Are You Certifiable?

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, Publisher and Editor of AnswerStat

Your call center may be an in-house operation or an outsourcer processing calls and contacts for other organizations. Regardless of the type of call center you work in, there is a common need for increased, positive visibility. This is necessary for two key areas. The first is budgeting; the second is your center’s ongoing viability and existence, that is, self-preservation. Related to both of these is staffing costs, technology upgrades, new software, and…respect.

One option is to do nothing and hope for the best. The other is to be proactive. One such tactic is to seek third-party validation of your call center and/or staff. These can serve to provide credentials on which you can form a positive PR push with upper management, justifying your call center’s budget request and, if need be, your center’s continued existence.

Fortunately, there are two organizations ready and able to help this substantiation of your operations’ overall quality, professionalism, and adherence to standard operating procedures in the medical community. Although these are not the end-all, one-stop solution to guaranteeing a favorable nod from your organization’s budgeting and planning committees, they are a great first step.

The first validation area is telenurse certification, offered by the National Certification Corporation. The second is call center accreditation, provided through URAC.

National Certification Corporation – Telenurse Certification

The National Certification Corporation (NCC) is a nonprofit organization, which provides a certification program for nurses and other health care professionals. Since 1975, NCC has awarded certification to tens of thousand of licensed health care professionals, including more that 600 in the category of “Telephone Nursing Practice Nurse,” (TNP). Certification is offered in many categories, including obstetric, gynecologic, and neonatal healthcare, in addition to telephone nursing.

NCC indicates that their “certification program is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA).” As such it was given a “rigorous third-party review and found to meet the highest national voluntary standards for private certification.”

NCC offers two certification testing options, one is paper-based and the other is computer-based, which is growing in popularity. Paper-based testing is conducted at set times throughout the year at specific locations. Computer-based tests are administered by a third party, scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis. The cost of the two testing options are $250 and $300, respectively.

To qualify, nurses must be licensed in the United States (or Canada), have 24 months of experience (totaling at least 2,000 hours), and have worked as a telephone nurse in the past two years. To assist nurses in preparing for the certification test, NCC offers a Telephone Nursing Practice certification guide on their website.

For more information, call 312-951-0207, or access their fax-on-demand system at 800-367-5613.

URAC – Call Center Accreditation

URAC is also an independent, nonprofit organization. It promotes quality healthcare through several accreditation programs, as well as certification, quality benchmarking, and education programs. URAC does not have a certification for nurses, as does NCC. Rather, they provide accreditation for the medical and healthcare related call centers and contact center itself.

They have established standards for healthcare call centers, which provide triage and health information services to the general public via the phone, Internet, or related electronic methods. These standards, and a resulting accreditation, complement nicely the TNP certification offered by NCC. Together, they work to ensure service is being provided by quality staff in a quality environment “in a manner that is timely, confidential, and includes medically appropriate care and treatment advice.”

To assist those seeking accreditation for their call center, URAC offers accreditation workshops that explain the standards that are expected and the accreditation process. These one to two day workshops are taught by URAC staff and are limited to 25 participants in order to maximize the effectiveness of the training.

For more information about URAC and their Health Call Center Accreditation Program, contact them at or 202-216-9010.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of AnswerStat. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.

[From the June/July 2005 issue of AnswerStat magazine]