of the line certification available.

            Well, National Headquarters «lost» all of my consulting hours, documentation, and pages from my application are missing.  Sure they gave me the «certified» activity professional credentials I wanted four years prior, but that wasn’t what I had spent the past year dedicating my life to.  Phone calls were made, the executive wasn’t available, wouldn’t be for several more days.  She’d return my call on Tuesday morning.  Tuesday morning comes and goes.  I called back, no, sorry the executive makes this decision, can you remind me again what this is about, I talk to 50 people a day and can’t keep it straight.  She’ll return your call.  The classic run-around.

            So I question is national certification worth it?

            At this point, no.

            Easily putting sour-grapes aside, not being disgruntled, harboring no ill-will, I ask:  is national certification worth it?  Compared to what?   I could have settled for being «qualified», but I wanted more than that.  I could have pursued state certification, but I wanted to be better than that.

            Don’t get me wrong, I took the courses with some very remarkable instructors.  They helped me change the direction of my career.  They helped me become a better business leader.  I don’t need some «higher authority» to validate what I know, or what I know I can do.  I don’t need a piece of paper with initials stamped on it that I can use after my name.  I am just as good with it as without it.  What makes them so important?

            I ask this of the state level also.  What makes the state association so important?  It is a professional association.  Kind of like a pro-golfers association.  Sure you look good by being a member, but in the end, that’s all you are, a member.  They don’t license you to be a golfer, they can’t discipline misconduct.  All they can really do is take your money and say you’re a «certified» member and at worse revoke your membership.  It is not like the state or national certifying association is a state or federal agency.  We are not licensed by any one.  So who are they to say I am «certified»?

            How does being nationally «certified» improve my lot in life?  A certification indicates that a minimum of qualifications have been met.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re good at what you do.  It doesn’t even mean career advancement.  In my case, I am already at the top of the ceiling; there is no room for advancement.

            So why pursue national certification?   For me, it’s a milestone; a feather in my cap; proof of my unrelenting pursuit for self-improvement; a desire to show others that with a lot of hard work you can make a difference in your own life.  And with a difference in your own life, you can make a difference in someone else’s life.  And so on, and so on.  It has to start somewhere; I am always willing to be the one to step up.

            I do not need validation of an outside agency to know what I know.  I don’t need validation of an outside agency to do what I do.  I meet minimum state and federal guidelines to be «qualified» to manage my activities department.  The certificates of completion from continuing education classes and conferences and training courses do the same thing.

            So why pursue national certification?

            Because at the moment that’s all there is.  And because they claim to stand for the same things I believe.  They are fighting the good fight to improve educational requirements, improve our standing in the healthcare community, but they are standing in my way.  I am sure that for every one of me that gets rubbed the wrong way, gets our nose bent out of shape, there are dozens upon dozens upon dozens of other who have had the most remarkable, joyful experience ever.  God bless them.  But this isn’t about how we are treated, this isn’t about pointing fingers and saying you did this or you did that.  It’s about self improvement.  It’s about validating yourself.  The goal was never the certification; it was the journey to getting there.  That has been the most remarkable journey imaginable.  I would never have taken this journey if the goal weren’t to become nationally certified.  But the journey, and the people I have met along the way, is what’s important.  It is what changed my life.

            Is national certification worth it?

            I don’t know.

            I haven’t gotten there yet.  Maybe someday I’ll be able to look back and say it was all worth it.  I doubt it.  But the journey…

            Yes, the journey to pursue national certification was worth every painful paper cut, sleepless night, mad dash to a deadline, soul searching moment. 

            Yes, the pursuit for national certification is worth it.  That little piece of paper at the end, I can take it or leave it.  It is just another mile marker in my life that says I was here, I did this.

            If when the dust settles and everything clears up and they offer me my advanced certification, will I accept it?  Sure.  Gladly.  And be an asset to their team.  But I already am.  I just don’t have a key to the executive washroom.  And that’s okay.  My journey isn’t complete, even with certification, my journey won’t be complete.  My journey will never be complete.

            Is national certification worth it?

            To some yes, to many, perhaps, to me, I don’t know.  I guess it’s the wrong question.  Is going through nearly a year long process to become a better professional worth it?  Absolutely.  And getting certification too would just gravy on top.

            I absolutely recommend pushing your comfort level.  I absolutely recommend you tackle educational pursuits.  I absolutely recommend that you better yourself professionally and be more than merely «qualified».  I absolutely recommend that you be the best you you can be and the road to national certification is a great place to learn who you really are, what you can really do and what you are really about.

            And having that little slip of paper with initials that you can use after your name may not be that important.  It’s up to you.  I don’t know.  I’ll let you know if I ever get mine.

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