As a newer professional in the credentialing field, Cynthia S. Kusorgbor-Narh, MPH, MCHES®, has gained notice among colleagues and the credentialing community, due to her role as a Credentialing Project Specialist who works to manage the accredited certification programs at the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, Inc. (NCHEC). Having recently obtained ISO/IEC 17024 accreditation, it was one of the first programs to be dually accredited in these international standards (ISO/IEC 17024) and by the National Commission of Certifying Agencies (NCCA). Dual accreditation to the ISO/IEC 17024 and NCCA standards is considered highly valuable to organizations as it has extensive cost benefits and efficiencies, minimizing areas of duplication where ISO/IEC 17024 and NCCA standards overlap.
Credentialing Insights asked Cynthia to share her perspectives on her experiences so far in the industry, as well as the challenges and opportunities she sees in the credentialing field.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your path to NCHEC.
I hold a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree, with a concentration in Community Health Education. Prior to joining NCHEC, I was the Health Educator/Risk Communicator with a county health department. A Master Certified Health Education Specialist (MCHES®) by training, I have expertise in the areas of chronic disease/diabetes prevention and self-management, emergency preparedness, and health/safety programming. I have spent many years in community health education and outreach in many settings, and I enjoy working with people of diverse cultures. I also hold a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree, with a concentration in Community Health Education.
We understand you helped pilot the ISO/IEC 17024 accreditation for NCHEC, making it the first to be dually accredited in ISO/IEC 17024 and NCCA. In your opinion, what does it take to lead an organization through “first” or “unfamiliar” territory?
NCHEC is the only accredited organization that offers certification programs for health educators in the nation. Our Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES®) and MCHES® programs are both NCCA accredited (we are up for re-accreditation in 2018). Pursuing accreditation in ISO/IEC 17024 was the vision of my Executive Director Linda Lysoby, who has extensive experience in the credentialing industry. Her vital leadership and guidance were incredibly helpful throughout the process.
The ISO/IEC 17024 project was my first in the credentialing field; however, my previous experience working on a grant scheme at the local government level proved to be useful. It equipped me with relevant background knowledge and aided my general understanding of the fundamentals of health standards.
The act of deciphering the requirements of each standard and matching it up with a policy or procedure at the organizational level required great attention to detail and careful analysis in order not to deviate from the expectations of ISO/IEC 17024. In addition, there were instances where policies had to be formulated to be consistent with the accreditation requirements.
I must say that the entire project was accomplished only through the effort of our team. My colleagues, most of whom had been with the organization longer than me, were very helpful throughout the entire process. Their practical insights and useful submissions facilitated the process of applying for accreditation. ISO/IEC 17024 accreditation is the result of our collective effort and therefore it’s important to note that it is “our” success. Similarly, it is important to say that working in a cohesive environment which upholds core organizational values, such as integrity, reliability and positivity, as well as mutual respect and trust among the staff, irrespective of differences, are critical to the advancement of any organization. I am pleased to tell you that NCHEC upholds these values, which partly accounts for the milestones achieved so far.
What are some of the challenges you or your organization has faced and how did you address them? Were there any “universal” learnings that others in the field could benefit from?
As a small organization, we were fulfilling most of the standard requirements in our day-to-day operations; however, we had not yet spent much time documenting these practices. During the process of obtaining accreditation, we realized it is always important to document procedures, irrespective of the size of the organization. Documentation of all policies and their scheduled review plans, as well as the creation of a database and other ways to track the implementation of organizational policies and practices, eliminates operational ambiguities and facilitates regular monitoring and evaluation.
What are some of your career milestones?
Definitely my organization being awarded the ISO/IEC 17024 Accreditation would be a career milestone. It took us four months to prepare the application, and I am certainly glad our hard work paid off. We will continue to monitor and review our operational activities to continually improve NCHEC’s offerings and certification programs.
What are some of the major changes in the industry that you’ve seen in your career to date?
I have not been around [the industry] for a long time; however, I like the way quality assurance is being incorporated into the credentialing activities, particularly the internal audit process under ISO/IEC 17024 to assure continuous quality improvement as well as the educational program offerings for personnel new to the industry.
You are also a member of the ICE Exchange Program Committee. Please tell us about your work and how the experience tied into the larger ICE Community for you.
I joined the Program Committee in 2017, upon the recommendation of my Director. It has been a privilege serving and learning from seasoned professionals in the field. The abstract submissions for the 2017 ICE Exchange broadened my knowledge on the diverse topics and innovative practices. This is my second and last year on the committee, so I will certainly miss serving alongside other great credentialing professionals. Being in this role is a helpful gateway for anyone new to the credentialing industry to network and learn.
What are some of the ways you like to work (e.g., knowledge acquisition, use of technology)? Do you see any differences between that and the way your mentors work? If so, do you see any implications of these differences for the field of credentialing?
I acquire knowledge mostly through continuing education, reading articles in relevant journals specific to health education. I capitalize on my hour commute to work (one way) by listening to podcasts (Ted Talk, YouTube videos and via podcast addict app), and, of course, participating in conferences and meetings. In these venues, the interaction and exchange and sharing of information on best practices and experiences in the field is invaluable. I look forward to volunteer service on other committees.
I consider my work quite exciting, as I always have an opportunity to learn about new policies and strategies that could be replicated in our offerings. At NCHEC, we continue to market our certification programs through social media platforms. I see myself and my mentors being open and willing to learn more about trending innovations.
NCCA & ISO/IEC 17024 Accreditation Overview Workshop
Thursday, May 31 - Friday, June 1, 2018 | 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. CT
Presented by Linda Anguish, SPHR, GPHR, ICE Director of Accreditation Services, and Dr. David S. Nelson, PhD, Program Director of International Accreditation Service
Interested in NCCA accreditation for your certification program(s)? Already NCCA-accredited, and wondering if accreditation to ISO/IEC 17024 will help achieve your programmatic goals? Attend this workshop to learn about both Standards and how they will help you increase the quality, credibility and value of your certification programs.