The Future of Credentialing? Public Members Weigh In
With the 2023 release of I.C.E.’s “The Future of Credentialing” study, public members of certification boards promptly started reading it and working to integrate the report’s messaging into their respective boards’ strategic conversations. Becky LeBuhn, chair of I.C.E.’s Public Member Committee and public member on the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA), forwarded the report to the Public Member Committee, put it on the committee’s July 2023 meeting agenda and arranged for the report to be presented by I.C.E. Executive Director Denise Roosendaal for discussion at the larger Public Member Network quarterly call in September 2023. A survey of public member reactions to the report was fielded and generated a limited yet important response.
This article highlights key takeaways from the survey’s findings as well as from observations made during public member meetings.
1. Begin critical conversations on the “Future of Credentialing” at board meetings.
Demonstrating that public members took the report seriously, Beverly Black, public member and chair of the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA), put discussions of the three drivers identified in the report into three successive board meeting agendas. Other public members reported having read the report and either participated or anticipated participating in their board’s discussion of the report. On the other hand, some public members reported their boards had neither discussed the report nor announced plans to do so.
2. Consider board composition.
A topic that arose during Public Member Committee and network calls about the “Future of Credentialing” concerned the importance of public members, their roles and board composition. Public members called out the critical importance of having one if not more public members on boards. They also recommended fortifying the public voice by encouraging public members within a board to caucus together and to recruit public (or consumer-, or patient-) advisory councils to directly inform boards on public interest topics. Further, the development of public member job descriptions or role definitions could help manage expectations and strengthen public members’ contributions to board decisions. Finally, public members consider it vitally important that qualifications for public members are clear and include a history of public service and public interest advocacy.
- Increase public member numbers on certification boards.
- Develop job/role descriptions and qualifications for them (see the I.C.E. public member webpage for resources).
- Fortify the public voice by adding public/patient/consumer advisory councils.
3. Public members help protect credentialing’s value.
Public members pointed out that adding public members to boards might assuage concerns about external, sometimes government, pressures to demonstrate the value of credentials and simultaneously establish certification is about more than professional protectionism. The very presence of public members on boards can signify to legislators that credentialing organizations are not merely run by and for professionals.
Public members can play a role in helping policy makers understand the nuances and value of certification. They also can help explore solutions to unintended consequences of certification on workforce supply and access to services and can support and expand novel developments such as colleges giving academic credit for certification. Of particular significance, public members might help policy makers understand the importance of noncognitive skills within the professional workforce, an idea that was explored and discussed at well-attended and well-received I.C.E. Exchange sessions that were organized and moderated by the I.C.E. Public Member Committee.
- Communicate value of public members mitigating protectionism.
- Support collaboration over competition among stakeholders in education, regulation and certification arenas.
- Reach out to policy makers to inform them about certification and become a resource for them when they have questions or need information.
4. “Technology Innovation” is a key driver.
Of the three drivers explored in the report, technology innovation was ranked by most public member survey respondents as the most relevant to their organization. Because they bring a distinctive perspective and may have expertise that differs markedly from professionals on the board, public members could be key to scanning for threats and prospects and in helping certification boards navigate the uncertainties ahead. For example, public members who work in information technology, computer science, artificial intelligence or software engineering might prove to be invaluable additions to credentialing boards of health care or finance professionals.
- Consider the technological innovation expertise public members bring to boards.
5. Public members shared their concerns, optimism and appreciation.
Public members expressed concern about the process that informed and produced the report; they questioned whether the public voice was fully incorporated during the report’s preparation and why there was little to no mention of the public in the final product. Public members recommended strengthening future reports by including more evidence, data and references and by improving the clarity of the writing to bolster findings and recommendations.
- Meaningfully engage public members in developing strategic initiatives.
Overall, public members appreciate I.C.E.’s publication of the report, which has prompted crucial conversations among credentialing bodies. We, as public members of credentialing boards can make unique and invaluable contributions to “Future of Credentialing” conversations. On some issues in particular, we may bring a new perspective or novel idea important to our organization’s mission and vision and to the advancement of credentialing and the protection of the public.