‘The Most Fulfilling Volunteer Role’: An Interview with Public Member Gloria Fabrey

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The role of the public member is one that cannot be overlooked, and in fact is a requirement for NCCA accredited certification programs. The public member serves as a voting member on the governing body of a certification program, such as an organization’s board of directors, and represents the interests of the public that interacts with the certification program. These individuals offer unique value to certification programs by enhancing their board’s credibility and serve as an “outside” perspective.

To delve further into this important role, we spoke with Gloria Fabrey, public member and treasurer on the board of directors for the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB). Gloria’s lifelong passion for volunteering, combined with her past careers as a professor and IT consultant – including earning three certifications of her own – have allowed her to bring unique contributions to the table. Here she shares her thoughts on the role: its importance, challenges and rewards.

Please tell us about your background and current role.

I have been serving on the PNCB board for four years and currently hold the office of treasurer. I have always valued certification and held the following three certifications in finance and IT during my career: CPA, CISA, and CDP. I took the very first administration of the latter two with paper and pencil. Serving on a certification board has given me perspective from the opposite side. It is the most fulfilling volunteer experience I have had.

How long have you been a public member and what first drew you to the role? What are some challenges to being a public member? 

I have been a public member for 10 years. Years ago, at a NCCA commissioner meeting, I happened to sit next to their public member. I was intrigued as she described her role on the commission. That person was Becky LeBuhn, the cofounder of the Citizen Advocacy Center. Empowered by  Becky’s encouragement and my lifelong commitment to volunteering, I soon became a public member. Many times in the past, volunteer positions left me feeling under-utilized or under-appreciated. This is not true of the public member position. One is challenged on two fronts: grasping the complexities of psychometrically sound testing and understanding the intricacies of an unfamiliar profession. Even understanding the jargon can be demanding. Thank goodness for the ability to do a web search for acronyms during a board meeting. One cannot help but feel slightly uncomfortable when joining a new board in an unfamiliar discipline, but my boards have welcomed me and encouraged my full participation. In fact, they expect nothing less.

What changes or initiatives have you helped enact as public member?

I have served two organizations as a public member: the American Board of Imaging Informatics (ABII), which was a brand new certification in 2007 and the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB), which began testing in 1977. This has given me a broad exposure to the various ways boards function. The ABII had not yet formed many committees. The board worked at a detailed level to form policies regarding certification and re-certifications. I chaired the ethics committee and developed the conflict of interest policy, a fitting role for a public member. I also used a matrix document to illustrate how different decisions could affect the public perception of the credential. In contrast, the PNCB has many established policies, procedures, and committees. Finding a way to contribute was a challenge. In both organizations I was elected to serve as treasurer. I am well-suited for this role and enjoy the challenge. Both of my boards were open to the public member serving in any capacity except board chair.

What are your thoughts on what’s ahead in credentialing?

Testing is changing rapidly. The recent emergence of computer-based testing, adaptive testing and simulations foreshadows new and exciting uses of technology to enhance assessments in the future. I can see that virtual reality, artificial intelligence and ­­wearable sensors might all have a role to play in testing. Wouldn’t it be great if the use of new technologies would allow us to finally show the positive connection between certifications and improved outcomes? This would be a great response to current legislation being introduced in many states prohibiting certification maintenance requirements and in some cases certification itself. It will be interesting to see how organizations evolve to deal with the increasing rapid changes that are afoot. But one thing will not change; the public is relying on certification boards to ensure individuals are knowledgeable in their profession. It is truly a most interesting time to serve on a certification board. 

In your opinion, what is the importance of the role of public member?

The presence of the public member at board meetings serves to balance the atmosphere. Here is someone who is not familiar with the traditional way of doing things or the unique challenges facing the profession. Issues must be reframed with simplicity in mind and in doing so, new solutions or perspectives may be revealed. How decisions may impact the public should be at the forefront for the public member. My positions have always been in the healthcare field where this is of utmost importance. I have found that the public is not as  knowledgeable about the detailed and specific meanings of various credentials healthcare professionals have – the training these individuals have undergone and the specific skillsets they have developed as a result. I think there should be a greater marketing and educational push aimed at the general public explaining what various credentials mean and why one should seek out certified professionals.

It is important for the public member to weigh in on the public’s behalf. Changes to requirements to sit for the exam and changes to continuing education are just two examples where looking through the lens of the public eye is essential.

Has your role as a public member helped you grow personally or professionally?

What an honor it is to sit on a board with passionate individuals who have reached the highest level of competence in their profession, and who raise the level of excellence of the credential by enhancing all aspects of their programs. The opportunity to participate in strategic planning, compare non-profit versus for profit management, and observe the differing but effective management style of board chairs has added to my competencies. On a more personal level, this well-traveled, well-read group provides a curated list of places to visit and books to read, two of my personal interests. 

Attending the ICE Exchange, the association’s yearly conference, has provided a valuable chance to connect with other public members. Hearing how each public member approaches the role provides a wider perspective. Knowing you can reach out to other public members for advice is beneficial. At the sessions I attend, I learn about trends, new techniques and current issues. I share these insights with my board. I have shared the ideas presented in sessions on legal threats to certification and maintenance of certification, innovative enhancements to continuing education, and new survey techniques. Because ICE realizes how valuable an experience the ICE Exchange is for public members, the registration fee is waived for public members attending with their CEO. It is a nice way for the profession to acknowledge the value added by public members. 

What is your advice to someone who might be interested in becoming a public member? 

You must  be willing to commit your time. It’s important to prioritize face-to-face meetings and make sure you have the availability and mental space to participate and engage with the group. It may be the best volunteer job you’ll ever have – it certainly has been for me. I have been volunteering since sixth grade (my first role being an assistant softball coach) and ever since then, I’ve looked for different ways to volunteer. The public member role has been so fulfilling, and the board members have been happy to have me there and are always willing to listen to my ideas. To those who are working with public members, remember to show your appreciation. They may not be an expert in your field of practice, but their role holds just as much value in ensuring the public’s needs are being heard.

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