RESNA considers 'single baseline certification'

Sunday, July 6, 2008

ARLINGTON, Va. - RESNA's plan to consolidate its ATS and ATP certifications has spurred a litany of questions from concerned providers and therapists.

The biggest question, especially for therapists, is whether having "a single baseline certification" will dilute the certification. Right now, the ATS certification describes an individual, usually a provider, who sells and services equipment, while the ATP certification describes an individual, usually a PT or OT, who evaluates consumers and suggests appropriate equipment.

"Usually, the first response is that it's not a good idea," said Laura Cohen, a PT who chairs RESNA's Professional Standards Board (PSB), which is developing the new certification. "But once people step back from the emotional reaction and consider the rationale, they are able to support the concept."

RESNA officials and members discussed the new certification at the organization's annual conference June 26-30.

The new certification would demonstrate basic knowledge in assistive technology. To convert to the new certification, existing ATSs and ATPs would have to fill out some paperwork, but they wouldn't have to pay additional fees or retake exams.

Despite the industry's perception of ATSs and ATPs, RESNA officials believe there are too few differences between the certifications to warrant separate certifications. Officials point out the two exams share 75% of the same questions.

They also point out that CMS is OK with either ATSs or ATPs providing complex rehab.

"A certification shouldn't necessarily be tied to certain roles," said Anjali Weber, RESNA's director of certification. "Typically, certification identifies competence in a core knowledge base; regulations define who can perform what role."

Still, some therapists find the plan hard to swallow.

"There should be more delineation between the two disciplines--the provider and the therapist--not less," said Cindi Petito an independent OT and ATP.

That may be true, industry sources say, but the ATS and ATP certifications may not be the right vehicles. ATPs leaving rehabilitation clinics to work for providers and providers sitting for ATP exams have only "muddied the waters," one source said.

If there's one thing providers and therapists agree on, it's that the ATS and ATP certifications, after 12 years, need some fine-tuning. The devil's in the details.

"We have to fix the certifications, because they're confusing, especially to people outside the industry," said Mark Schmeler, a member of the PSB and a faculty member at the University of Pittsburgh. "But there are mixed feelings as to how to go about that."