Even in normal times, working as a Certified Clinical Perfusionist (CCP) has its challenges. With a changing patient population, evolving technologies, advancing techniques, and shifting practice dynamics, CCPs are asked to do more and readily adapt to practice changes whenever they present themselves.
However, this past year during a pandemic and social unrest, we have been challenged beyond what was ever imaginable. Every single one of us has been affected by this pandemic in our work roles and in our personal lives. CCPs have suffered this past year through job losses, work slowdowns, furloughs, pay cuts, and even added job responsibilities. It was not uncommon this year to hear of CCPs being asked by hospital administrators to help in other areas of the hospital to fill in for missing or overburdened staff. Many, if not all, CCPs were asked daily to go directly into harm’s way to put a patient on ECMO or sit a COVID ECMO shift, pump a case with COVID restrictions, help with hospital employee wellness checks, or help pronate a COVID patient.
The one thing that should be comforting to you in these trying times is the knowledge that you are not alone, and we have all been impacted by this crisis. We have had our setbacks, but we also have adapted and grown stronger from this crisis. CCPs as healthcare professionals have risen to the challenge posed by this pandemic. If I had to choose only one adjective to describe CCPs during this crisis it would be “resilient.” The typical definition of resilient is the ability to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions. However, a definition of resilient that is more applicable to CCPs during a continued pandemic is advancing despite adversity.
As CCPs, we have advanced and solidified our roles during this crisis and are being recognized and respected as essential workers to our institutions by demonstrating our adaptable skillset and by collaborating on many levels to share COVID-related techniques, education, and even “COVID war stories.” We have developed new networks of colleagues and educational opportunities to reach out and help each other. For example, here in Chicago, local chief perfusionists check in on each other periodically to discuss the local impact of the pandemic.
Additionally, in the early days of this pandemic, many of us learned from the experience of our foreign colleagues. There is a renewed optimism about the future with the release of the COVID vaccine; however, the pandemic will continue to disrupt our normal work patterns and home lives. Yet, through shared knowledge, collaboration, and support, CCPs are advancing despite adversity and will overcome the
impact of the pandemic.
In this past year, the ABCP has also been advancing despite adversity. Because of the pandemic, the spring 2020 ABCP examinations were initially in jeopardy. The ABCP certification examinations are administered in North America by Prometric testing centers. On March 17th, the ABCP was notified that due to the pandemic all Prometric testing centers would be closed for the March 25-28 examination window. The ABCP promptly worked on alternate solutions, even considering bringing back a live paper examination. However, alternate solutions also had their inherent COVID risks and logistical problems. Working constantly with Prometric in an everchanging pandemic, it was decided that the examinations would be postponed and finally administered by Prometric on June 17-20. The examinees who were registered for this examination window were also offered an option to delay their examinations until the October window. In total, 37 examinees passed the ABCP examinations during the June testing window. The October 14-17 examinations were administered with only minor disruptions and another 173 examinees were certified as CCPs.
Perfusion students were also greatly impacted by the pandemic. Many students found their perfusion programs converting to online learning and clinical rotation sites closing. With prospects of clinical sites reopening very problematic, it was decided by the ABCP Directors on March 13, 2020, to accept all clinical cases “as is” to satisfy the clinical education entry requirements for the ABCP certification process.
However, because of the outstanding work of the perfusion schools and clinical affiliates, only a handful of students were short a few clinical cases and were allowed entry. Also, in response to the pandemic, CCPs that were unable to meet recertification requirements by August 1st, 2020, were granted a free extension to the end of 2020. To stay in touch with the CCP community, any continued and future recertification hardships caused by the pandemic will be handled on a personal “case by case” basis. The ABCP will continue to monitor the pandemic and its impact on certification and recertification and will make adjustments as necessary.
The ABCP is also making advancements by rolling out a new online filing system in 2021. The new online filing system for recertification will be more streamlined and efficient for the CCP to use and for our National Office to process recertification requirements. The new system should be intuitive and easy to learn; however, online instruction and tutorials with be forthcoming. In response to input from the perfusion community and with a thought towards the future of perfusion, the ABCP has made Ex-Vivo cases acceptable for recertification. Please see Tables A and B in this report or in the ABCP Booklet of Information for case requirements.
The ABCP Knowledge Base and the examination question bank continue to grow and develop with a focus on perfusion modalities, such as pediatric cases, ECMO, VADs, Ex-Vivo, and organ procurement. The ABCP is adding a Beyond the Pump section on our website to salute and highlight achievements made by CCPs. Recommendations for this section are always welcome; please email the ABCP to nominate a worthy candidate. The ABCP would also like to recognize and remember the CCPs who have passed away. We will be adding an In Memorial section to our website. Please visit this section to honor and remember the CCPs with whom you worked alongside, learned from, or shared a laugh with. Lastly, at the end of your 2021 recertification filing, the ABCP in conjunction with the AACP will be asking you to fill out a brief workforce survey that will also ask you about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Please answer this survey in good faith so we can continue to learn, serve the perfusion community better, and advance despite adversity.
On behalf of the ABCP Directors and its Executive Directors, as this New Year dawns, I wish you a healthy, happy, and prosperous 2021.
Bradley Kulat, CCP
American Board of Cardiovascular Perfusion