The AHIMA Certified in Healthcare Privacy and Security (CHPS®) credential recognizes individuals who have achieved expertise in designing, implementing, and administering privacy and security protection programs in all types of healthcare organizations. Holders demonstrate advanced knowledge of the privacy and security dimensions of health information management to include best management practices.
For this series, “My Credential Story,” we spoke to two CHPS credential holders about their careers and how the credential has helped them differentiate themselves in the field. Read part two.
My health information (HI) career started traditionally in health information management operations. When the HIPAA rules were finalized, my first experience with the privacy regulations was assisting with the implementation of the rules as they pertained to my operational setting, but I wasn’t responsible for the entire HIPAA program. As time went on, I found that I was drawn to everything privacy related, so when the opportunity presented itself, I accepted the role of chief privacy officer (CPO) in the compliance department within my organization.
When I started as CPO, I noticed that the previous CPO held one of the original AHIMA healthcare privacy credentials—the Certified in Healthcare Privacy (CHP) credential—which has since become the Certified in Healthcare Privacy and Security (CHPS) credential. That’s how I first learned that such a credential existed. Because I respected the privacy expertise of the former CPO whose job I now was expected to carry forward, I set a goal to achieve the CHPS credential.
I still had a lot to learn about HIPAA, and I felt that the CHPS credential was one way I could demonstrate to the organization that I possessed a high level of expertise. I decided I would test for the credential after gaining a few years of on-the-job privacy experience that I hoped would deepen my understanding of the HIPAA rules and prepare me to take the exam. I wasn’t a privacy officer when the rules first came out, so I felt I had to do some catch-up in developing my HIPAA knowledge as compared to those who were deeply involved from the start.
I decided to test for the CHPS credential early in 2012. By then I was seeing more professionals hold the credential, and I didn’t want to get left behind. I’ll admit it was scary to commit; it had been a very long time since I last sat for an exam. But I made a study plan using the AHIMA self-study modules and scheduled my exam far enough out to allow me time to study—but not too far out so as to prolong the wait.
I didn’t tell anyone I had scheduled the test in case I didn’t pass. But also because I pictured walking into work and surprising my department with the good news that I had earned the credential.
With much relief, I passed the exam on the first attempt and immediately felt so proud of the accomplishment. Though I had wanted the credential to demonstrate to my organization that I had achieved a high level of privacy expertise, what I didn’t expect was that earning the credential would give me such a personal sense of achievement and confidence in my skills that I could take forward as a privacy professional. The pride I felt when adding the credential to my signature line was worth all the effort.
Since earning the credential, I’ve been so happy to talk with other HI professionals who noticed I held the credential and were wondering if they should make the attempt. I always tell them the effort is so worth it because of the personal reward, the sense of accomplishment in meeting a challenge, the increased confidence in your skills, and the ability to demonstrate to others that you are a professional with high-level HIPAA rule expertise. I tell them that, yes, the exam is challenging, but it needs to be in order to ensure that the credential meaningfully represents that high level of expertise.
As HI professionals, we’ve always advocated for the privacy of a patient’s health information. What better way to strengthen that advocacy then by encouraging more professionals to earn their CHPS credentials to ensure that we are all putting forth our best efforts?
Peg Schmidt (email@example.com) is the vice president and chief privacy officer in the Compliance and Integrity Department at Advocate Aurora Health, headquartered in Milwaukee, WI, and Downers Grove, IL.
Learn more about the CHPS credential and exam here.
Register for the exam prep course here.