John BethuneIt’s a safe bet that anyone who has worked for more than a few years as a biomedical equipment technician will have given serious thought to certification. In the United States alone, thousands of biomeds have decided it makes sense for them and have become certified.

Many others, however, have come to the opposite conclusion. For them, certification doesn’t offer sufficient benefits, and there are plenty of other ways to demonstrate their expertise.

There are good, practical arguments to be made for both points of view.  You can find one of these arguments elsewhere on this website, where CBET Manny Jimenez argues that ICC certification should be a job requirement for senior-level BMETs.

Of the several arguments he makes for the advantages of the certification process, the most compelling to me is one that has nothing to do with proving your worth or getting ahead of the other guy. Studying for the certification exam, he says, “demands that you step out of your comfort zone” and gain new knowledge. For him, he reports, it was his “single most enriching professional experience.”

On the other side of this debate is a reader who wrote to me recently to object to a passage in another article on certification that appeared in the March issue. In “Clinical Engineering Certification: Is It Right for You?” author Mike Bassett looked at the reasons both for and against certification as a clinical engineer. But one statement in particular—that certification is “the difference between having a job and being part of a profession”—struck the reader as insulting.

As the reader explained, he is a lead biomed for his facility, with more than a decade of experience, who regards his work “very seriously and with a lot of pride.” To him, the statement implied that, “Biomeds who are not certified are just coming to work to collect a paycheck and don’t really care if we are making a difference and ensuring patients are being kept safe.”

As he went on to say, not being certified doesn’t mean that you don’t work hard or use best practices. But to him, the argument for certification seemed to be saying to all biomeds who haven’t been certified that, “Because we do not have a CBET, we do not stay after hours to ensure down equipment gets fixed and back into service as soon as possible for the departments so that there is minimal impact on patients and staff. We must also not spend countless hours on finding ways to save the hospital money in every way that we can find. We must also not be sacrificing our personal time after hours when we are on call to come in and make sure that equipment gets up and running when it goes down.”

Now it’s worth pointing out that the article is not about certification of biomeds, but of clinical engineers. Even so, our reader’s point is well taken. In any argument in favor of certification, it should be remembered that the goal is not to institute some form of class or caste system. Rather, it is to provide one option for those who choose to demonstrate their expertise—not the only option.

As Jimenez writes, for him, arguing in favor of certification is not a sign of disrespect: “I would never say that certification makes you a better person than your peers. My point is simply that certification is one important indication of a quality technician.” Likewise, he says, “Not being certified is NOT an indication of how engaged you are in your department or the biomed industry, or even of your level of competency.”

The decision to seek certification is ultimately a personal one, based on individual circumstances and goals. If the time comes when it is a job requirement, the decision will be an easy one. But until then, let’s not assume that certification is the only way to prove one’s skills or experience.

What are your thoughts about certification? Share them here in the comments.