By Arif Subhan, MS, CCE, FACCE

Arif SubhanThe cover story of the March 2014 issue of 24×7  goes into detail about the whys and wherefores of obtaining certification as a clinical engineer. For those adventurous souls interested in learning more about the certification exam, read on!

The Clinical Engineering Certification Program is currently administered by Healthcare Technology Certification Commission (HTF; thehtf.org). According to the 2014 Candidate Handbook, available on the HTF website, obtaining the clinical engineering certification is a three-step process: 1) application review by the US Board of Examiners for Clinical Engineering Certification, 2) written examination, and 3) oral examination.

Eligibility Requirements

To be considered eligible for certification in clinical engineering, a candidate must hold appropriate professional or educational credentials. The candidate must have also achieved a level of engineering and clinical engineering practice. The following are the three options for qualifying:

1) Licensure in the United States as a Professional Engineer (PE) with 3 or more years of clinical engineering practice;

2) A bachelor’s or higher degree in engineering (from an ABET-EAC–accredited program) with 4 or more years of engineering practice, including 3 or more years of clinical engineering practice;

3) A BSET degree in engineering technology (from a TAC-ABET-accredited program) with 8 or more years of engineering practice, including 3 or more years of clinical engineering practice.

Specific educational requirements and clinical engineering experience are explained in the 2014 Candidate Handbook.

The Exam

The examination for Certification in Clinical Engineering is divided into a written exam and an oral exam. The written exam consists of 150 multiple-choice questions with 3 hours of time allowed to complete it. The questions in the written exam fall into one of the following areas in the approximate proportions indicated: technology management (25%); service delivery management (18%); product development, testing, evaluation, and modification (7%); IT/telecom (7%); education of others (9%); facilities management (5%); risk management/safety (10%); general management (12%); and other clinical engineering topics (7%).

The oral exam consists of questions related to three clinical engineering scenarios. Each scenario will involve 5 to 7 questions to be answered during the examination time. The candidate will have 20 minutes per scenario to answer the questions. Examples of focus areas may include, but are not limited to, technology assessment, technology management, patient safety, risk management, and information technology. The oral exam is conducted about 2 months after the candidate passes the written exam. It typically lasts about 2 hours. The examining panel consists of two examiners with extensive experience in clinical engineering.

Here is a typical oral examination scenario: “You receive a call from Surgery, and they are stating that an anesthesia machine was involved in a patient death. The Chief of Surgery wants you to perform a preliminary investigation and report to him.”

Typical questions to go with this scenario would be:

1) What is the first thing you would do?
2) Who would you report the incident to?
3) How will you investigate the incident?
4) What will you do to prevent incident from happening again?

More details about the examination are available in the 2014 Candidate Handbook.

Why Become Certified?

Certification is essential in numerous other professions (eg, certified public accountants, board-certified physicians, and board-certified healthcare architects). The benefits of earning a certification may include monetary reward, possible career advancement, advantages during the hiring process, acknowledgment of professional excellence by peers, independent evidence of proficiency, and personal satisfaction.

Preparing for the Examination

Depending on the individual’s personal clinical engineering knowledge and experience, every candidate will have to prepare for the examination individually. The first step for a prospective candidate is to review the 2014 Candidate Handbook. The Handbook explains the certification process, eligibility requirements, application procedure, rules for the exam, fees, content of the examination, and other details.

The candidate should also review the Clinical Engineering Certification Study Guide (available through ACCE). The guide provides an overview of the major topics covered in the examination. After reviewing the guide, the candidate needs to identify the areas that he or she is familiar with and those that may be less familiar. This will help develop a study plan and determine the resources needed. A study group of potential candidates definitely helps in preparing for the exam. ACCE provides various courses and teleconferences to prepare for the CCE examination. See Journal of Clinical Engineering and 24×7 magazine for CCE preparation articles. Other resources include various clinical engineering journals and books.

For most candidates with the required experience, it is suggested that the candidate spend 8 to 10 hours per week for 6 to 9 months to prepare for the exam. This time would vary based on the experience and knowledge of the candidate.

Application

The written examination is available during a 2-week testing period on a daily basis, Monday through Saturday, excluding holidays, at computer-based testing facilities. There are several hundred testing sites in the United States as well as Canada. The next 2-week testing period is November 1 through November 15, 2014. The date for submitting the application is August 9, 2014. The application package requires multiple items, including the application form, college or university transcripts, three confidential reference statements, and an application fee of $450. More details are available in the 2014 Candidate Application Form (PDF). Since it takes time to gather the application package, it is suggested that the candidates start preparing the package 2 to 3 months before the application date.

Renewal of Certification

The details of the renewal process are described in the CCE Renewal Handbook (PDF). In order to maintain certification and continue to be listed as certified in clinical engineering, the individual must submit a renewal application every 3 years. Credit for various activities is awarded in four categories:

• Employment (15 points maximum);
• Continuing education (10 points maximum);
• Professional activities (10 points maximum); and
• Miscellaneous activities related to clinical engineering professional career enhancement (10 points maximum).

The applicant must achieve a minimum 15 points over a period of 3 years with at least 2 points in three of the above four categories in order to maintain certification. 24×7

Arif Subhan, MS, CCE, FACCE, is the chief biomedical engineer at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System. For more information, contact jbethune@allied360.com.