In this interview, we learn more about the certified cardiac electrophysiology technologist program created at Howard Community College in Columbia, Maryland. Bill Fisher, MEd, RCIS, RCES is a Professor and Program Chair of Cardiovascular Technology, Adrienne Summers, CPP is a Continuing Professional Education Coordinator of Continuing Education and Workforce Development, and Elizabeth (Lizz) Tooley, BS, RT(R)(CI), RCES, RCIS, CCDS is an Adjunct Professor.
When and why was the Cardiac Electrophysiology Technologist Certification created at Howard Community College?
Bill Fisher: The Cardiac Electrophysiology Technologist Certification is offered as an online course through the Continuing Education Division in partnership with the Health Sciences Division at Howard Community College. I created the course after seeking the RCES credential to fulfill a need for working EP professionals who wanted to gain a higher level of understanding for EP concepts. The course content was developed in alignment with the RCES exam offered by Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI) and best clinical practices in EP. The first course was launched during the Fall 2018 semester, with 10 students enrolled from across the country.
Explain the curriculum and how it was developed.
Bill Fisher: The 15-week course curriculum was designed and developed for online learning. The course has both synchronous and asynchronous components, with a variety of learning activities that are considered best practices for the online format. Students are expected to complete all learning activities and knowledge assessments, as well as participate in weekly meetings. The class meets every Wednesday from 7-9 PM in a virtual classroom, using Adobe Connect to review assignments and lectures on course content as well as receive instructions on the following week’s assignments. Each synchronous meeting is recorded and can be reviewed by the student at any time. The design of the course, with the included synchronous component, is key to successful learning in the online environment. It promotes a teacher presence and reduces the feeling of alienation, which is a typical complaint of students enrolled in asynchronous courses. The course instructor, Lizz Tooley, has many years of practical experience in EP, which makes her a true subject matter expert. She demonstrates a true passion for teaching and can instantly connect with her students, thus enhancing the online experience for students.
What is the time commitment?
Bill Fisher: Most students enrolled in the course are working EP professionals wishing to seek a higher level of understanding in EP, in order to ultimately seek registry status. The course provides the didactic knowledge and strives to bridge concept gaps, while the student’s place of employment provides the clinical experience. The course semester runs for 15 weeks, and students can expect to spend 5-10 hours weekly working on assignments. (Figure 1)
What are the costs associated with the program?
Adrienne Summers: Tuition and fees are approximately $650 per person, plus textbooks that amount to approximately an additional $350 per person.
What are the admission requirements?
Adrienne Summers: Prospective students are required to fill out an application, with cardiovascular technology, electrophysiology, or radiography experience preferred. If an applicant is currently working in the catheterization lab and not one of the above, the potential student may still qualify.
Who are the ideal candidates for this program?
Lizz Tooley: The ideal candidates for this program are allied healthcare professionals who either work in an invasive electrophysiology lab and are looking to expand their depth of knowledge about the procedures they are performing, or who work in a cardiac catheterization lab and are looking to expand into performing ablations and other electrophysiology procedures. While having at least a year or two of direct clinical experience participating in ablation procedures is not required for the program, I would definitely recommend it, because it provides prospective students with a much firmer foundation to effectively navigate the curriculum, not only allowing them to be more successful within the program, but also giving them more of a “big picture” understanding to combine those concepts with what they have been doing back in the procedure lab.
When is the start of the next semester? What is the deadline to enroll?
Adrienne Summers: The next course offering is Fall 2019. Applications are available July 1, 2019, and registration begins at the same time until all the seats are filled, which is usually very quickly.
Do you help students prepare for the RCES exam? What are the qualifications needed to take the RCES exam?
Lizz Tooley: Yes, that was the original goal when the curriculum was designed, to be able to bridge the gap between what is learned in the day-to-day clinical setting with the more advanced concepts on the RCES tests. There are four education/experience criteria combinations that a prospective applicant can use to qualify to sit for the RCES exam; our program is geared for those applicants in the first two examples:
1) Two years of full-time or full-time equivalent work experience in diagnostic and interventional cardiac electrophysiology. This option requires a manager-signed work verification letter.
2) A graduate of a diploma, associate, or baccalaureate academic program in health sciences (including, but not limited to, cardiovascular technology, ultrasound, radiologic technology, respiratory therapy, or nursing), with one year of full-time work experience in electrophysiology. This option requires a completion certificate and/or educational transcript and a manager-signed work verification letter.
3) A graduate of a non-programmatically accredited program in electrophysiology that has a minimum of one year of specialty training and includes a minimum of 800 clinical hours in the specialty in which the examination is being requested. This option requires a completion certificate and/or educational transcript, a student verification letter, and a clinical experience letter.
4) A graduate of a programmatically accredited program in electrophysiology recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), United States Department of Education (USDOE), or Canadian Medical Association (CMA) that specifically conducts programmatic accreditation for cardiovascular technology, diagnostic cardiac sonography, or vascular technology. This option requires a completion certificate and/or educational transcript and a student verification letter.
Tell us about the first graduating class. How many students participated?
Lizz Tooley: The inaugural class started out with 10 students, from five different states, all currently working in either an electrophysiology lab or a combination EP/cath lab. This was my first formal experience as an instructor, but what made this class experience unique was the addition of the synchronous sessions. During these sessions, the students were able to bond with each other, despite never actually meeting in person. With that bond, they were able to learn from the provided materials, the instructor, and from each other. It was amazing to see the difference that talking a concept out with the group made in terms of overall understanding, plus the students were continually working to build up their fellow classmate’s confidence with difficult concepts. It was just an excellent group overall. Of the 10 who started the semester, eight successfully completed the class, and several are currently in the process of applying to take the RCES exam.
What advantages does this program offer students? What is the demand for trained EP talent?
Lizz Tooley: This program offers lab professionals a consolidated curriculum that teaches EP theory from the comfort of their own home or wherever else they are currently learning. The EP lab is a busy place, and it is often very difficult for lab staff to find the time or the motivation, let alone the direction, to self-study those advanced theory concepts that the RCES exam evaluates. It also has the advantage of group accountability and group interaction, which makes learning easier and more enjoyable, improving the chances that the student can apply it to their clinical practice.
Currently, there is a rapidly growing need for well-trained, well-educated EP talent. As the aging population increases and the technology within the field of electrophysiology continues to advance, safe and successful cases are going to depend on highly skilled lab staff who can anticipate the needs of the physician and function within the “big picture.”
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Bill Fisher: Upon successful completion of the course, participants may claim 28.75 Continuing Education credit through the American Society of Radiographic Technologists.
Also, in response to many inquiries about making the synchronous portion available across time zones, the Continuing Education Division at Howard Community College is interested in recruiting qualified EP professionals in various time zones to teach the course. Anyone interested should contact Adrienne Summers, Continuing Professional Education Coordinator at Howard Community College, at either 443-518-4972 or firstname.lastname@example.org.