Putting it to the test
New exam offers credentials in patient safety field
Those who want to test their patientsafety skill set while adding some letters after their name will be able to do so starting March 5, when a certification board established by the Bostonbased National Patient Safety Foundation launches its credentialing program.
Professional credentialing in patient safety is overdue, said Diane Pinakiewicz, the foundation’s president. “It’s been a long time coming,” she said. “We’ve been asked for years when patient safety will be recognized as a legitimate discipline with credentials attached.”
The Certified Professional in Patient Safety examination is a two-hour, multiple-choice test that can be taken at any one of 170 locations around the country, Pinakiewicz said. The test is rigorous, she added, and covers six domains: culture, leadership, risk identification and analysis, data management and system design, mitigating risk, and external influences on patient safety.
Credentialing will establish a baseline measure of core competencies and safety-related knowledge, she added. “The purpose of this is to provide validation of the field and to get everyone on the same plane.”
The foundation launched the Certification Board for Professionals in Patient Safety in December 2010, on the same day that the organization announced the creation of the American Society of Professionals in Patient Safety, a membership group for professionals in the field.
Developing a new professional credential is a long and deliberate process, involving expert committees, surveys and analytics, Pinakiewicz said. Though it often takes as long as two years, with the help of volunteers the certification board was able to fast-track it and have the test ready for Patient Safety Awareness Week, March 4-10.
The fee to take the test is $325, or $275 for members of the ASPPS. There’s also a 50question online practice exam, available for $65, that the certification board says can be used to identify “strengths and weaknesses” prior to sitting for the actual exam.
Pinakiewicz said pretty much everyone working in healthcare can take the test. “Patient safety is multidisciplinary and it’s a team sport,” she said. “Physicians, nurses, pharmacists, respiratory therapists, board members—everyone needs to understand the essence of this work. The test is reflective of that. You don’t have to be a patient safety officer but you do have to have that baseline knowledge.”
Dr. Mary Reich Cooper, senior vice president and chief quality officer of the four-hospital Lifespan system in Providence, R.I., called the credentialing a great idea and said she believed that clinicians would seek it out.
“I look at the folks who focus on patient safety in our organization and only a few of them reside within the formal quality structure,” said Cooper, who performed some initial screening of some of the test’s questions. “The rest of them are spread out in other areas like ambulatory care, nursing and pharmacy. We need to train those people in basic patient safety concepts. We need everyone’s eyes open, and we need them to be able to respond.”