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The test of a good administrator.

Some administrators do everything right. Their facilities run smoothly, their employees are happy and highly effective, they don It worry about the next inspection because they're on top of all the countless problems that keep other administrators tossing and turning all night. Yet they don't seem to be working any harder than anyone else. What make, these people tick? Chances are, they can't tell you.

In 1992, the American College of Health Care Administrators set out to find answers, as it revamped its 12-year-old certification process. The result is an examination that shows not only whether you know how to be an effective administrator, but also whether you have the skills to put that knowledge to use. As far as we know, it is the first certifying exam in any field to measure aptitude in addition to knowledge.

Testing Aptitude

If certification exams for other professions do not have an aptitude component, why should the NHA exam have one? The answer lies in the fact that being a successful administrator requires a wide spectrum of skills: dealing with legal issues, with ethical issues, with resident and staff crises, with long-range planning, with a host of regulatory requirements and with financial restrictions, to name a few. A top-notch administrator must be able to process information, communicate effectively, make logical decisions and be sensitive to other people's needs. Few professions make such a variety of demands. Thus it is important that a certifying exam identify these attributes in order to acknowledge those who excel, and to give feedback to those who do not.

To define these attributes, ACHCA performed a job analysis during the initial stages of developing the exam. In the summer of 1992, practicing nursing home administrators met with a psychometrician (an expert in developing examinations) from a professional testing firm to identify the tasks that are most important to the job and the personal attributes vital to accomplishing them. This led to the development of three tests defining the skills.

These three tests were then "validated" by administering them to more than 140 NHAs who were then evaluated by their peers. These evaluations and test scores were compared to determine the extent to which the test results correlate with job performance. These data defined the norms for grading the test performance of all candidates. ACHCA is confident that the result is an exam that accurately identifies individuals who have the attributes to administer a nursing home in an exceptional manner. Specifically, the three tests comprising the aptitude exam are the: * Verbal Critical Reasoning Test, which measures ability to evaluate the logic of various kinds of argument. * Ethics and Issues Test, which measures response to ethical dilemmas through various casescenarios. * Occupational Personality Questionnaire, which measures personality and motivational characteristics which are particularly relevant to the NHA profession.

By combining certain components from these tests, two scores are derived that predict success as a nursing home administrator - scores, specifically, for "Working with Information" and "Working with People."

The Working with Information score has five dimensions: 1) the tendency to make decisions by focusing on due process, appealing to consensus, and safeguarding basic rights; 2) the ability to evaluate the logic of arguments; 3) the skills and inclination to use a democratic style and encourage participation; 4) the tendency to practice methodical work habits, including attention to detail and precision and accuracy with facts; and 5) the inclination to establish and adhere to deadlines, complete jobs on time, minimize interruptions, and persevere with routine tasks.

If you score low in this area, you can request additional information that gives you a brief profile of each of these five dimensions and how you compare with them. For example, if you score low in the third dimension, you will read that you "prefer to make your own decisions rather than refer to other people. You believe group decision often wastes time. You tend not to involve or consult other people and may be more autocratic than persons who score high in this dimension." The validation process showed that highly effective administrators involve and empower their employees and tend to make group decisions, and would therefore tend to be high-scorers on dimension three.

The Working with People score has three dimensions: 1) interest and skills necessary for identifying and responding to other people's needs; 2) interest and abilities necessary to make decisions based upon feelings, opinions, and subjective data; and 3) the presence of a psychologically-minded attitude.

If you score low in this area, you can request additional information that gives you a brief profile of what may be lacking in your dealings with people. For example, people who score low in this third dimension, "...tend to have little interest in analyzing their own thoughts and motives or reflecting on the behavior of other people. They typically do not think through how others might react to a situation or why people behave as they do." For those seeking improvement, suggested areas of study are provided, such as sensitivity training, coursework in the psychology of interpersonal relations and motivational theory.

Testing Knowledge

The Certification Exam also has a knowledge-based component that covers six specific functions: * Marketing * Personnel Management * Financial Management * Physical Resource Management * Laws, Regulations and Governing Boards * Patient/Resident Care

As with the aptitude tests, all questions are multiple choice.

Passing both the knowledge-based exam and the aptitude exam is required in order to become professionally certified. They are offered as one unit and take about five hours to complete; five continuing education hours are awarded by most state licensure boards. Eligibility requirements for the Certification Program are: * two years experience as an NHA; * two years of active licensure and a current license; and * 20 CE hours per year for the previous two years.

Taken all in all, the aptitude and knowledge-based exams define, in the questions asked,. the skills and attributes necessary to success as a nursing home administrator, from ACHCA's point of view. Understanding these needs is the first step toward certifying that you meet them.
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Title Annotation:nursing home administrators
Author:Feild, Barbara
Publication:Nursing Homes
Date:Apr 1, 1994
Previous Article:Nursing home administrators and their changing landscape.
Next Article:Nontraditional training for nursing home administrators.

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