Welcome to the Advancing Surgical Care Podcast brought to you by ASCA, the Ambulatory Surgery Center Association. ASCA represents the interests of outpatient surgery centers of every specialty and provides advocacy and resources to assist them in providing safe, high-quality, cost-effective patient care. As with all of ASCA’s communications, please check to make sure you are listening to or viewing our most up-to-date podcasts and announcements.
Mandy Hawkins: 0:26
Hello, and welcome to the Advancing Surgical Care Podcast. My name is Mandy Hawkins. I am the chief operating officer of Privado Health, the president of ASCA and the host of this episode. In a moment, I’ll be joined by my guest, Debra Stinchcomb. I’ve asked Debra to join me for a discussion about the CASC and CAIP certifications for ASC administrators and their senior staffs. As many listeners know, the CASC, or Certified Administrator Surgery Center, credential is awarded to ASC administrators who successfully complete a course of instruction and can demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the essential knowledge and skills required to be an ASC administrator. Similarly, in order to obtain CAIP, Certified Ambulatory Infection Preventionist credential, an individual must meet certain eligibility requirements and achieve a passing score on an exam designed specifically to test the knowledge considered relevant to be an infection preventionist in an ASC. And we’ll talk more about both these credentials in just a moment. First, I would like to introduce my guest, Debra Stinchcomb. Debra is a senior consultant with Progressive Surgical Solutions, a division of VMG Health. Progressive Surgical Solutions is a consultancy that provides activities for ASC development, clinical compliance, staff training and business operations. Debra is also a registered nurse who has held several leadership and advisory positions in the ASC community, and presently serves as the president of the Board of Ambulatory Surgery Certification, known as BASC, the governing body that oversees both the CASC and CAIP certifications. Debra, welcome to the ASC podcast.
Debra Stinchcomb: 2:22
Thank you very much, Mandy.
Mandy Hawkins: 2:23
We’re glad you’re here. So, Debra, I know you and I both agree that CASC and CAIP credentials are really essential for anyone who is either working as an administrator or manager today and is hoping to advance their career in an ambulatory surgery center. I hold both certifications and the knowledge and confidence that have conferred on me and on my career have been absolutely invaluable. So, I’m eager to talk to you about the coursework and the upcoming enrollment periods for both certifications. First, I’d like to hear your thoughts on why you believe a busy ASC administrator should make the time to pursue one or both of these certifications and what it can mean in their performance and for their career.
Debra Stinchcomb: 3:07
Well, first off Mandy, congratulations to you for holding both of those certifications. I took the original CASC test a long time ago in 2002. And at the time, it lent credibility to my role as the administrator. And I had just moved from Los Angeles to Arkansas and was working with another consultant to start our state ASC association. It helped lend credibility to that process as well because I could show a certification within the industry that I work. So, if you see that CASC behind someone’s name, you really know that they’ve tested their expertise and their knowledge in that field. The same can certainly be said for CAIP—it lends credibility to that position as well as the nuances that are within the ASC industry. And again, these certifications are the only ones dedicated to ASCs and we should all take a tremendous amount of pride in those distinctions. It separates us from hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and other healthcare entities.
Mandy Hawkins: 4:14
It really does, and it gives you that extra confidence. I mean, as soon as I took the test, of course, you walk out and you’re like, ‘Oh, how did I do?” But then as soon as you have it, it just instills this feeling in you and gives you a little bit more of an edge in your career. So, it’s been great.
Debra Stinchcomb: 4:30
Mandy Hawkins: 4:31
So, let’s talk a little bit more about CASC. Can you give our listeners an overview of the coursework, the CASC handbook and what enrollees should expect in terms of the time it will take to obtain their certification? And then the cost associated with the credential?
Debra Stinchcomb: 4:48
Absolutely. CASC, or C-A-S-C, stands for Certified Administrator Surgery Center. And again, as I mentioned in the first response, it really shows the breadth of knowledge. So, the review areas are five in number: delivery of patient care, financial, regulatory/legal, human resources, and quality management. When you download the CASC handbook, which you can do from the website, it goes into more detail in each of those focus areas. And it also reviews eligibility, which eligibility for CASC is you need one year management experience and a minimum of an associate’s degree. The time involved really depends on you. So for example, if you’re a clinical director, and you are promoted through the ranks, and you end up as an administrator, which tends to happen—that’s exactly what happened to me as well—you might find that you aren’t able to read income statements yet or balance sheets or know which KPIs, or key performance indicators, you need to report to the board. So, you would focus more on learning those areas, and you can look in the handbook to see the appropriate resources for that. Conversely, if you have a business background, you would need to do the same for the patient care focus. And one great area of learning is the ASC in which you work. If you’re business oriented, hang out with your clinical staff, follow patients through the tracer process, learn what your staff is doing. If you’re clinical and you need to learn business, sit with your business office staff, find out about AR, find out about the billing process. In addition, look at your state associations for education. And the annual ASCA conference is a great place to look. Each of those workshops indicates which area of focus you can gain information about, and if you’re already certified, it gives you the opportunity to get an AEU for that course as well. So, there are numerous resources for you. And again, it just depends on where your gap areas are as far as the actual time that it takes.
Mandy Hawkins: 7:02
Those workshops are really helpful. I took the workshop before taking my CASC credential. And I sat next to someone who had a business background. So, she was very intrigued with my knowledge in infection prevention and just different areas, the governance part of the surgery center. So, it was great to really meet with someone and network with them as well. And we ended up doing some practicing before our exam together. And since then, I’ve taken it again just as a refresher, which is also really helpful.
Debra Stinchcomb: 7:30
Mandy Hawkins: 7:33
So, the enrollment period is coming up for the CASC certification. Can you talk a little bit about that and what the critical dates are? Is there space for anyone who wants to enroll? And, if there’s an administrator who’s not ready to enroll right now, can you tell us about future enrollment and exam periods?
Debra Stinchcomb: 7:53
Absolutely. And I’ll also address the price issue that you asked me about in the prior question. So, for the CASC exam, there are two enrollment periods, two testing periods. So, the next one is coming up in September. The application period, however, closes in a few weeks—it closes out July 31. So, if you are interested in the September exam, get onto the website to apply. The application fee is $599. There is a practice exam that you can take. The practice exam itself does cost $279, but if you do the practice exam as well as apply for the test, we have a bundle price of $799. So, you do get to save about $80. The next testing period is in May 2024—hard to think about 2024 at this point in time but it is coming up—and the application period for that is in 2024. So, once you apply, you will get notice that your application has been accepted, you will then get an email from the testing company, and they will guide you the rest of the way through that process. And it is online: you go to a testing location at the appropriate date that’s near you and you then take your test. There’s not a limit as to how many can join at this point in time.
Mandy Hawkins: 9:19
Great. Now, Debra, we need to pause for just a moment while we hear a brief message from our podcast sponsor. So standby, and we’ll be right back.
This episode of the Advancing Surgical Care Podcast is brought to you by AMSURG, a national leader in the strategic and operational management of ambulatory surgery centers. AMSURG partners with more than 2,000 physicians and health systems and more than 250 ASCs operating in 34 states. Learn more by visiting amsurg.com.
Mandy Hawkins: 9:49
Debra, let’s now turn to the CAIP credential. Other than performing successful surgeries and procedures, I think it’s fair to say that preventing infection is the next most important responsibility that we have to our patients. Preventing infections is also vitally important to the continued success of the ASC community since it factors heavily in our ability to prove the safety and efficacy of moving more procedures from the inpatient setting to the outpatient setting. Can you talk a little about the CAIP course and how this instruction and knowledge can be additive to even the most experienced ASC individual or team?
Debra Stinchcomb: 10:24
Absolutely. And CAIP is C-A-I-P, and it stands for Certified Ambulatory Infection Preventionist. So, I just wanted to get that out there since I know that this is audio only; I want to make sure everyone knows the acronym. And yes, infection control is incredibly important. I think anyone who has been through the survey process in probably the last 10 years can say how much it has grown in focus and how robust your program needs to be. So, similar to CASC, it gives credibility to your knowledge base, which I mentioned earlier. And the CAIP exam covers five areas of knowledge and those include: program development, which of course the program is required by CMS, surveillance and data collection, education and training, infection prevention strategies, and instrument processing. There is a handbook for this just as there is with CASC, and it has resources and information for you. And those resources are the approved providers for your continuing education, should you become certified. The handbook also addresses the qualifications: you do need to be a licensed healthcare provider, you need to have experience or oversight in your infection prevention activities as well. There is now a practice test, which we’re very proud of—it took several years to get the practice test. CAIP is not that old, and you have to be able to retire questions in order to make a practice test. So, it did take us some time to get there, but we have. We have also recently expanded the role of the providers of continuing education, which has been a great addition for us as well.
Mandy Hawkins: 12:12
This has also been an impressive credential when CMS surveyors are on site. It’s nice to tell them you have this credential and say this follows the infection prevention standards and best practices that are out there, and I’ve been able to pull up the website and show it to them. So, this is definitely something that can help in your surveys.
Debra Stinchcomb: 12:32
Mandy Hawkins: 12:33
Okay, so when it comes to CAIP, can you also tell us about the dates for the CAIP course, the value of the handbook and what a potential enrollee can expect in terms of the time and expense involved in obtaining this certification?
Debra Stinchcomb: 12:47
Absolutely. As with CASC, CAIP is also offered twice a year. So, the next exam period is in October. So, we will be accepting applications during the entire month of August. The application fee for that is $379. The next exam period is March of 2024, and January, the entire month of January, will be the application period. The practice test is now available, which I mentioned; the cost of that is $165. And as with CASC, we do have a bundle—if you apply for the test and the practice exam, it’s $500. So, you have a savings of $44. And the time it takes again has to do with the gaps that you have. So, I would recommend you go into the handbook, look at the detail involved in those five areas that I had mentioned in the previous question and see where you might be lacking. Look at the approved providers for additional information. Again, your state ASC association conferences, ASCA conferences and webinars—that’s where you can obtain a tremendous amount of knowledge that you will need for your facility.
Mandy Hawkins: 14:06
Yes, state associations have been really helpful. As soon as I got the credential, I was talking to someone at our state association meeting and we ended up creating our own little workgroup, and now several other administrators have gone on to get the credential. So, it was really helpful to talk to these people. So now once you obtain the CASC or CAIP credential, what’s required to maintain it?
Debra Stinchcomb: 14:28
So, the certification period is a three-year period and both certifications require AEUs for continuing education or IPCHs, depending on your certification, and you have the entire three years to obtain that. So, you need 30 for CASC and 30 for CAIP. One thing that we are adding as BASC, and we will be putting out the process in future newsletters, is the fact that you can now submit classes that you’ve taken outside of our approved provider list. We will have a small committee internally that will approve that. So, let’s say you’re going back for your master’s in nursing or your master’s in business and you take a course that will fit within those study areas or those focus areas, you can submit that for review for a continuing education unit. So, that even adds into the approved providers that are listed. So again, yes, you do need AEUs for continuation, and you will have a fee associated with that each year.
Mandy Hawkins: 15:35
Wow, that’s really helpful to be able to submit those; I know a lot of people are in school getting their master’s. And also recently, BASC has been sending out emails to reference new and upcoming educational opportunities for both CASC and CAIP credits. Will this be available to those who are newly CASC or CAIP credentialed?
Debra Stinchcomb: 15:55
Absolutely. We are communicating more with our current certificants to let them know what providers and courses have been added. In addition, the newsletters for each CASC and CAIP are tremendous resources, and I would like to encourage everyone to get on those whether you’re a certificant or not, you don’t have to be a certificant to get onto those. But you can go to the websites, aboutcasc.org or aboutcaip.org, and you can scroll down to the bottom of the page, put in your information and you just check on “Add me to newsletter subscription list.” And you’ll get newsletters where you can get a lot of information and this will help you learn more about the programs, additional information about testing and additional information about approved providers.
Mandy Hawkins: 16:51
That’s great for ASCA members if they are not currently credentialed and would like to hear more about it or just kind of maybe get more in tune to it. They should log on and get that newsletter; that would be really helpful. And I do love those emails—it really shows different state association meetings, ASCA webinars, it shows different vendors that have educational opportunities. So as a holder, I think that that is very helpful, and we appreciate that. Well, Debra, I want to thank you for taking the time to talk with me today. I’m hopeful that your passion for this learning will inspire many more ASC administrators to pursue both the CASC and the CAIP certifications. On behalf of ASCA, I also want to thank you for all you do for our ASC community, particularly the work you’ve done throughout your career to advance education and training for ASC professionals.
Debra Stinchcomb: 17:39
Thank you very much, Mandy.
Mandy Hawkins: 17:42
This will conclude today’s podcast. Before signing off, I would once again like to thank our podcast sponsor AMSURG, a leading ASC management company with more than 250 ASC partners in 34 states. To learn more, visit amsurg.com.