Knowledge + Power = Activity Professional
By Debbie Hommel, ACC/MC/EDU, CTRS

As a paid profession, the world of therapeutic activities is a relatively new one, having been in existence approximately forty-eight years.  The term “activities” was introduced in the 1974 federal regulations for nursing homes which officially introduced our service in long term care.  Our professional status was strengthened by the development of the National Association of Activity Professionals in 1981, followed by the development of the national activity certification program through the National Certification Council for Activity Professionals in 1986.  Our current job title, Activity Professional, was formalized in 1992 when revisions to the federal regulations adopted the title.  Proudly working in this profession for over forty-four years, I am proud to see how far we have come as “professionals”.  However, the truth remains we are still working to earn respect for our programs and the positive outcomes evident in our approaches.  Although we have grown tremendously as a profession, we still have a long way to go.

What can you do to ensure our continued growth as a profession and to work toward gaining respect for the work that we do?   The first step is to get certified through the National Certification Council of Activity Professionals which certifies individuals providing therapeutic activities for persons within long term care settings. This certification is recognized in the Federal regulations for nursing homes as a qualifying credential for the Activity Director, as well as in many State regulations.  If you are not currently certified, develop an education plan to help you in achieving certification.  If you have not yet taken the MEPAP (Modular Education Program for Activity Professionals) course, visit the NCCAP website for information about their course schedules.

Once you are NCCAP certified, you need to maintain your certification and professional status.  Many activity professionals share difficulty getting out to classes and seminars, especially with recent Covid restrictions.  Independent study and virtual training are a popular choice for the busy activity professional.  To maintain national certification, individuals must complete at least 20-30 hours of continuing education, every two years.  DH Special Services offers many independent study programs, approved by the National Certification Council for Activity Professionals.  Current topics include professional development, motivation, programming concepts, quality assurance and documentation.  There are many other avenues for continuing education, including a membership to NAAP.  For an annual membership fee, you will have access to countless hours of on-line training.

Is certification the only answer to professional growth of the individual and our profession as a whole?  Obtaining national certification is just the beginning and will provide the activity professional with a foundation of knowledge and understanding to continue moving our profession forward.   We each need to become the expert on therapeutic activities and person-centered care in our communities.  This does not mean become a “know-it-all” but someone who is knowledgeable about the interventions, outcomes, and current status of our profession.   Knowledge and power are best intermingled.    Sir Francis Bacon said it first in the 1600’s – “Knowledge is Power”.    Being knowledgeable and sharing that knowledge in a positive, productive way is influential.  Power is the ability to influence others to act.

Another way to contribute to the strength of our profession is to join the activity professional associations in your local area as well as state and national associations.   Nationally, they represent the activity professional in legislative matters and keep us informed of regulatory changes, survey processes and relevant information.  Locally, our State and regional groups facilitate networking and communication amongst activity professionals.  Sadly, the Covid pandemic took its toll on in-person education.  Many state associations are beginning to schedule conferences again, but attendance has been low.  There is a listing of National and State associations on the DH Special Services website.  If your state association is not listed, feel free to submit information and it will be added to the listing.

The activity profession will continue to grow and prosper if we nurture our never-ending desire to seek out new ideas and to provide the best programs for our elders; participate in continuing education whether you have been in the profession one year or twenty; work cooperatively with fellow activity professionals and interdisciplinary staff; and continuously commit to the values of our profession.

“Knowledge is power.”
Sir Francis Bacon