When you first start working clinically, determining what area of practice you want to focus on can be an overwhelming and daunting task. More often than not, what you pictured yourself doing while in school is not where you end up when you become an official, licensed professional (and that’s ok!). Lucky for us, the world of rehabilitation offers several subspecialities that can scratch anyone’s clinical itch to be better, and do better for their patients.
The vast majority of rehabilitation settings require their clinicians to be generalists, meaning you have to know a little about a lot of different diagnosis and conditions. This is great in some respects, because it provides a great deal of variety during the treatment day… but it can also make you feel like you’re not an expert in anything.
Specializing in a particular area you have an affinity for really does set you apart from your colleagues – it shows you have a vested interest in what you’re doing, and that you want to be at the forefront of new treatment techniques for that diagnosis. You can become a certified lymphedema therapist (CLT), certified wound specialist (CWS), or even a certified stroke rehabilitation specialist (CSRS), depending on your discipline and area(s) of interest.
For those who have a great interest in (and love for) acquired brain injury (ABI), there’s a certification for you!
The Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) oversees something called the Academy of Certified Brain Injury Specialists (ACBIS) that sponsor the ::drumroll please:: Certified Brain Injury Specialist (CBIS) credential! The ACBIS was established in 1996 after it was determined that professionals working in the field of ABI deemed advanced training necessary.
WHAT IS THE CERTIFIED BRAIN INJURY SPECIALIST CREDENTIAL?
Certified Brain Injury Specialist (CBIS) is a credential for individuals who assist persons with brain injury to restore, maintain, and promote optimal health. It’s a nationally recognized and respected credential and show that you (the clinician) have a vested interested in the field of acquired brain injury.
WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS FOR BECOMING A CBIS?
In order to be eligible to become a CBIS, you have to have your high school diploma (or equivalency) and 500 hours of verifiable experience in working with people who have sustained an ABI. This experience can be paid employment experience or academic internship hours. Volunteer work unfortunately doesn’t qualify – these hours have to have been obtained either while you had a professional license or were working under a licensed professional.
When you’re filling out your CBIS application, it asks you to list an employer who needs to verify what you’ve put down on your application is accurate. There is no formal form or process that the ACBIS requires regarding tracking your hours of experience – this is something you have to do on your own.
IS THERE A CERTIFIED BRAIN INJURY SPECIALIST EXAM? IS IT HARD? WHAT IF I DON’T PASS?!
Yes – there is a 70 question, multiple choice exam you have to pass with a score of 80% or better. Each question has five possible answer choices, and every question is weighted the same. If you don’t pass the exam on the first try (don’t worry though – you will pass on the first try), you have one year to retake the exam without having to apply again.
You have two hours to complete the exam, which is more than enough time. Unfortunately, if you do not pass a second time, or you do not retest within a year of your first attempt, you do have to reapply again.
HOW DO I PREPARE FOR THIS EXAM? IS THERE A TRAINING OR A BOOK?
There are a few ways you can prepare for the CBIS exam – you can do self-study with The Essential Brain Injury Guide 5.0 (the CBIS textbook/reference), OR you can attend a CBIS training session with a Certified Brain Injury Specialist Trainer (CBIST).
With the self-study option, you’re pretty much on your own. You determine how to absorb/learn the material, and also determine your testing day/time when you feel you’re ready. Some professionals chose the self-study option if a training isn’t readily available in their area, or in the time frame in which they would like to obtain their CBIS.
With the training session option, you get the benefit of having a CBIST instructing you on all the material contained in The Essential Brain Injury Guide 5.0. You are also provided with handouts that correspond with what the CBIST is teaching, meaning you have more reference materials than just the textbook. The textbook is a bit overwhelming, clocking in at a whopping 494 pages! Having an instructor going over the material with you in a live course format is beneficial on many levels – you can ask questions in real time, test your knowledge during didactic instruction and hands on labs, and also learn from your fellow course attendees.
ARC Seminars and myself offer this course both in live and virtual formats. The exam is now proctored remotely through ACBIS.
The live training course averages about 12 hours in length, which sounds heavy, but is worth the time investment. Obtaining your CBIS takes commitment, much like anything else worth doing!
OK, SO I PASSED THE EXAM AND OBTAINED MY CERTIFIED BRAIN INJURY SPECIALIZATION… NOW HOW DO I MAINTAIN IT?
As soon as you pass your exam, the ACBIS emails you your official CBIS certificate, and you can start using the CBIS credential! Your CBIS credential is good for one year from your original date of certification.
In order to maintain your credential, you have to do 10 hours of continuing education per year related to acquired brain injury. That education has to be a mix of at least two different mediums – webinars, live courses, journal articles, etc. For example, you can’t do 10-hour long webinars and count them all – you have to have a mix.
Once you complete your 10 hours of education, you have to complete your recertification application, and pay the recertification fee ($65) – that’s it!
Having and maintaining your CBIS really encourages you to keep up with current research related to ABI, and makes you stay at the top of your clinical game.
I’M A GRADUATE STUDENT WHO’S SUPER JAZZED ABOUT ABI – IS THERE A CERTIFICATION FOR ME?
Why yes, there is! If you are currently a student at an accredited college or university, you can apply to be Provisional Certified Brain Injury Specialist (PCBIS). You do have to be enrolled in an allied health, psychology, pre-med, special education, or neuroscience program to qualify. If you’re able to complete the 500 hour ABI experience requirement within 3 years of obtaining your PCBIS, you can convert to a full CBIS! It’s really a win, win situation for any student who’s interested in ABI.
THERE HASN’T BEEN ANY MENTION OF COST… IS THIS GOING TO BREAK THE BANK?
Much like any other license, or certification, there is a cost involved. Check out the ARC Seminars training course– only $769 for the rest of the year: includes book (worth $135), exam (worth $300) and 13 ASHA, AOTA, and PT Board Contact hours/CEUS! For a fee schedule, please see https://www.biausa.org/professionals/acbis/certified-brain-injury-specialist/cbis-information-eligibility for detailed information about individual and group rates. The renewal fee is $65 per year. Keep in mind the application fee does not include any costs related to the training course – the application fee, training course fee, and materials cost are all separate.
There are probably more questions that you have re: obtaining your CBIS credential. For those, please see https://www.biausa.org/professionals/acbis/about/about-faqs to see if your queries can be answered there. Also, to see if there’s a CBIS training being offered close to you in the future, please see https://arcseminars.net/courses/certified-brain-injury-specialization-cbis-training/ or https://www.biausa.org/professionals/acbis/about/about-training-location
BONUS: With your CBIS application, you get a one-year subscription to The Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation (JHTR) which is a great scientific, peer reviewed publication that’s packed to the max with innovative research studies and new therapy techniques!
Obtaining your CBIS really sets you apart from your peers and show that you are committed to keeping your clinical skills with the ABI population sharp. It can inspire confidence in your patients and their families and give you the tools you need to assist your patients recover. Why not be as prepared as you possibly can be for whatever ABI can throw your way? Also – it makes YOU more marketable, impressive and showcases your dedication to brain injury!
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