Say “yes!” to accreditation

Published: 24 November 2016 Advanced practitioners

What is accreditation and who can apply to be accredited? Louise Coleman, professional officer for the SoR, explains what accreditation means and why it benefits your patients, your employer and, importantly, why it’s great for you too.

Anyone who’s taken part in one of our continuing professional development (CPD) online live tutorials knows that I like to start with definitions. This article is no different. Accreditation can be defined as: 

• To attest to and approve as meeting a prescribed standard.

• Reward or recognition for those who meet the standards.

• A process in which certification of competency, authority, or credibility is presented.

These definitions don’t come from published, peer-reviewed literature, College of Radiographers’ (CoR) policy or guidance, or even one of the myriad of Department of Health toolkits, frameworks or initiatives. I Googled the term ‘accreditation’ four years ago when the CoR accreditation systems became my responsibility. These simple definitions hopefully strike a chord with those who have thought about applying for accreditation, but haven’t quite got around to starting the process or don’t see the need to find out more about it. 

They also lead to three questions that could be asked of those who are sceptical about the benefits of accreditation: What’s the reason some practitioners don’t feel the need to provide evidence to peers, patients and their employer that they meet the standards for accreditation? Who doesn’t like a bit of recognition for doing a challenging job in a challenging workplace? What’s the reason personal and professional credibility isn’t sought after by some practitioners?

The benefits of accreditation

The answers are, of course, personal to those who do, or do not wish to apply for accreditation. It’s not my role to criticise, but to provide the relevant information and encourage individuals to think more deeply about what accreditation means and how it could benefit their career, service users and profession.

Accreditation provides a pathway for individuals to develop the service they deliver to patients through evidence-based care. It provides unequivocal verification of reflective and reflexive practice, leading to an improved experience for patients and giving them confidence in their treatment or the imaging procedure they are undergoing.

Along with the benefits to patients there are also benefits to the employer. Individual professional body accreditation is analogous to Imaging Services Accreditation Scheme (ISAS) accreditation or certification against International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) standards.  

If the employer sees the benefits of departmental accreditation and certification they should be able to clearly see the benefits of individual accreditation because they provide the same thing – evidence of a quality and efficient service to patients.

Undoubtedly, the main benefits of accreditation are to the practitioner seeking and gaining it. During the process, not only will they gain a wealth of experience, knowledge and transferable skills, but it will raise their professional profile among their peers locally, nationally and internationally.  

Accredited practitioners of all tiers I have spoken to tell me of their personal satisfaction in gaining accreditation and how it opened the door to other opportunities, training, education and experiences. Accreditation for some is the starting point of a longer professional journey.

The CoR runs five different accreditation schemes so there’s at least one for everybody.

• Assistant practitioner accreditation

• CPD accreditation

• Practice educator accreditation

• Advanced practitioner accreditation

• Consultant practitioner accreditation

All the schemes have commonalities – applications must be through CPD Now, quality CPD evidence is required and there must be a good description of the applicant’s role and responsibilities. All applications must be submitted with two attestations from registered healthcare professionals with whom the applicant works closely. With the exception of CPD accreditation and initial assistant practitioner accreditation, all applications are reviewed by CoR assessors.

What comes NEXT?

So, you’ve decided accreditation might be for you. What next? Once you decide to apply, you need to start thinking about the CPD you already have and, most importantly, the CPD you’ll record in the near future. All the CPD you submit with your application should clearly meet the accreditation requirements. Ask yourself some questions: 

  • Does it evidence the appropriate standards?Use the terminology of the standards and assessment criteria and show the assessor that you understand what accreditation is and that you have confidence that you meet the criteria.
  • Is it well written with no spelling, capitalisation and punctuation errors?Practitioners in all tiers must be able to demonstrate that they can communicate information clearly and accurately and this means proofreading your CPD before you submit it. Ideally, get a colleague to proofread it for you.
  • Is there enough CPD? Is it at the appropriate level? CPD Now and the accreditation pages of the SoR’s website will tell you how many CPD activities to link to your application. The amount of text within each activity depends on the tier of accreditation you’re applying for and your own writing style. Assessors are looking for quality rather than quantity, however. You should be aiming for: 
  • Assistant practitioner and CPD accreditation. At least a paragraph for each stage of the reflective model you’re using. Single words, statements or bullet points aren’t sufficient.  You could use the reflective hints provided in CPD Now but if you don’t want to use them, delete them. Ensure that you are reflecting on your practice and not just describing what you did.
  • Practice educator and advanced practitioner accreditation. In the region of several paragraphs for each stage of the reflective model you’re using. You should demonstrate writing skill at master’s level, at least, so include references to articles, professional body or employer guidance and legal regulations where appropriate. You’ll probably find the reflective hints in CPD Now a bit limiting. Delete them. You could also write your reflections in a word processed document. Ensure that the document is a PDF (portable document format) before uploading it to CPD Now so that it can be opened and reviewed by the assessors using Adobe Reader. Include presentations that you’ve given as further evidence. Again, covert to PDF.
  • Consultant practitioner accreditation. You should demonstrate writing skill of at least equivalent to peer-reviewed journal articles/doctoral level. Your reflections should show that you practice and publish reflexively, rather than just reflecting on what you do or have done. You may find the three CPD Now reflective text boxes limiting and may prefer to upload PDF documents with reflexive critical analyses of your practice.

If your CPD doesn’t already meet the requirements, you should plan to ensure that all your future CPD does. You can find out more about planning your CPD by reading the article in September’s Synergy News or by signing up to one of the online, live tutorials on CPD planning.

A question I’m frequently asked by potential applicants and their managers is “do the other allied health professions have accreditation?” 

Does it really matter if they do or they don’t? We’re radiography professionals, we don’t need to copy other professions and do what they do. Our priorities are different; our work pressures aren’t the same. We have different professional identities, cultures and attitudes. If accreditation provides us with benefits, self-esteem, confidence and credibility then that’s great for us. 

Accreditation – why wouldn’t you?