Wednesday, March 7, 2018

What Can the Certified Bariatric Educator (CBE) Designation Do for You?

Reflecting back on my past 5 weeks at mdBriefCase, it has truly been a great learning experience for me as I was able to learn so much about obesity as a disease. For my last post I was able to explore the future of obesity management by highlighting the Certified Bariatric Educator (CBE) designation.     

The designation was developed by the Canadian Obesity Network (CON) for healthcare professionals who want to advance their practice in obesity management. It serves to maintain the standards for credentialing and distinguishing healthcare professionals in Canada who have achieved a competency in obesity management and bariatric care.

To understand the CBE designation in its entirety, I had the pleasure of interviewing 2 healthcare professionals on their CBE experience. Daniel Burton is a registered pharmacist practicing in a primary care network (PCN) centre in Calgary who has just obtained his CBE designation. Jennifer Brown is a registered dietitian practicing in the Weight Management Clinic and Bariatric Centre of Excellence at the Ottawa Hospital, who is in the process of completing her CBE exam but turns out to have almost 10 years of experience practicing in the field of obesity.
Why Obesity?
When I spoke to Daniel and Jennifer individually, both of them had slightly different reasons for pursuing a career in obesity and their CBE designation. For Daniel it was to fill a gap in knowledge he identified while working with various types of patients including those living with diabetes, mental health issues and particularly obesity. Daniel felt the gap in knowledge had to be addressed to be able to fulfill the needs and demands of his practice.  As for Jennifer, she too noticed the lack of knowledge around obesity management and the lack of proper treatment patients were receiving. Jennifer says she was “tired of giving the same old prescription of just eat less, move more” and decided to invest her whole career into obesity management and has not turned back since.

The CBE Process
Overall both Daniel and Jennifer found the process of obtaining their CBE to be not too difficult. Daniel completed the Advanced Obesity Management Program on Advancing Practice, whereas Jennifer participated in the Learning Retreat on the Principles and Practice of Interdisciplinary Obesity Management for Dietitians hosted by CON and Dietitians of Canada. Furthermore both of them found the material not too challenging as long as you were willing to read the resources and do some additional research alongside studying for the exam. Jennifer mentioned for someone like her with 10 years of experience practicing in obesity, having the motivation to pursue a CBE might be a challenge for some healthcare professionals. Despite this, she still stresses the importance for everyone to obtain their CBE, from those just entering practice to those with years of experience in the field of obesity. “It validates your education, your understanding and your confidence to be able to perform in this area” she mentions passionately.  

The Biggest Impact of the CBE
Enthusiastically, Daniel mentions that obtaining his CBE has “shaped and reformed” his practice with all his patients. He now has a different thought process in approaching each patient and some portion of the skills he has developed is applied daily to patient care regardless of the condition. “It has made me a much better clinician” Daniel says proudly as he provides an example of a complex patient who had difficulty maintaining his progress in weight management. With the new skills he learned from becoming a CBE, Daniel was able to tailor the management plan for his patient to something more achievable.

When faced with the same question, Jennifer had to think long and hard because to her, the designation would minimally change her practice directly as she has been working in a Bariatric Centre of Excellence for so long. However, she mentioned the CBE designation would set those with the credential above other providers without. Interestingly, Jennifer often reflected back during the interview to the earlier days of her career and wished she had the opportunity to pursue a designation like the CBE.

When I asked Jennifer if she thought the CBE would strengthen the relationship between patients and healthcare providers, she agreed almost immediately. With obesity management still being under serviced, the credential would make “a world of a difference” for patients as it would instill more trust in their providers. This is because the healthcare professionals have taken the necessary steps to learn about their patient’s condition and are now more capable in managing the condition appropriately.

Patient Recognition & Response
To understand how the CBE designation was being integrated into patient care, I asked both Daniel and Jennifer about the recognition of the designation from patients, employers and colleagues. According to Daniel, the patients that were referred to him already had questions regarding weight management before he had become a CBE and once he obtained this credential, the demand for his services has increased. However the most important reason for him though is that he can now provide these services more effectively.

However, Jennifer highlighted that many patients are still not aware that these credentials exist or the resources available to them. That is why she includes information and resources throughout her counselling and group education to equip patients and their family members with the tools to advocate for their own health to their primary care providers. Patients can go into their physicians’ office and ask questions like “Did you know about the Canadian Obesity Network?” or “Do you know that there is a CBE designation that certifies you as a specialist in this area?” and most healthcare providers are very eager to learn to be able to provide the best care to their patients. To Jennifer the CBE is a tool for patient advocacy, because “it’s the support from their primary care providers that are going to really make the biggest impact”.

Recognition from employers and colleagues
Many of Daniel’s physician colleagues are noticing the potential benefits of the CBE and trust him to manage all aspects of patients’ obesity care; from counseling to monitoring and follow-up because of the expertise associated with the designation. Despite being recognized by his colleagues, Daniel comments that employers are still figuring out how to integrate the CBE services into their healthcare practice, as the PCN he works in is currently in the same situation. He explains that the CBE services are not any different than providing care to a patient with diabetes or hypertension since the approach to patient care is similar regardless of the condition.

Being hopeful, Jennifer thinks the new Canadian Clinical Practice Guidelines on the Treatment of Obesity in Adults that are due to be published in 2018-2019 will highlight the importance of the CBE designation. Additionally, the potential shift in obesity management as a chronic disease in healthcare and policy making in the next 5 to 10 years could have a trickledown effect for employers to ensure their employees have this credential when providing obesity care.

Overall, both Daniel and Jennifer are great examples and motivators for any healthcare professional to pursue their CBE, regardless of where they are in their career. Despite being in its infancy, the CBE designation has a lot to offer healthcare professionals and as obesity management progresses in the next few years, the designation will become an important one to have for any practice.

If this post has sparked your interest in obtaining your CBE designation, refer to the Canadian Obesity Network website for more information on how to kick-start your application process.