Certification is defined as a person competently meeting the criteria (body of knowledge, and/or experience) or renewal requirements – such as continuing education, work experience and/or re-testing in order to remain certified, as set forth by an organization. In this article, “organization” refers to a type of certification that is profession-wide. Certification is a designation used to apply standards, increase the level of competency, protect patients/ residents, staff and the public.
The health-care field requires that all people that provide direct care to patients and residents must be certified or licensed. Certification and licensing are provided by governing bodies and/or professional associations. We usually associate these certifications and/or licenses with doctors, nurses, medical lab technologists, respiralogists, dieticians, etc.
We don’t usually associate ‘certification’ requirements with leaders directing housekeeping services in healthcare facilities. However, these direct service professionals provide the environment in which patients are expected to recuperate in safely, and residents to live in comfortably and safely.
Some of these services and responsibilities include the following:
- Directing a multitude of workers in close proximity to patients / residents in healthcare facilities;
- Formatting policies and procedures directing staff in the safe use of chemicals and equipment within a health-care facility;
- Providing services that deliver the cleaning standards required to ensure a clean, safe and healthful environment;
- Formatting policies and procedures, with other health-care professionals, on working safely in rooms where patients/ residents have been isolated because of acquired various infectious diseases such as MRSA, VRE, C. difficile, tuberculosis, etc.;
- Develop fair and equitable workloads through recognized workload measurement systems using health-care industry time standards, and/or developing time standards for tasks not included or not yet developed in published time standards;
- Ensure that staff work in an environment that complies with all human rights, labour, safety and waste legislation;
- Ensure that the workplace practices and policies are in compliance with accreditation standards;
- Oversee a department that is responsible for every square metre of a health-care facilities, and more importantly, a department that must also interact with almost every other department in the facility;
- Communication, communication and more communication.
Would you hire anyone to manage or supervise in a housekeeping department without the above skills or knowledge? How could you be assured that the perspective individuals, competing for the position of overseeing a health-care housekeeping department, would have the abovementioned skill-set?
You could certainly examine their resumes, but wouldn’t certification from a recognized body provide some assurances that individuals have attained some required knowledge and skills to perform as overseers of a housekeeping department?
The healthcare field has rapidly changed from single discipline professionals being directed by the manager/director to the integration of multiple fields being directed by a ‘multi-tasked’ manager/director. For example, it is not uncommon for the support service departments, such as housekeeping, dietary and physical plant, to be managed/directed by a person educated and trained in the food service field. It is also not uncommon for these same support service departments to be supervised by people certified in food services or housekeeping.
This raises the question: Should these same managers/directors or supervisors be certified/licensed in all the disciplines that they oversee?
One could argue that those who do not have direct supervision for tasks carried out in the patient/resident areas may not need certification since the corporations rely on the managerial skills of these managers/directors to carry out the mission, purpose and vision of the corporation to service the patients/residents. This can be compared to a plumbing company whose owner may not be a licensed plumber, but the staff performing the tasks are.
In health-care facilities, there are a multitude of federal and provincial legislations that govern the care and safety of patients and residents. It is reasonable to require, through federal or provincial legislation, the certification/licensing of all those directing housekeeping tasks carried out in health-care facilities.
Demonstrated successful experience in the health-care housekeeping field is often fraught with the pitfall of making and learning from mistakes, and implementing remediation upon successive scenarios. Supplementing experience with certification demonstrates a determination to achieve higher levels of competency within your chosen profession.
We all want to be recognized for our competency and, certainly, when trying to establish our credentials for new perspective employers or clients, having some form of certification in a specific field goes a long way towards that endeavour.
The process of having certifications recognized by employers and clients is not only demonstrated through the successful engagement of people with certifications, but also through the promotion of certifications by recognized associations and their members.
Does certification enhance my chances of successful employment?
Certification may enhance your chances of gaining employment, but combined with your education and especially a successful work experience record is even more enhancing.
There are three association bodies in Canada and the United States that offer formal certification in the health-care housekeeping field to their members.
1. Ontario Health-care Housekeepers’ Association (OHHA)
-administrates a certification for those in the healthcare housekeeping field only
-designation is Professional Healthcare Housekeeper (PHH)
2. Association for the Health-care Environment (AHE)
-administrates a certification for those in the health-care housekeeping field only
-designation is Certified Healthcare Environmental Services Professional (CHESP)
3. International Executive Housekeepers Associations (IEHA)
-administrates a certification for those in any housekeeping field
-designation is Certified Executive Housekeeper (C.E.H.) and Registered Executive Housekeeper (R.E.H.)
What organization should I join and apply to for certification?
There are three factors that may determine your decision. These include the following:
- Are you employed or seeking employment in the health-care field, or are you in other housekeeping fields? Gaining certification in any of the above associations will enhance your resume, and show prospective employers your dedication in furthering your knowledge in the housekeeping field.
- All of the above organizations require pre-requisite qualifications for certification in education and work experience. OHHA also requires completion of its professional development courses. CSSA, AHE and IEHA also require successful completion of exams.
- None of the above organizations have reciprocating certification agreements – that means that certification in one organization does not automatically guarantee certification in another organization. That means you must apply separately to each organization for certification and you must be a member of that organization.
A short note of advice I give to anyone who’ll listen when I speak about certification: “Certification is equal in proficiency to lawyers, doctors, nurses, teachers, etc. Being licensed/certified means that the person has met required qualifications. That does not guarantee competency, but does guarantee that the person has had the education and work experience to qualify. Like any other thing in life, you are what you do with what you have set out to accomplish with your head and your heart.”
Roger J. Gobbo, PHH, is a past president of the Ontario Health-Care Housekeepers Association (OHHA), and owner of RJG Consulting and Management.