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Rx prescription for excellence: certification for correctional health care workers.

As the corrections field has evolved, much of the focus has changed to reflect the interactions between the community and the corrections world. No matter what the size or nature of the facility, there must be a system for delivering necessary medical care. This basic premise is just the tip of the iceberg when dealing with or developing solutions for the multifaceted authoritative, jurisdictional and service provision needs of a correctional health care program. The complexity of daily challenges, as well as the ever-evolving litigious and legislative oversight, demands a better understanding of the profession and the critical issues of the correctional health care professional.

The American Correctional Association has created a nationally known program and process whereby an independent agency objectively certifies that a correctional facility or program meets important operational guidelines as it strives for excellence. Achieving ACA accreditation signifies that the agency has substantially complied with national standards and continues to make efforts to improve the care and services provided in its facilities.

In addition to the programmatic certification, ACA provides personal professional certification. The ACA Correctional Certification Program is a national, voluntary program for individuals seeking to gain recognition as professionally qualified correctional practitioners. Capt. John S. Wilson, CCO, of the North Branch Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Md., wrote: "I cannot say if I am a professional because I am certified or if I am certified because I am a professional. Think of that for a while! Either way, I can say without reserve that my involvement in the American Correctional Association, and the professional certification program, has had an enormous, positive impact on my career and my professional growth. I anticipate that these things will continue to steer me well through my career."

What the Doctor Ordered

This year, ACA introduced its first health care designations--Certified Corrections Nurse (CCN) and Certified Corrections Nurse Manager (CCN/M). At ACA's Winter Conference in January 2007, 11 candidates earned the CCN/M designation.

The correctional health care certification program is designed to advance the overall professional recognition level of practitioners in the corrections field, helping to ensure that those who achieve the certification are aware of the most current and innovative approaches in correctional health care. It promotes the capabilities of corrections professionals to the general public and enhances society's image of corrections personnel. The extensive skills and knowledge required to earn the certified corrections professional designation makes it a respected and sought-after recognition.

Prior to certification, applicants must qualify on the basis of their experience and accomplishments in the fields of corrections and nursing. These candidates must then successfully complete a comprehensive examination that tests their knowledge as nurses in the correctional setting.

Beginning the Process

Preparation for examination and certification is not an overnight process. Once a nurse contacts ACA expressing his or her interest in certification, the candidate will receive an informational packet containing the application form for the Health Care Professionals Certification Program. This packet takes nurses step-by-step through the application process. ACA then determines each applicant's qualification level based on the submitted application.

Candidates for either certification must have an unrestricted license in good standing with their respective state board of nursing. A correctional nurse is defined as a "line" nurse in a staff position who does not supervise other staff. To qualify for examination, the candidate must be a licensed RN, LPN or LVN with one year of correctional nursing experience. The correctional nurse manager is defined as an individual who supervises other medical personnel and administrative staff. These RNs must possess an associate degree, a Bachelor of Science, a Master of Science in nursing or a three-year nursing diploma. They must also have a minimum of two years of correctional nursing management experience. The CCN/M designation is an indication of demonstrated professionalism involving activities such as supervision, human resources, enhancing an agency's internal environment, correctional law, interacting with offenders, and maintaining and developing expertise in the corrections field.

Within the application process for either a CCN or CCN/M, applicants must acknowledge the Certified Corrections Professionals Code of Ethics, which states: "The certified corrections professionals (CCPs) are expected to display unfailing honesty, respect for the dignity and individuality of human beings, and a commitment to professional and compassionate services. To this end, CCPs must subscribe to the American Correctional Association's Code of Ethics." Applicants also must complete the Certification Declaration that attests they agree to uphold the 17-point Certified Correctional Professional Code of Ethics. This Certification Declaration must also be co-signed by the applicant's immediate supervisor, noting that "the individual has received satisfactory (or better) performance evaluations in his/her current position during the past year and is a person in good standing at his/her workplace." After candidates receive their enrollment letter following the application process, they have two years to prepare for and pass the exam.

Exam Preparation

The application packet provides guidelines on how to prepare for the examination such as following the RAAF (Read, Analyze, Apply, Formulate) approach. Candidates should:

* Read each text, highlighting the pertinent information, and record notes from the highlighted text. Spend approximately one hour each day for about two months to complete this process.

* Analyze each concept from the notes taken. Compare and contrast the concepts, management styles and strategies until a thorough understanding of each has been realized. Take approximately three weeks of intensified study efforts and lengthened study hours to complete this segment.

* Apply concepts, management philosophies and strategies to the day-to-day operations of a correctional facility. This process of comparing the management styles of the different units and programs of their facility should take another three weeks.

* Formulate possible test questions while reviewing the suggested study materials that might be included on the examination; consider various ways a concept may be viewed and reiterated in a question during the examination process.

It is also recommend that candidates arrive at the city of the test site at least one day prior to the exam and take a few hours to review their summarized materials. While taking the exam, candidates should avoid rushing through the questions, taking the time to read each question thoroughly. Although each applicant will distill the study process into a formula that will set his or her stage for success, these recommendations are helpful when "attacking" the volume of material recommended for study. The study materials for the CCN and CCN/M exams comprise the basic materials critical to success on exam day. The study materials listed below may be ordered by calling ACA Customer Service at 1-800-381-4965:

* Correctional Law for Correctional Officer, Fourth Edition, by William Collins;

* Health Care Management Issues in Corrections, by Kenneth Faiver;

* American Nurses Association's Scope and Standards of Practice

* Health Care Standards certification packet.

For each respective examination, ACA also recommends the following study materials:

* Online Corrections Academy "Managing Offenders" course (CCN);

* Online Corrections Academy "Security Issues" course (CCN/M);

* The Effective Corrections Manager, Second Edition, by Richard L. Phillips (CCN/M); and

* Conflict Management and Conflict Resolution in Corrections, by Christian Thomas (CCN/M).

It should be noted that the first text listed, Correctional Law for the Correctional Officer, provides insight that is valuable to all corrections professionals. Although all the information may not necessarily be applicable in an everyday setting, the text provides a wealth of information that delineates an excellent background on the history of courts and corrections. The complexity of correctional issues highlighted in Collins' book underscores the depth of education and insight today's corrections professionals must possess. On any given day, licensed medical professionals working in the correctional arena, either as line or supervisor staff, must meet the daily challenges of dealing with the growing number of inmates with special mental health concerns. These concerns range from intake assessments and short-term care to crisis or suicide intervention when an inmate presents with an acute episode of severe mental distress.

The knowledge base necessary to address these critical issues is just the beginning. By taking the time to excel through participation in programs such as professional certification, correctional nurses can identify themselves as individuals who can and have achieved the highest level of professionalism in the field of correctional health care. Administrative leaders at all correctional facilities should encourage their professional medical staff to become interested and involved in the certification programs. This designation will not only benefit the licensed medical professional as a stepping stone in career advancement but also will identify the facility in which that individual works as an organization that fosters professionalism in the field of corrections.

Eleanor M. Kalfs RN, CCN/M is a health planning administrator for the Ohio Department of Youth Services.

ACA will announce upcoming certification exam dates at specific sites. Arrangements may also be made with ACA for scheduled examinations to be administered at a location nearby, providing 15 individuals agree to take their exam at the same time and place. For an additional $35 fee, candidates may choose their own examination site from among the 1,000 LaserGrade LP testing centers located across the country. For additional information, contact Peg O'Brien in ACA's Professional Development Department at pobrien@aca.org.
COPYRIGHT 2007 American Correctional Association, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:CT FEATURE
Author:Kalfs, Eleanor M.
Publication:Corrections Today
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2007
Words:1523
Previous Article:ACA is leading the way in the new generation of health care standards.
Next Article:PREA and the investigative process.
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