In 2005, the 30th anniversary of certification in clinical engineering (CCE) was celebrated. To promote certification and guide those who plan to take the CCE exam, 24×7 will sometimes offer—in place of ICC Prep—a column on CCE called “CCE Prep,” such as this month. In the coming issues, this column will discuss different topic areas of the CCE exam.
Why is Certification Important?
Certification is required in other professions, such as accounting (certified public accountants); teaching; the legal field; quality engineering; health care architecture; and, of course, in the medical profession, such as for physicians. Certification is a mark of distinction in any profession. It shows that the certified individual has knowledge of and experience in the subject, and it is a recognition of professional excellence by peers.
Certification should be viewed as an investment in your career. The benefits of certification may include monetary reward, potential advancement in the profession, an edge during the hiring process, independent evidence of competency, and personal satisfaction in addressing the desire for ongoing education.
How to Prepare for the CCE Exam
Preparation for the exam offers a tremendous opportunity to expand your knowledge in the different areas of clinical engineering. Depending on each individual’s education and experience in clinical engineering, every candidate will have to prepare for the exam differently. The first step should be to review the Clinical Engineering Certification Study Guide prepared by the American College of Clinical Engineering (ACCE), available through firstname.lastname@example.org. The guide provides an overview of the major topics covered in the exam. After reviewing the guide, you will recognize the areas you are familiar with and those in which you have little or no experience. This will help you develop your study plan and determine the resources needed.
Another tested idea is to form a study group of clinical engineers who are planning to take the exam. It not only helps in preparing for the exam, but it keeps the individual motivated to study for the exam. These days, with e-mail and a phone, a study group can be formed with people living in different states.
The CCE exam topics should be divided among the members of the group. Members of the group who have little or no knowledge or experience on a particular topic should be asked to review the material and speak to the group, followed by questions from others. There should be at least one member (if possible) in the group who is familiar with the topic. This will give each member an opportunity to research and learn a topic, and others to learn from him or her.
For exam preparation, clinical engineers should review journals, publications, and standards that are usually referenced in the clinical engineering practice. Also, review the general texts in clinical engineering that deal with the topics of the exam. The Clinical Engineering Certification Study Guide by the ACCE also provides a list of references for each exam topic.
The ACCE also offers live CCE review courses and a self-study audio CCE review course. The review courses are prepared and presented by a faculty of clinical engineers who have broad experience working in hospitals, independent service organizations, consulting firms, government, and industry. A subject specialist reviews major topics of the exam.
Overview of the CCE Exam
The Healthcare Technology Certification Commission (HTCC) administers the CCE exam (www.acce-htf.org/certification.html). Since November 2003, when certification was restarted through the HTCC, nearly 100 clinical engineers have applied to take the exam. Getting certified is a three-step process: (1) application review and approval, (2) a written exam, and (3) an oral exam. The written exam is given in about 28 cities across the United States. The Candidate Handbook for Clinical Engineering Certification, which is available on the HTCC Web site, provides details on the eligibility requirements, fees, rules for the examination, and the application process.
The Major Topics
The exam is based on a body of knowledge defined by the ACCE through surveys of practicing clinical engineers from the United States and abroad. According to the Candidate Handbook, the allocation of questions in the written examination is approximately divided as follows: Management (32%), Technology Assessment (15%), Regulatory/Quality Assurance (QA) Issues (11%), Risk Management/Safety (9%), Education (8%), Product Development (8%), Repair/Systems Thinking (6%), and other Clinical Engineering topics (11%). The handbook also provides a detailed outline of the topics covered in the exam.
Management is the major topic of the exam. It includes overall clinical engineering program management, technical supervision, financial management, service-contract management, and computer maintenance management systems. Technology Assessment covers product/vendor selection, capital planning, clinical trials management, building-plan review, building design, and human factors. Regulatory/QA Issues includes standards, such as from the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, the National Fire Protection Association, and the College of American Pathologists; regulations such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments, and the Mammography Quality Standards Act; QA; and performance improvement. Risk Management/Safety covers incident investigation, radiation safety and knowledge of failure mode and effect analysis, and root cause analysis. Education covers technician education, user/nurse education, and continuing education for clinical engineers. Product Development covers medical-device design, product research, sales, and support. Repair/Systems Thinking covers equipment repair, installation, and facility-related tasks. Miscellaneous Clinical Engineering topics include consulting, application of information technology to health care, electromagnetic interference, telecommunications, and medical-device security.
Obtaining the CCE
Obtaining the CCE is not the end of learning but part of a formal continuing education program. CCE is valid for a period of 3 years. After that, the clinical engineer must demonstrate continuing practice and development as a clinical engineer. This is an incentive that keeps you current with the changes in the profession. Professionally, it enables the individual to develop contacts and opens new opportunities. It also keeps the individual motivated and confident in his or her work.
Arif Subhan, MS, CCE, is a senior clinical engineer at Masterplan, Chatsworth, Calif, and is chair, CCE education committee, at the ACCE.