Credentials: What Are They and Why Do We Need Them?

by Debra Tolson, ICEA President and Bonita Katz, ICEA President Elect

What are credentials and why do we need them? Credentials include academic diplomas and degrees, identification documents, certifications, and badges to list a few. Theses credentials give proof of professional qualifications or background. Credentials may also inspire a level of respect. This is important to consider when you are deciding which school to attend or which organization to certify with. For example, when I decided to work toward my BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) I looked for an accredited program – one that was reputable and authorized to educate nurses, one that was known for providing quality education. These same considerations apply to professional certifications. ICEA began certifying childbirth educators in 1982. This year marks the 45th year that we have set the standard for birth professionals. ICEA has grown and developed programs that include Professional Childbirth Educator, Birth Doula, and Postpartum Doula programs. Our reputation for excellence has been recognized for decades within the communities of medical and birth professionals. Just this year, ICEA was awarded ANCC (American Nurses Credentialing Center) accreditation, meaning that we can now develop and present educational offerings for nursing continuing education. Today, a variety of organizations offer credentials for childbirth educators and doulas, but few have the reputation for quality that ICEA enjoys. In the same way that hospitals seek accreditation from various agencies, they expect birth professionals to have credentials from organizations that they recognize and respect. ICEA’s longstanding history of family-centered, evidence-based care makes its credentials some of the most widely recognized and accepted – not only in the US, but around the world.  Our international reach continues to expand as we develop relationships with like-minded global partners. ICEA ensures the quality of our credentials by requiring each candidate to pass an exam at the end of their course of study.  To maintain that quality each credentialed birth professional is required to obtain additional hours of continuing education in order to recertify. As research on best practices for pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding continue to grow, we want to ensure that the knowledge of birth professionals certified by ICEA is current and evidence-based. Becoming a credentialed birth professional is costly – in time, effort, and money – but it is worth it! ICEA credentials demonstrate your commitment to birth work. It is a verification of your professionalism, as well as the level and quality of your knowledge. Recently, ICEA streamlined the membership and certification process. Our management company has worked diligently to make this process as smooth as possible, and we appreciate the ways in which you – the members of ICEA – have embraced this new framework. This tells us that you value what ICEA stands for – family-centered, evidence-based care – and that you value the ICEA credentials. We will continue to work hard to support and educate you as you flourish in supporting and educating childbearing families. 

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