I have a coworker who is currently studying for the Professional Engineer (PE) exam. Every morning I walk in to work and find him studying. He has been very focused and diligent in his preparation, and I have no doubt he will pass the exam. Watching him brings back memories of studying I have done when preparing for the CHFM exam. Seeing him jump in enthusiastically at first, then as time and study fatigue have set in, he’s gotten to the point where studying is not so much anticipated and enjoyed, but rather endured. Now the end in sight is all that keeps him engaged in studying. It’s why many of us after walking out of an exam say “I’m never going to take that exam again!”
In early 2017, I sat down with my boss for a small discussion. We were having my annual review, a time to look back over the past year’s performance, and also look forward to the upcoming year and set some performance goals. The discussion was fairly brief: “Excellent across the board. You’ve got a raise! Have you considered another credential, such as CHFM or CFM?” Have you had a similar discussion? Odds are you likely have.
To be honest, I’d considered it slightly, but wasn’t completely sold on it either. I spent the next several months working on continuing education for another credential or two, getting ahead of the education requirements for the renewal cycle. But the thought in the back of my mind was there. One of the difficulties of juggling multiple credentials is staying on top of the professional development or continuing education requirements for each. Credentials offer a benchmark of competence, shouting to peers and professionals “This man is competent.”, but also carry with them the burden of maintaining them, especially when one has multiple credentials. This burden is felt through keeping track of renewal dates, managing education hours, and paying the renewal costs. The biggest concern I had was the education hours. Many credentials have a two or three year cycle, with about 15-20 hours per year of continuing education needed to maintain them. For instance, the Certified Healthcare Constructor (CHC) requires 45 hours of education on a three-year cycle, making for about 15 hours annually of required education.
I continued to wrestle with the decision: CFM or CHFM? Do I really want to do this? Ultimately, I determined that I would prepare for the CHFM exam. The determining factor came down to continuing education. Because the CHC and CHFM are both credentials offered by ASHE, the maintenance requirements are largely congruent. Ease of maintenance. One stop shopping. Done deal. I began to study for the CHFM. Right off the bat I noticed two huge differences between studying for the CHFM and CHC. The first difference was the amount of available resources. There are an abundance of resources available for one studying for the CHFM. When I prepared several years ago for the CHC exam, there was relatively nothing available for CHC-centric studying. The second difference was the breadth of material. To me, the CHC seemed to be a certification focused on well-rounded, depth based knowledge about healthcare construction. The design of it was fairly fixed breadth, but with moderate depth, an understanding being that there are specialists and consultants out there to fill in the depth of certain knowledge areas such as med gas, commissioning, and sustainability. CHFM was different. As I studied, the emphasis seemed to be on breadth; reminding me of the saying “A mile wide and an inch deep.” There literally seemed to be no end of items I could study or become familiar with.
I settled into a routine. Wake up early, study for an hour or so, then get ready and go to work. About mid-point in my routine of studying and exam prep, I started asking myself “Am I ready for this?”. As I continued to study and prepare, my question evolved into another one. “Is it the right time?”. Some questions there is no answer for, just like some of the questions I read on the CHFM exam. But “Is it the right time?” there is an answer for.
I concluded that being prepared for the CHFM exam is like being ready to have children. One is never “ready”, but there does reach a point that the time is right. Just as with parenthood, you have a little more time for preparation to get ready once the “time is right.” I felt the time was right to book my exam.
On a cool day late in the year I made the drive to the testing center, walked in, and sat for the CHFM exam. My wife asked the kids as I returned if they thought I passed or failed. “Pass” chirped a response. My 6-year-old rained down invectives: “FAIL! FAIL! FAIL! FAIL!” I walked in with a swagger, sat down with a grin, and had a good laugh as she told her story. I love answers to questions of timing. Some things really do come down to the right time.