ARLINGTON, Va. - With Tennessee’s recent legislation requiring RESNA’s ATS and ATP credentials for rehab providers in the state, the 23-year-old association is gradually becoming synonymous with the quality standards industry leaders are driving to instill.
“It’s gaining momentum,” said United Seating and Mobility President Bob Guoy. “It’s approaching a level where enough people are aware of it and are getting licensed.”
While RESNA’s rehab credentialing exam has only been around for about seven years, the total number of licensed providers is climbing. RESNA is currently listing 2,141 total applicants, with 1,125 Assistive Technology Practitioners (ATPs), 668 Assistive Technology Suppliers (ATSs) and 348 Rehabilitation Engineering Technologists (RETs) on its Web site.
Each of United Seating and Mobility’s 18 locations employs at least one certified ATP or ATS. The rehab-provider chain has even gone so far as to establish an internal training program and offers seminars with access to RESNA requirements.
“It allows us to set standards for seating and mobility,” said Guoy. “It provides assurance to the customers and referral sources.”
Simon Margolis, v.p. of clinical and professional development at National Seating and Mobility and president of RESNA, agrees.
“It’s required of all our people,” he said regarding the ATS/ATP exams. “As soon as our people qualify, based on their time in and knowledge base, they understand that they are required to take the exam.”
To be eligible to take the exam, an associate or bachelor degree in a related field is required and/or documentation of work experience.
“A lot of what goes on in our field is on-the-job and in-service education,” Margolis said. “Everybody comes in from different backgrounds. You really gain experience on the job. The exam tends to formalize some of that knowledge.”
Rehab employees are also motivated to take the exam and get certified because most providers increase salaries for those who are licensed ATPs or ATSs.
Although no pay scale is set at Apria Healthcare, Randy Brooks, national director of rehab services, said employees who pass the exam receive raises and incentives. About 60% of Apria’s rehab staff have already received their credentials.
“Credentialing raises the standards in the market,” Brooks said. “We support the program and even incur the costs and travel to take the exam.”
RESNA gave its first exam in 1996, after a team of assistive technology service providers identified the type of knowledge and skills needed to work in the assistive technology and rehabilitation field. A nationwide survey was then sent out for validation and an exam was written.
Candidates are tested on the foundation of the practice-related knowledge of assistive technology. Following the foundation section, client case-based questions are presented. One set of cases will be for practitioners, while another set will be for suppliers.
The majority of ATPs and ATSs (about 650) work in retail stores like National Seating and Mobility and United Seating and Mobility, according to Shannon Marullo, director of professional services at RESNA. Medical and rehabilitation facilities (458) and education facilities (446) also attract a large portion of licensed providers.
“The concept of certification is valid,” Guoy said. “It’s a reaction to the behavior of the suppliers who inappropriately supply equipment. That can be harmful to the industry.” HME