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Credentialing and the Use of Digital Badges

By Skyllar roach and James X. Stobinski

Certificates have long been used to signify accomplishments such as earning a credential like CNOR or CNAMB. But significant changes in documentation and verification processes are on the horizon. The capabilities of digital badges, which document the CFPN credential, far exceed that of traditional physical badges and certificates. Digital badges are not yet extensively used by nurse credentialing bodies but this innovative approach to documentation and verification holds much promise. What exactly are digital badges and how are they used? Iafrate (2017) states that, “Simply put, a digital badge is an indicator of accomplishment or skill that can be displayed, accessed and verified online. These badges can be earned in a wide variety of environments, an increasing number of which are online.”

Digital badges are not just for recognizing credentials, they are a valid representation of the individual’s learning or achievement as well as proof of an accomplishment. This allows professionals to demonstrate their broad range of knowledge and these badges, at their optimal state, can substantiate competency. Traditional certificates can document dates but the medium is distinctly limited in how much data can be displayed. Dates can document experience, which is important, but dates alone cannot document a person’s proficiency or performance level. Digital badges are supported by metadata and when accessed a vast trove of data can be displayed providing context and depth regarding the credential.

By shifting the focus from credentials and physical certificates, individuals can acquire, document, demonstrate and display their skills in a way that better reflects their capabilities. Digital badges are also more easily accessed, displayed and verified online. In our current technological age, this distinction is vital for quick access to professionals and potential employers. With online badges, more details can be presented than are possible with traditional certificates. Badges not only delineate an individual achievement but also describe the specific skill set and provide context such as the job analysis findings on which the skill is based.

In June 2021, CCI introduced the new Certified Foundational Perioperative Nurse credential (CFPN). This credential provides a solid foundation for perioperative nurses just starting out in their careers and is a stepping-stone to professional development over a career. Upon completion of each of the four components of CFPN, each candidate has the option to accept a digital badge issued through Credly which can be shared on social media. Upon completion of all segments, a final badge showcasing the CFPN credential is issued. More information on digital badging and our partner Credly can be found at credly.com.

CCI recently launched a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiative led by our board of directors. The use of digital badges dovetails nicely with these efforts. As Credly maintains in its whitepaper on gender equity (2021) digital badges provide, “ … a portable, verified and secure representation of acquired knowledge and skills.” Skills are highly valued in perioperative nursing and these specialty-specific skills can be thoroughly documented through digital badges. This method of documentation and verification facilitates skills-based hiring and is a means to document the detail of training programs and techniques such as competency-based education.

You will soon begin seeing digital badges from nurses just entering the profession that have earned the CFPN credential. As of September 7 CCI, in partnership with Credly, has issued 804 digital badges related to the CFPN credential or one of its components. There are now 110 CFPN certificants. For now, digital badges are used mainly with the CFPN credential but in 2022 CCI will expand usage to other credentials. We see great potential for digital badges to add value to our certificants.

Skyllar Roach, BA, is a credentialing associate with the Competency and Credentialing Institute.
James X. Stobinski, PhD, RN, CNOR, CSSM(E), is Chief Executive Officer at Competency & Credentialing Institute (CCI).

References
1. Credly (2021). About Credly. Accessed August 2, 2021 at: About Us (credly.com.
2. Credly (2021). How Digital Credentials Can Help Dismantle Gender Bias in the Workplace. Accessed August 2, 2021 at: Credly-DismantleGenderBias-Whitepaper.pdf
3. Iafrate, M. (2017). A Guide to Digital Badges: What They Are and Where They’re Coming From.
4. Accessed August 2, 2021 at: Digital Badges: What Are They and How Are They Used? – eLearning Industry

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