Cachet for healthcare executives is a little easier to come by these days, and the reason has nothing to do with rising pay or lavish perks.
In January, one of the industrys top professional associations, the American College of Healthcare Executives, dropped an entry-level certification for healthcare managers and executives and tweaked eligibility for its remaining, more prestigious credential. The result was a nearly 19-fold increase in the number of leaders to earn the colleges top credential this year.
Architects of the change contend a single credential will wipe out a nagging image problem for the colleges formerly two-tiered certification. Not everyone understood the difference between the entry-level diplomate, also known as a Certified Healthcare Executive, and the more-tenured fellow, commonly referred to by the acronym FACHE.
The move to one credential eliminates the confusion, proponents said, and establishes a clear standard for what industry executives need to know about healthcare operations, laws and ethics.
But some most interested in earning distinction among their peerswould-be and existing fellowssaid the credentials status sank with the change. Critics contend the solo credential, and the resulting raft of newly named fellows, watered down its value, which many said was most widely recognized among executives themselves, and to a lesser degree, considered by the recruiters and board members seeking new talent.
Nearly 2,900 managers and executives were recognized as fellows at the colleges yearly meeting in March, as former diplomates were converted to fellows, according to figures provided by the ACHE. The one-time bump is compared with 153 a year earlier.
For me, it was a disappointment, said Dianne Hunter, a 19-year veteran in the industry and director of communications at Sinai Health System, Chicago. No longer are would-be fellows required to finish one of three intensive projects: either a thesis-style paper; four case studies of tough job-related problems; or mentoring a less-tenured manager. Hunter became a fellow in 2003. I definitely felt like it was something that I earned, she said. It wasnt just by being there.
Thomas Dolan, president and chief executive officer of the Chicago-based ACHE, argued that the switch will ultimately boost the credibility and standing of the college and its credential. We want to strengthen the position of the credential as board certification, he said. Indeed, marketing plans under way include an ad campaign later this year to promote the associations lone credential.
Dolan cited the American Institute of Certified Public Accounting as one example of a professional association that wields significant clout in setting industrywide ethical and professional standards. The New York-based professional association oversees development of an exam that accountants must pass to be licensed. You dont want your audit done by anyone but a CPA, he argued. Its a seal of approval.