By Samantha Hendrickson and Lindsey McNorton
In March of 2020, secondary to the pandemic, all in-person certification testing was temporarily halted in the United States. Certification examinations are essential for the Competency and Credentialing Institute (CCI). Cessation of testing was intensely disruptive, as there was very limited testing availability from the beginning of this shutdown until June. In this brief article, we would like to share some of the lessons learned and how CCI began to adapt to this problem through Remote Secure Proctored Examinations (RSPE).
The shut down of certification examination testing was widespread throughout the industry and impacted all testing vendors and all nursing certification examinations. The accreditation agencies for nursing certification programs were quick to respond to the shutdown and allowed the use of RSPE in lieu of in-person testing. CCI was required to submit detailed requests to the accreditation agencies before beginning the use of RSPE. Prior to candidates testing, the CCI credentialing team tested the check-in process to launch the exam to better understand the user experience. We then had pilot testing with three nurses; two military nurses stationed in Afghanistan and a nurse from Nebraska. Upon completion of those tests, and reviewing the feedback from these nurses, we began a gradual, measured ramp up of the use of RSPE.
At present, RSPE is in use for the CNOR and CSSM certification examinations and was used for the initial testing for the CNAMB credential in September. The RSPE process is much different than traditional in-person testing. A short video from our testing partner Prometric explains the process and can be found at https://www.prometric.com/proproctorcandidate. Remote testing allows nurses to take an exam in their home using an available computer with audio and a web cam. Not every test taker is comfortable or receptive to the unique process of remote testing.
Admittedly, the start-up has not been flawless. We would like to share the pros and cons for remote testing and some of the lessons learned. We had very high hopes for RSPE as we began the process. We had hoped this alternative would take the place of in-person testing and CCI would quickly return to near normal levels of testing. Our optimistic forecasts did not materialize, and we have learned RSPE is not a panacea for all testing issues.
Remote testing allows a candidate considerable choice in their testing experience. Distractions are minimized since you just need a quiet room that can be isolated for roughly 4 hours. Most candidates test from their home using their laptop. Scheduling is very flexible with proctors available 24/7 versus the daytime hours of testing centers. Remote testing not only removes infection and travel risks, but also accommodates the irregular hours worked by perioperative nurses. Many candidates have chosen to test in the evening and on weekends.
There are also some drawbacks to RSPE. Although system checks are required prior to testing, technical issues do happen. A good Internet connection for both the proctor and the test takers is needed. Even though Macs and PCs can be used, not all computers meet the security requirements for testing and exams cannot be done with smartphones or tablet devices.
RSPE has been a useful adjunct in these extraordinary times and dozens of nurses have successfully used this method. Remote testing will likely be commonplace in the future. CCI has learned valuable lessons from early use of these systems. The use of RSPE is a viable and useful option at present and we will continue to refine and strengthen our use of this cutting-edge technology to meet the needs of perioperative nurses.
Samantha Hendrickson is a Credentialing Associate and holds an Associate of Art Degree and Associate of Science in Pre-Engineering. Lindsey McNorton is a Credentialing Associate and holds a Bachelor of Science in Event Management.
Prometric (2020) ProProctor. [webpage]. Accessed August 31, 2020 at: https://www.prometric.com/ProProctor.