What you should ask about certifications

‘Twas time for my annual physical, and as I was sitting waiting for my Doctor to enter the room I busied myself reading the walls. I noticed my Doc has more than a few Diplomas, certificates and licenses up there and I wondered; why so many? Doesn’t graduating from medical school and passing Alberta licensing boards make one a fully functional Doctor? I presented these questions to my ever-patient Doc and got some very interesting responses.

Turns out that even for physicians education NEVER stops and even after many years of school & study there are still certificates and extra education required for those in the field(s) of health & wellness. A certification, diploma and/or license does not cover a health professional for all areas of expertise, and this includes exercise professionals.

Many exercise professionals have completed multiple years of formal post-secondary education in addition to hours and hours of hands-on experience working with their clients. This should be enough to practice, right?

Perhaps, but education and experience without a third-party standard against which one can demonstrate professional skills and up-to-date knowledge does not provide assurance. Doctors, nurses, dentists, physiotherapists, etc. are all required to complete examinations and accreditation processes to ensure their knowledge is current. Exercise professionals have access and opportunity to adhere to the same protocols to ensure their own knowledge meets a standard of practice, and to provide assurance and public safety.

Health professionals establish themselves with a professional organization and adhere to a set of guidelines established to govern their professional practice. Professional organizations that monitor regulated health professionals such as doctors, dentists or nurses provide assurance and clear and concise limitations to their ‘scope of practice.’ The exercise profession is unregulated, however, many exercise professionals adhere to scopes of practices dictated by their professional accreditation entity. And like other health professionals, their professional insurance coverage is tied to these scopes of practice.

What you should ask about your exercise professionals’ qualifications

To discover if and how an exercise professional adheres to applicable scopes of practice, the employer, participant or client must ask a few targeted questions. Here are some examples:
Who are you certified with? – What types of certifications do you have? – Do you carry professional liability insurance? – How long have you been certified? – How do you keep you certifications current?
The certificates and diplomas on my physician’s office provided much of this information to me without even asking, but many exercise professionals do not work in a typical office environment. Thus, asking questions such as those mentioned above is one way for the public and employers to protect themselves and their health.

Registries for exercise professionals

Another useful tool available in Alberta is Fitdirectory.ca, a register of qualified exercise professionals. All qualified exercise professionals listed on the Fitdirectory have been verified for current accreditation that meets or exceeds provincial, national and international standards, valid CPR training and insurance coverage. All member profiles detail areas of expertise and expiration date(s) for added peace of mind.
To help provide assurance and to encourage professionalism in the unregulated exercise profession many regions host registers such as Fitdirectory.ca . These registers are the result of international collaboration between exercise and fitness associations in countries spanning five continents, including Canada, the US, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and many others. This collaboration takes place through ICREPs.

Exercise can easily be considered medicine, and just as we want to know exactly what we are taking and any side effects it may have, we also need to know that our exercise and physical activity advice is coming from someone qualified to give it. After all, my family doctor may have diagnosed my heart illness; but is she the one I want operating on this vital organ? Not unless she is specially educated, trained and certified to do so! As her patient I trust her to do what is right for me and my health. I also trust her enough to know that if/when I need specialized care; she will send me along to the right person. As exercise professionals we need to do the same. Knowledge is power, and recognizing the benefits and limits of our knowledge benefits everyone. ,

Our scope of practice as outlined by our certifications, our experience and education all combine in a particular way for each one of us. Making sure we are working within the scope of our skill set, knowledge and certification guidelines is important. If as an exercise professional, we are tempted to work beyond our scope of practice, it is incumbent on us to gain the education and certification we need, and to make sure we keep our knowledge current.

This article was written for FitDirectory.ca by Michelle Berg, AFLCA Group Exercise and Resistance Trainer with mind/body and portable equipment accreditations, NASM corrective exercise specialist, and NAIT Personal Fitness Trainer program graduate._ View Michelle’s full profile and qualifications on Fitdirectory.ca

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