The Science Journal of the American Association for Respiratory Care

1997 OPEN FORUM Abstracts

Competency Assessment - Who Needs It?

Robert R. Fluck, Jr, MS, RRT, Saturday, December 6, 1997.

Competency assessment is ubiquitous in the field of respiratory care. Educators have been doing it for years. Students are checked off on various performances in the lab and then on clinical; there are tests given in classroom and clinical courses. In order to meet accreditation requirements, the students have a final assessment of their psychomotor and affective performance just prior to graduation.

Competency assessment in the hospital begins even before a therapist begins to work there. His ability to perform the skills deemed necessary for a given department is determined before he starts a job. He is further tested during his orientation period. As he continues to perform his job, he needs to continue to learn new procedures and how to operate new ventilators and other new pieces of equipment. This competency also needs to be confirmed, both for common sense reasons and also to meet accreditation requirements for the Joint Commission on Healthcare Organizations. Learning should be a continuous process for anyone in the field of medicine; assuring that person's continued competency should also be a continuous process.

Competency assessment has also become a consideration in legal credentialing and licensure issues. When a health care worker seeks to undertake a procedure which he does not normally perform and for which he has not received training and education in school, it seems only logical and reasonable that his competency to perform a given function is confirmed. This area for competency assessment will continue to grow in the future if hospital administrators continue to search for more "multicompetent" practitioners. The danger here is that becoming credentialed to perform a number of tasks which a given health care professional performs does not necessarily mean that someone has become one of those professionals. A number of tasks does not define a field - a body of knowledge does.

AARC 50th Anniversary, December 6 - 9, 1997, New Orleans, Louisiana.

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