Credentialing Terminology and Resources

Credentialing is an umbrella term for such concepts as:

  • licensure and regulation
  • individual certification
  • program accreditation.

In healthcare, the term is also used to encompass two separate processes:

  1. verification of a health care practitioner's education, training, work experience, license, etc., and
  2. approval for an individual to perform a specific procedure or the granting of a specific set of privileges based on documented competence in a specialty.

Licensure is a mandatory process by which the government tests an individual's competence and grants time-limited permission for that licensed individual to practice his or her profession.

Professional or personal certification is a voluntary process that includes:

  • eligibility requirements
  • assessment of individuals against predetermined standards for knowledge, skills, or competencies
  • assessment of current knowledge and skills independent of a specific class, course, program or provider
  • ongoing requirements and a system for revoking requirements, and
  • a designation and associated acronym granted to participants who demonstrate that they meet the standards by successfully completing the assessment process.

(Certification programs are distinct from certificate programs. A certificate is based on a predefined course or curriculum with intended learning outcomes and a measurement of learner achievement of intended learner outcomes. Such programs are usually broader in scope and longer in duration than typical continuing education/training programs. Certification programs, on the other hand, cannot be integrated with a learning component that is offered or required by the certifying body, according to international standards [ISO/IEC 17024].)

Accreditation is the process by which an educational or credentialing program is evaluated against defined standards and is awarded recognition if it is in compliance with those standards. For example, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) accredits residency training programs. If ASBH were to develop a voluntary certification program for individual health care ethics consultants, and were to seek accreditation of this program, the most likely provider of this recognition is the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), a separately governed arm of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE).

In July 2016, the ASBH Board of Directors appointed a Health Care Ethics Consultation (HCEC) Certification Task Force to draft a survey to be distributed to HCEC practitioners across the country. The purpose of this survey is twofold:

  1. to assess their interest in a possible certification program (market research) and
  2. to analyze and define their performance domains and tasks and associated knowledge and skills (role delineation study).

The results of this market research will help to inform the Board about the financial sustainability of a certification program. The results of the role delineation study will help to satisfy a fundamental criterion for NCCA accreditation if a certification program were developed and such accreditation were sought: The certification program must analyze, define, and publish performance domains and tasks related to the purpose of the credential, and the knowledge and/or skill associated with the performance domains and tasks, and use them to develop specifications for the assessment instruments. The certification program must employ assessment instruments that are derived from this practice analysis and that are consistent with generally accepted psychometric principles.

More information about the Health Care Ethics Consultation (HCEC) Certification Task Force