In my 1999 PhD I recommended that the Australian infection control profession needed a clear-cut pathway to increase the credibility and viability of our profession. My recommendations included a call for system of credentialing, recognition of expertise, adoption of divergent roles, and improved networking.[i] Since 2000 the national professional association has encouraged Australian infection preventionists (IPs) to undertake credentialing. There is no formal mandate or requirement in Australia for IPs to be credentialed. In 2016 Australian researchers reported results of a voluntary online, cross-sectional study of IPs working in Australia or New Zealand. The study aimed to profile credentialed IPs and better understand the barriers to credentialing.[ii] Unsurprisingly, the study’s findings confirmed that the lack of both a formal requirement for credentialing and remuneration linked to it were significant barriers.
My Credentialing History
I was first credentialed in 2010. Due to personal circumstances I allowed that credential to lapse and have only recently reapplied to be credentialed. Part of my motivation to be re-credentialed was that it is an essential requirement for members nominating to serve on the Australian College of Infection Prevention and Control’s Board of Directors.
The credentialing process was difficult even for a seasoned, recognised expert who holds multiple post-graduate degrees including a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). Application requires payment of a fee ranging from $AUD 100-200 depending on the level primary, advanced or expert for which the applicant applies. A successful candidate is credentialed for three years. After that they must apply for re-credentialing including payment of a $AUD 150 fee. Failure to hold consecutive credential requires re-submission and payment according to the sought level.
Why is Credentialing Difficult?
I suspect that there are three aspects which make the process of credentialing unattractive to applicants. Firstly, the process depends entirely on a peer-review process. The assessors’ identities and formal qualifications are not well described. It is therefore difficult to understand the appropriateness and suitability of assessors. Secondly, the submission process is not blinded. As such there are no controls in place to limit or address inadvertent biases for or against applicants. Thirdly, the credentialing framework is almost entirely structured to suit candidates currently working in infection control programmes in clinical settings.
The growth of the Australian and global infection prevention and control communities has seen participation from many stakeholders employed in alternate settings. Examples include academics, public servants working in administrative or managerial roles, private consultants working in small to medium sized businesses, medical device manufacturers and even members of the public. It is currently very difficult, if not impossible, for these stakeholders to qualify for credentialling. It may even limit the extent to which the greater infection control and prevention community is perceived as being inclusive rather than exclusive.
In view of the cost, the complexity and the lack of recognition in terms of remuneration currently associated with credentialing I suspect many potential applicants may ask themselves “should I and can I be credentialed?” My advice on the matter is an empathic “yes you can and yes you should.” Lifelong learning is at the core of my approach to self-development. I have been fortunate enough to pursue multiple learning opportunities. Each has taught me that I still have much to learn even if I now see myself as an expert. Learning sometimes involves questioning. Through questioning and being open to views different to our own, we can each develop and become better at what we do, how we do it and who we do it with.
My Recent Credentialling Application
Having just completed it I can attest that the ACIPC credentialing process is complex. To assist potential applicants I am very willing to share my own application in the hope that it may encourage more IPs to apply for the ACIPC credential. The relevant files can be accessed by clicking on the links below. I also hope that by writing so publicly on this issue I can help others including ACIPC make the credentialing process the very best that it can be. Australian healthcare consumers deserve the very best infection control and prevention we can deliver. Being ACIPC credentialed is an important part of delivering that standard of care. Supporting our professional body, ACIPC, is another. Please join with me me as I continue to do both.
If you would like to provide feedback on any of the issues raised in this post or if you would like any assistance with your own credentialing application please contact me.
[i] Cathryn L. Murphy, M.-L. McLaws, Credentialing, diversity, and professional recognition—foundations for an Australian infection control career path, In American Journal of Infection Control, Volume 27, Issue 3, 1999, Pages 240-246, ISSN 0196-6553, https://doi.org/10.1053/ic.1999.v27.a96387.
[ii] Deborough MacBeth, Lisa Hall, Kate Halton, Anne Gardner, Brett G. Mitchell, Credentialing of Australian and New Zealand infection control professionals: An exploratory study, In American Journal of Infection Control, Volume 44, Issue 8, 2016, Pages 886-891, ISSN 0196-6553, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajic.2016.01.026.