Bill McGinley headshot
ACHCA President and CEO Bill McGinley,

The American College of Health Care Administrators is discontinuing the exams for its certified assisted living administrator (CALA) and certified nursing home administrator (CNHA) credentials, the organization announced Tuesday.

“It was a difficult decision, not easily reached,” ACHCA President and CEO Bill McGinley told McKnight’s Senior Living. “Ultimately, we based our decision on declining interest in the exams and the financial burden of maintaining them.”

McGinley holds both credentials, among others, and is an ACHCA Fellow.

The CNHA exam began around 1982, and the CALA exam began around 1997, he said, adding that, from 2014 to 2019, ACHCA awarded 33 CNHA and five CALA credentials, and to date this year, only one person has taken and passed the CNHA exam.

“We currently have 141 CNHAs and 17 CALAs,” McGinley said.

Professionals currently holding the credentials will be able to renew them every five years through the organization’s “executive portfolio” or its executive-level courses, he said. Both are detailed in ACHCA’s certification handbook.

The change also will affect ACHCA’s fellow program, McGinley said, because the credential was considered as a factor in attaining the status. Achievement of the FACHCA designation represents the highest level of ACHCA membership and “a mark of distinction that sets the administrator apart from his or her peers,” he said.

Professionals now will be able to earn points toward fellow status by receiving a Bronze, Silver or Gold National Quality Award from the American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living, and points also may be earned by obtaining the National Association of Long Term Care Administrator Boards’ Health Services Executive, or HSE, credential. 

NCAL had announced a partnership with ACHCA at its 2017 annual meeting whereby NCAL members received a discount on the CALA program. Tuesday, NCAL Director of Communications Rachel Reeves told McKnight’s Senior Living that NCAL will continue to support state-based certification programs, NAB’s HSE credentialing program and other ways that assisted living administrators can advance their careers.

“We’re glad to see ACHCA still partnering with us for their fellowship program by offering credit to Quality Award Program recipients,” she added.

ACHCA’s decision means that an advanced practice credential won’t be available to nursing home and post-acute leaders, McGinley said. And it could complicate matters for nursing home administrators who move to other states, he added, because some state licensing boards recognized the credentials as a qualification for license reciprocity between states.

Options in assisted living

On the assisted living side, Argentum continues to offer its certified director of assisted living credential through its subsidiary, the Senior Living Certification Commission.

Since the program’s June 2016 launch through Tuesday, according to Argentum Professional Development and Education Manager Robert Oliveri, 1,000 professionals from 99 senior living companies have enrolled, including 190 professionals who enrolled this year. To date, 575 professionals have earned the CDAL credential.

“Updates to the program include revised eligibility criteria and more convenient testing policies,” he said. “The CDAL exam is now available on demand throughout the year, and results are available immediately following completion of the exam.”

Argentum also offers a senior living sales counselor certificate, currently held by 191 people. Oliveri said that since the program’s October 2017 inception, 261 people have enrolled in the program, including 103 enrolled since May.

“As of May 2019, the assessment portion of the certificate is available on demand,” he said.

Coming from Argentum in the first quarter of 2020 will be two certificate programs designed to certify caregivers and managers who can identify, prevent and address abuse “consistent with Argentum standards for safeguarding senior living residents,” Argentum Vice President of Quality Improvement John Schulte told McKniht’s Senior Living.

“These programs are part of Argentum’s broader quality initiative to promote professionalism across the industry,” he said.