Preparing for the CCHP-A Exam
by Matissa N. Sammons, MA, CCHP
Advanced Certification is a two-part process. The first is an extensive application detailing the applicant’s experience and contributions to the field of correctional health care. If the application is accepted, the candidate then proceeds to take the exam.
The application requires detailed information and documentation about the candidate’s education/training, employment history, contribution to the profession, score on the initial CCHP exam and the quality of the application itself.
Each of those criteria is evaluated based on whether the applicant meets, exceeds or falls below what is expected for that individual’s occupation and discipline. For example, a CEO has different performance expectations than a nurse. However, if both exceed the expectations of their positions, they would be rated the same. In other words, you are only compared to others for whom the same things are expected.
Information listed on the application form should be supported by documentation. Do not assume that any detail is too small. Together, many small details can sometimes make a significant impact on the overall application. Documentation relates to what you can show and prove. Items that fall into this category include but are not limited to: diplomas, licenses, certifications, memberships, awards, volunteer certificates, presentations, publications, special projects and continuing education certificates.
The decision to apply and take the exam should not be made in haste. The application is a thoughtful process of summarizing one’s professional life. If put together too quickly, details may be missed that make the difference between whether or not the application is accepted.
Another element not to be underestimated is the time and process of accumulating required documentation to support the application. You might need to request diploma copies from colleges and universities, which takes time. Similarly, an adequate amount of time should be set aside to study for the exam. The questions ask the examinee to take a 360-degree view of a problem and identify solutions from multiple perspectives.
Organization and perseverance are key in this process. The big picture might seem and feel overwhelming, but is much easier to achieve in smaller digestible parts. Beginning with the application, create an inventory of everything needed to support the items listed, and go about determining whether the items are in your possession. If not, you will want to begin the process of requesting copies right away.
When it comes to studying for the exam, challenge yourself by thinking of real-world situations and try to solve them by what you know, in the process learning all you don’t know. Refer to the NCCHC Standards and be well versed in NCCHC position statements, white papers found on the website, Journal of Correctional Health Care articles and some of the more recent NCCHC conference presentations. Another valuable resource is “Correctional Health Care: Guidelines for the Management of an Adequate Delivery System” by B. Jaye Anno, PhD, CCHP-A, one of NCCHC’s cofounders.
If you have started the process and are concerned that you might not have accomplished enough to move forward, take heart. Use that as a tool to push you forward. Go for that degree that exceeds the minimum required for your position. Create a project that identifies and remedies a need in your facility. Present at an NCCHC conference.
Matissa N. Sammons, MA, CCHP, is NCCHC's vice president of certification.