Professionals should maintain a positive attitude and trust that they prepared adequately for their test.
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Health care facilities leaders, project managers, technicians and industry partners who want to demonstrate mastery of the skills required to perform their jobs at the highest level can choose from a wide variety of certifications available in the marketplace.
The American Hospital Association (AHA) offers a series of certifications that it recommends for professionals across the planning, design, construction, maintenance and operations spectrum. For health care technicians, it offers the Mechanic Evaluation and Certification for Healthcare (MECH) certification; for environmental services professionals, it offers the Certified Healthcare Environmental Services Professional (CHESP) certification; and for those in health care facilities management, it offers the Certified Healthcare Facility Manager (CHFM) certification.
For leaders in the construction trades, AHA offers the Certified Healthcare Constructor (CHC) certification. Additionally, the American Society for Health Care Engineering (ASHE) offers the Certified Health Care Physical Environment Worker credential, which is designed as an entry-level certification for anyone new to working in the health care environment.
Other organizations also offer credentials that can support health care facilities professionals. For instance, the National Fire Protection Association offers the Certified Life Safety Specialist for Health Care Facility Managers (CLSS-HC) program; accreditation organization DNV offers the Certified Healthcare Operations Professional (CHOP) A and B program; the International Board for Certification Services and Management offers the Certified Healthcare Safety Professional (CHSP) certification; the American Society of Sanitary Engineering offers the 12080 Legionella Water Safety and Management Personnel certification; and the Institute for Healthcare Facilities Engineering Advancement offers the Certified Healthcare Facilities Technician (CHFT) credential.
Managing the process
ASHE provides multiple educational resources to help members prepare for certifications. Members have access to monographs, past conference recordings and discounts on live programs, e-learning programs and the annual ASHE Academy. Flashcards created for the CHFM exam are also available for purchase at ASHE's website.
Additionally, certification preparation classes throughout the country are taught many times a year by certified instructors, which help potential test takers through a combination of lectures, exam-simulated practice test questions and study materials, boosting their confidence and giving them an opportunity to review best practices for taking computer-based tests. AHA also sells a 100-question online self-assessment exam for both the CHFM and CHC certifications, with a discount for AHA members.
Advice for professionals hoping to improve their skills and career prospects through certification includes:
Studying for the test. Health care facilities professionals should schedule their exams a few months out to provide a set time frame to study. They should study in a space that is productive. Some need a quiet space to study; others may need background noise or music to help them focus. Establishing a routine and studying in the same place at the same time each day helps to develop a habit and makes it easier to focus on the material.
Facilities professionals should keep their study areas clean and organized. Clutter can be distracting and hinder the ability to focus. They should have designated spots for materials, books and supplies. They should remove or minimize distractions, such as smartphones, social media and unrelated materials. They may also consider using website blockers or apps that limit their access to distracting sites while studying.
Although study materials are available for purchase, professionals may find benefits to building their own materials. Creating study materials such as flashcards, study guides and practice tests can help professionals learn while they prepare the materials and allows them to tailor the subjects and questions on which they need to focus.
The act of creating personal materials promotes active recall, a powerful technique for long-term retention. The effort professionals put into generating notes or flashcards strengthens their memory pathways. Condensing complex information into concise summaries forces them to identify the key points, main concepts and essential details. This helps them grasp the core ideas more effectively. The study materials can be tailored to the professional's learning style and preferences. Professionals can use their own language, examples and visual aids that resonate with them, making the material more relatable and memorable.
Flashcards can either be physical index cards or created through phone apps such as Quizlet. Professionals should build study guides or documentation with notes customized to the information on which they need to focus. They should rewrite concepts in their own words rather than trying to memorize a definition. They should also brainstorm examples, real-world scenarios or analogies for the concepts to help them remember and understand them.
Professionals should create their own practice tests. The act of creating incorrect-answer distractors helps to identify wrong answers on the actual test. They should familiarize themselves with the test format, types of questions and any specific instructions. This will help them manage their time better during the actual exam. Professionals should experiment with different techniques and find what works best for them. As they see their study materials take shape, they'll likely experience a sense of accomplishment and confidence in their understanding of the material.
An individual's ability to concentrate decreases rapidly after about 90 minutes, so they should keep study sessions brief. Studying for 15 minutes every day over four days can be more effective than studying for one hour in one day. The Pomodoro Technique of time management promotes focused work sessions with frequent short breaks to help with concentration and decrease fatigue. The technique recommends 25 minutes of studying on a topic, followed by a five-minute break.
During the study time, professionals should work on the task with complete concentration until the timer rings. They should avoid checking emails, social media or any other unrelated activities. Then, they should use the break time to relax, stretch or do something enjoyable that's not work-related. After completing four Pomodoros, they should take a longer break of 15 to 30 minutes, using the time to recharge before starting another set of Pomodoros.
Professionals should identify subjects they need to focus on by studying the material and then testing themselves 10 minutes later. Interweaving topics during study sessions can also help to improve recollection, so they should focus on multiple subjects while studying. They shouldn't stress if they are having trouble remembering a specific fact because studies have shown that forgetting and re-learning concepts is beneficial.
Sometimes the best way to learn a concept can be to explain it to someone else. This is known as the Protege Effect, which refers to a psychological phenomenon whereby individuals who teach or explain concepts to others tend to improve their own learning and understanding of those concepts. In other words, when a person teaches something to someone else, they reinforce their own knowledge and comprehension of the material.
Additionally, as they explain the information to someone else, they can identify gaps in their own thinking about the subject. Teaching reinforces an individual's memory of the material. By explaining and discussing information with others, they create stronger neural connections associated with that knowledge.
To teach effectively, professionals need to engage with the material more deeply. This promotes critical thinking and a more thorough grasp of the subject matter. When teaching, they are required to break down complex ideas into simpler terms. This practice helps them to identify the core concepts and essentials of the topic.
Interacting with the person they're teaching can provide immediate feedback on their own understanding. If the protege has questions or misconceptions, it prompts the teacher to revisit and clarify their own understanding. The responsibility of teaching can increase the teacher's motivation to study and master the subject so they can explain it accurately and confidently.
The act of teaching often involves recalling information from memory and applying it in real-time scenarios. This process reinforces the teacher's ability to retrieve and use the information effectively.
Studying alone can become monotonous and isolating. Group study sessions provide a change of pace and a chance to connect with others. Studying with others can also help professionals think creatively and help them refine their understanding of the material. A group provides opportunities to articulate ideas and understandings, reveal assumptions and misconceptions and converse with others on the topics. This allows professionals to gain a deeper understanding of the material and provides a different perspective.
Group study allows for real-time feedback. If a professional is explaining a concept incorrectly or struggling with a topic, their peers can correct them or provide additional insights. Each member might have access to different resources, such as textbooks, notes or study guides. Sharing these resources expands the pool of information available to the group.
Studying with a group creates a sense of accountability. Committing to a study session with others can motivate a professional to stay focused and prepared. Knowing that they have a study session scheduled with their group can reduce procrastination. It creates a sense of commitment and urgency to study regularly.
Facilities professionals also should seek out those who already hold the certification for which they are studying and ask them about areas of focus. They may have specific tips for the test or insights on subjects that the test covers.
Test-taking strategies. Before arriving to the testing center or taking the test online, professionals should make sure they are well-rested and have a good meal. They should clear their schedule and avoid studying the day of the test. If the test is in-person at a testing center, they should arrive early and use the restroom before the test begins. Most tests allow users to take a break to use the restroom. However, it may detract from the time they have to take the test.
They should bring two forms of identification, a non-graphing calculator, pencils and pens, a jacket or sweater, bottled water and code references if the exam is open book. If code references are permitted, professionals should check beforehand if they are allowed to be tabbed, as this can save valuable time during the test.
They will likely be unable to bring anything into the exam room except these items, so they should leave everything else at home or in their car.
The testing center may or may not have lockers to store personal items. If professionals are given scratch paper before the exam, they should write down formulas and key points they remember as soon as the test begins.
They can refer to these notes during the exam. If they are not given scratch paper, they should ask the test administrator whether it is permitted and whether they can provide any.
If the test is online, professionals should make sure they have a reliable internet connection, install any needed software beforehand and close out any programs they will not need. They should choose a location with limited distractions and silence their phone.
Answering the questions.Professionals should maintain a positive attitude and trust that they prepared adequately for their test. Positive thinking can help test takers perform better under pressure. If they feel nervous during the exam, they should take a few deep breaths to relax. They should remind themselves that they've prepared and can approach the questions systematically.
During the test, health care facilities professionals should read the entire question before answering and not assume they know what the question will ask. They should answer the questions they know, make an educated guess on the questions they do not know and make a note to come back later if they have time. It is important for professionals to answer all questions they can during the first review in case they don’t have time to come back to a question. On electronic tests, the program may have a function to mark certain questions to come back to. If the test is on paper, they should note which questions to return to on their scratch paper.
Heath care facilities professionals should manage their time and not spend too long on one question. Some questions they will be able to answer right away, but they should not get stuck on the ones they do not know. For questions they do not know, they should eliminate the answers they know are incorrect.
They should not skip any questions. Instead, they should guess on the ones they do not know. They will not receive points for incorrect answers; however, there is no penalty for them. Statistically, they will get more questions correct if they select the same answer choice when guessing.
If health care facilities professionals have time remaining, they should review each question before they submit the test. They should make sure they answered every question and revisit any that they are unsure about. They should also remember their first instinct is usually right and not spend a lot of time changing their answers.
If the test is online, professionals may receive their scores right away; if it is a paper-and-pencil exam, it could be several weeks.
Knowledge and skills
Preparing for certifications involves not only the acquisition of specialized knowledge and skills but also the development of traits such as discipline, time management and adaptability.
By building good studying and test-taking habits, staying positive and utilizing proven strategies, health care facilities professionals can successfully achieve multiple certifications to demonstrate their specialized knowledge and skills in the field.
Reasons to earn certifications
Professionals should research the relevance and credibility of the certification programs they're considering and assess how they align with their professional aspirations. Achieving certifications for a job can provide several benefits that contribute to professional growth, skill development and overall career advancement.
Certifications from reputable organizations or institutions add credibility to qualifications and showcase specialized knowledge and skills within health care facilities. They provide tangible evidence that a professional has met certain standards of competence and expertise.
Additionally, they are recognized by employers, clients and colleagues as a validation of capabilities. In today's competitive job market, certifications can set a professional apart from other candidates who may have similar educational backgrounds but lack specialized training.
Many employers value certifications when considering candidates for promotions or leadership positions. Certifications can demonstrate a professional's commitment to professional development and their readiness to take on higher responsibilities.
Preparing for certifications often involves intensive study and practical application of knowledge. This process can deepen a professional's understanding and refine their skills in a specific area. Moreover, many certifications require ongoing education or recertification to ensure that professionals stay current with the latest industry trends and advancements.
Certifications also provide opportunities to connect with others who hold the same certification. This can lead to networking opportunities, knowledge sharing and access to a community of professionals.
Finally, professionals with certifications tend to command higher salaries compared to those who don't have them, and certifications can be a factor in negotiating better compensation packages.
Some employers invest in their employees' professional development by sponsoring certification programs. This shows that the company values an employee's growth and is willing to invest in their career advancement.
Earning a certification can be personally fulfilling and boost self-confidence. It's a concrete accomplishment that signifies a commitment to the profession.
About this article
This is one of a series of articles contributed by the American Society for Health Care Engineering's Member Tools Task Force.
Taylor Vaughn, MBA, CHFM, CHC, SASHE, is a facility manager at Children’s Health in Dallas. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.