The Importance of Being Credentialed

By Harvey, Carolyn Hester | Journal of Environmental Health, November 2014 | Go to article overview

The Importance of Being Credentialed


Harvey, Carolyn Hester, Journal of Environmental Health


Why do environmental health professionals strive to be Registered Environmental Health Specialists/ Registered Sanitarians (REHS/RS)? Why do engineers want to be Professional Engineers (PE); dieticians want to be Registered Dieticians (RD); industrial hygienists want to be Certified Industrial Hygienists (CIH); and safety professionals want to be Certified Safety Professionals (CSP)? You can continue in this vein for numerous occupations in which a credential, certification, registration, or another designation allows the people on the street to know that you are a recognized expert in your profession. The credentialing process demands an extra measure of competence and dedication.

The original impetus behind the creation of NEHA was the desire by professionals of that day to establish a standard of excellence for this developing profession. This standard, which has come to be known as the REHS/ RS credential, signifies that an environmental health professional has mastered a body of knowledge and has acquired sufficient experience to satisfactorily perform work responsibilities in the environmental health field. The pioneers of the association believed that such a credential was necessary if the environmental health field was to grow and take shape as a legitimate and widely respected profession. Furthermore in support of a credentialed profession, the American Academy of Sanitarians states that "the primary purpose of the Academy is to enhance professional recognition. Its aim is to improve environmental health within public health through certification."

Continued operation of a credentialing program increases coherence of the profession of environmental health and improves practice. These simple letters after your name indicate that you have reached the top of your profession and have shown you have the knowledge, skills, and experience to perform your job duties. A noncredentialed person does not have the same credibility.

How does being credentialed impact you as a professional with your employer, fellow employees, family, friends, and with the general public whom you serve? One impact is your ability to advance in your profession with your employer as they observe you working toward the REHS/RS designation, since registration is an indicator of your dedication to hard work, professionalism, and ethical practice. Your coworkers may be impacted in some way if you are an REHS/RS receiving promotions due to your REHS/RS designation.

Would you want to drive across a mile-long bridge if you discovered it was built without a Professional Engineer (PE) designing and inspecting the building of the bridge? You would not go to a medical doctor unless you saw some indication that he or she had a medical degree. You feel confident you can trust these individuals to perform their jobs with integrity and professionalism.

An environmental health professional performs numerous job functions that have an impact on everyone's health and lifestyle. Food inspections are one of the most common and most important duties performed by an environmental health professional. You would not eat at a restaurant if the inspection showed a low score based on roaches, low temperatures for hot foods, workers not washing their hands, or any of the other numerous items checked by that environmental health professional. Would you feel safer for your family if that environmental health professional had an REHS/RS after their name? I know I would because it indicates he or she has the education, skills, experience, and knowledge to conduct a very professional inspection of that restaurant.

Another important function of the environmental health professional is keeping our water safe. …

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