Today I took the exam for National Certification for Infection Control.
It was no joke. I started to study for this thing back in January 2014.
Except for the Nursing Boards back in 2000, I have never had to take an exam that would have such public results. Over the years I’ve taken many many EKG exams, drug dosage calculation tests, a few pre-employment tests. You name it. One of the requirements of my job in the job description is that I become certified in Infection Control within 2 years of hire. Currently only 44% of those describing their job role as Infection Prevention are certified by CBIC. So, less than half. Passing rate for the exam in recent years has been about 65%. More than half, but not 90% or something encouraging.
For most certification exams, tons and tons of study guides exist. For the CBIC? There is one endorsed by the APIC the association for professionals in Epidemiology and Infection control. And a 500.00 text book. I spent money on an online review, only to find it was the APIC text put into slides that talk. Yay.
There is only one practice exam out there. It makes sense. There is usually ONE Infection Control practitioner in a community sized hospital. There are usually 500 other nurses in that hospital. Those nurses take Critical Care exams, Emergency Exams, Progressive Care exams, Orthopedic specialist exams…in much higher numbers. There really isn’t a huge market for prep materials, like there is for the nursing boards. So it becomes a bit of a crap shoot for someone like me. When one’s job is on the line, even if the job is not that satisfying, it is very stressful. I was so concerned that if I failed that any of the good work I’ve done would be invalidated.
Plus…let’s admit it. It is humiliating to fail. To start with the test center people know you just flunked. They see it every day, so not a big deal to them, but to the person failing, how awful. It isn’t like the test center attendant could have passed the test, but still.
To begin the process, I sent my application to the Certification Board in May. I had to provide copies of my Bachelors Degree, a signed affidavit that I did indeed work in Infection Prevention as my primary role, identity proofing documents. In a few weeks, I received an email with a code giving me permission to register for the exam. Once registered I had 90 days to take the test.
I decided on today because this is right about the same time I took my nursing boards and I clearly did ok with them. I think we are all a bit superstitious in funny ways.
Once I was given permission to test, I had to look for a test center. The closest one was 1.5 hours away in Tampa. Ugh. I knew if I failed I didn’t want to make that drive. I signed up for an 8:30 am slot. I walked in at 8:15 on the dot. In the tiny cramped waiting room were about 7 other people, mostly young ladies. I mistakenly assumed they were all taking nursing boards. (Yes, I sometimes also have a myopic view of the world) When they had me confirm my exam I saw that not one was actually taking any nursing exam at all. It was amazing though how nervous we all were. Not one person was sitting still. All of us were tapping toes, fiddling with paper, and trying to be confident. I could FEEL the tension.
Eventually they called my name. I signed in, confirmed personal information, was photographed, and actually wanded for metal. Whoa.
Then the nice young man set up the exam and I went to town. I immediately wrote down some formulas that I felt I needed on the scratch boards, and then start to fool with the tutorial. I am TERRIBLE at going through those “How to use” things, and actually should have paid better attention, at one point, on question 27 (of 150) I almost shut down the whole test!
I then started the exam. The questions, thank Heaven, were actually related to Infection Control. Some of the more ambiguous questions from the practice review did NOT make an appearance here at all. There were several that I had some problems with. I completed the test, and then went back and reviewed all the questions, especially the 3 I had not answered, and the ones marked for review. At a certain point, I just got fed up with second guessing and trying to figure out what the right answer was. I hit submit.
The screen went gray.
I wasn’t sure what to do…stand up and be done, or wait, or..
and suddenly a little survey came up. Imagine…waiting on your score…and they start asking “Do you feel the test prep materials were readily available?” “How satisfied are you with the test taking location?” I answered them dutifully.
I would have cheered if I wasn’t in the nice quiet test center with everyone else around me clicking away. I then almost burst into tears. I have never been so unsure taking an exam before. The feeling of relief was really something incredible.
So….now one of the 44% certified in Infection Control….Still don’t adore the job, but…at least I have the option to take it or leave it.