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Being certified represents an achievement of excellence...

Interview with Dr Bogdan Alexandru Popescu: Chair of the EAE Certification and Accreditation Committee

Since its creation in 2003 the Certification Committee, has put in place 3 exams: on TTE, TEE and CHD.
The aim was to provide a high level of achievement in the professional life of echocardiographers and to standardise the Echo practice throughout Europe.

The EAE invites Dr. Bogdan A. Popescu, Chairperson of the EAE Certification and Accreditation Committee to give us an overview on the certification activities and on the evolution since 2003.



Dr. Popescu, could you please explain what is the certification process and what are the objectives?

The EAE Certification-Accreditation Committee includes 4 specific sub-committees, one for Laboratory Accreditation and 3 for individual certification such as:

• Adult Transthoracic Echocardiography, TTE
• Adult Transesophageal Echocardiography, TEE (jointly with EACTA)
• Congenital Heart Disease Echocardiography, CHD (jointly with the AEPC)

The committees for individual certification organize certification exams for the respective subspecialty.
The certification committees are lead by Alex Stefanidis (Greece) for TTE, John Kneeshaw (UK, on behalf of EACTA) and Frank Flachskampf (Sweden) for TEE, and Owen Miller (UK, on behalf of AEPC) for CHD, while the laboratory accreditation committee is lead by Simon Ray (UK).
I would like to thank all of them for their hard voluntary work – it is a team effort and nothing can be done alone.
I would also like to warmly thank our colleagues and friends from the two Associations which help the EAE run the TEE and the CHD certification process: EACTA and AEPC. It is an important process and we are privileged to work together with them towards a common goal.

The certification process is divided in 2 steps:

  • The written exam (computer-based), consisting of a Theory section and a Reporting section which both need to be successfully completed before moving to.
  • The practical part, consisting of submitting a logbook or an e-logbook of cases perform by the candidate, which will be assessed blindly by 3 independent reviewers, according to pre-specified quality criteria 

Together with the Committee Chairs we aim at checking the quality of the process at various steps (eg written exam, logbooks) to assure consistency between different cohorts, to keep a high quality level, and to align this process at the European standard.
The EAE was the first ESC Association to run a certification exam and credit has to be given to Kevin Fox (UK) who had a decisive role in setting the process at the beginning and running it so successfully for many years.

In fact, the main objective of initiating such a process was to ultimately improve patient care be by offering a certification process meant to assess the competence of an individual performing echocardiography, to harmonise the way Echo is practiced in Europe and to increase the level of qualification of the echocardiograhers.

Why should a fellow go through this process?

Being EAE certified represents an achievement of excellence, providing value and recognition. The European Certification in Echocardiography is designed to test the competency of an individual in performing, interpreting, and reporting routine Transthoracic, Transesophageal, and Congenital Heart Disease studies unsupervised.
Both colleagues and patients will be aware of this achievement, increasing one’s professional recognition in the community. Even though the process is currently a voluntary one I believe there are many advantages in having such a broad recognition.

Moreover, I think time will come when everyone wanting to perform and report echo studies will need to hold European certification. The prestige of the EAE, the credibility of the whole process, the fact that no one received European certification without sitting the exam, all represent good reasons for someone to want to go through the process.

What was the evolution since the organisation of the first examination and what will be next?

Since 2003, 865 candidates have been successful from over 50 countries.
Discover who they are by sub-speciality:TTE, TEE and CHD

The process started in 2003 with a TTE exam held in Barcelona during Euroecho and has gradually expanded ever since, so that we will have 9 certification exams in 2011 (5 on TTE, 3 on TEE, and 1 on CHD).
This reflects the increasing interest from our members and I would dare to say, the credibility of the process and value of the certificate.

We started as a paper exam and did so for years, however always checking the quality of the questions used by means of modern statistical tools.
As technology is evolving rather fast, the EAE needed to reshape the way certification exams were set up.
The first important step was the move from paper logbook to electronic logbook for the TTE certification so that the reviewer can actually see the images recorded by the candidate.

Being an innovative association and looking for ways of improving the services to its members, the EAE has moved now to computer based exams, so called CBT (Computer Based Testing).
The first CBT exams were held in Paris during the annual ESC Congress 2011 for the TTE, and were quite successful. This format will now be extended also to TEE and CHD exams to be run at EUROECHO 2011 in Budapest, Hungary (check the time schedule here below).

Each candidate has his own computer/screen in front of him and so is able to run the exam at his own pace, in whatever order he wishes, spending more time on a particular case, going backwards if needed, not having problem with proper visualization of the cases and in general the process is fair and professional while the results can be announced much sooner.

Also, apart from these many individual certification exams, the EAE is offering laboratory accreditation since 2009, as there cannot be excellence in the absence of a proper infrastructure and organization at a laboratory level.
In this regard, the best service would be offered by people holding individual certification working in an accredited laboratory. Together with the National Echo Societies/Working Groups, the EAE is trying to build a network of advanced echo laboratories where young motivated individuals can train in different modalities in order to improve their skills and knowledge.

I strongly encourage fellows to sit one of the next certification exams and thus to become part of the European Echo community of excellence.
 
  • TTE:
    • Wednesday 7th December:  14:00 to 19:00
    • Friday 9th December:  14:00 to 19:00
    • Saturday 10th December: 08:00 to 13:00 

  • TEE: Thursday 8th December: 
    • 08:00 to 13:00 
    • 14:00 to 19:00
  • CHD: Friday 9th December:  08:00 to 13:00 

To increase the chance of success to the written examination,  we invite you visit the certification section on the EAE website to access some helpful documents as well as the EAE Recommendations for training, competence, and quality improvement in echocardiography.

Conclusion:

I remember the day when I sat this exam myself in December 2003. It was a very exciting experience and I am very happy to have gone through the process as a candidate before being involved in the committee as this gave me the opportunity to see the process from both sides.
Therefore, I cannot overemphasize the importance of the certification/accreditation in echocardiography and cardiology in a period when despite all the difficulties we need to provide the best possible service to our patients in order to fulfill our mission of improving the quality of care.
Going through the EAE certification/accreditation process is an excellent way of proving our commitment to do so.