Certification and licensing are common credentialing across all types of healthcare professions. These exist to provide objective and measurable standards as protections for consumers and the general public. A professional certification, credential, or license should provide assurance that the person meets the minimum standards for expertise and competence set by a governing board.
So, what are the differences between licenses and certifications? Doctors, lawyers, nurses, and other professions have licensing examination requirements governed by their country or state. For example, a doctor in the United States must submit documentation to a Board to meet State licensing requirements in order to practice medicine in that State. The American Medical Association (AMA) serves as a central resource for licensing and board certification requirements. Each State has individual requirements, and the requirements for international trained doctors are different from those trained in the U.S.
There are certification or credentialing exams in many professions, typically offered as an opportunity to demonstrate proficiency to meet a high standard in a particular profession. Many of these certification exams are voluntary and help the individual gain recognition, validation, and progress in their career.
For allied health professionals and some medical device professionals, in addition to credentialing exams many utilize professional association memberships for continuing education, quality programming, and networking opportunities. One such example is the Heart Rhythm Society (HRS).
A well-known credentialing entity in the cardiology healthcare space is Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI). Common exams offered at CCI are Advanced Cardiovascular Sonographer (ACS) the Registered Cardiovascular Invasive Specialist (RCIS) and Registered Cardiac Electrophysiology Specialist (RCES). Each credentialing exam has its own strict qualification prerequisites. For example the RCIS exam requirements include proof of graduation from a formal training program, 1+ year full time work experience and 600 procedures or equivalent training all relevant to invasive cardiovascular technology.
The International Board of Heart Rhythm Examiners (IBHRE®) is the gold standard for certification in cardiac rhythm management. Data presented in 2018 showed that IBHRE® credentials were held by 9,500+ professionals in 58 countries around the world.
The IBHRE® professional designations include Certified Cardiac Device Specialist (CCDS), Certified Electrophysiology Specialist CEPS), and Certified Cardiac Device Remote Monitoring Specialist (CDRMS). These exams have strict eligibility requirements and are only offered once or twice each year. For example, the CCDS exam requirements include completion of a 6+ month formal training program, or 12+ months cardiac work experience with RCIS/RCES credentialing, or 2 +years of experience with 100 cases of direct patient care. Because of the difficulty of these exams many Cardiac Clinical Specialists and Device Specialists elect to wait to take the exam until they have at least 2-3 years of relevant work experience.
Many career opportunities exist for Cardiovascular Specialists and Clinical Specialists working in healthcare systems and medical device companies. The minimum job requirements can make this career difficult to break into. Some, but not all employers require a 4 year degree, along with a completion certificate or diploma from a cardiac electrophysiology (EP) and cardiac rhythm management (CRM) or equivalent training program. The certification or credentialing usually comes 1-3 years later and will help with career advancement, not to mention the satisfaction and professional validation among colleagues and patients alike in a rewarding and respected career.