The Impact of LSVT BIG® Certification on Graduate Students and Entry-Level Clinicians (SUNY Downstate Alumni)

The Impact of LSVT BIG® Certification on Graduate Students and Entry-Level Clinicians (SUNY Downstate Alumni)

By Katelin Faria, OTS; Evelin Hernandez, OTS: Lila Nadelmann, OTS; Shelbie Ramalanjaona, OTS

Advisor: Dr. Nancy Kline,  PhD, OTR/L, BCG, LSVT BIG Certified

SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University

Some background information:

We are occupational therapy students at SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University. During our master’s program, we conducted research on the impact obtaining LSVT BIG certification had on SUNY Downstate Alumni. Though the impact of LSVT BIG on patients with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) has been well documented, little to no research exists demonstrating the impact LSVT BIG certification has on students and rehabilitation professionals who hold the certification. Students who complete the certification at SUNY Downstate typically do so during their last semester of their entry-level master’s program. The course is facilitated by an occupational therapist and certified LSVT BIG clinician, Dr. Nancy Kline during the last spring semester of SUNY Downstate’s Occupational Therapy Master’s Degree Program. It is offered as a two-day, sixteen-hour hybrid course — partly online and partly in person — and costs $300 to register. For a practicing professional, the extra expense and time commitment may not be of much concern, but for a student, it very well may be. So, what are the advantages of taking this course during a student’s entry-level education?

Due to the lack of research within the field of occupational therapy, we reviewed literature from other health-related fields. The findings of the studies we appraised demonstrated a positive correlation between advanced certification obtainment and improved job competency, job performance, increased compensation, job satisfaction and accomplishment, and empowerment in the workplace. For example, nurses have reported higher levels of job satisfaction and accomplishment, and workplace empowerment after acquiring advanced training (Byrne, Valentine, & Carter, 2004; Krapohl, Manojlovich, Redman, & Zhang, 2010).  Another study found that dietetics who possess a specialty certification increased their wage by roughly $4,000 per year (Rogers, 2014). With this in mind, we wanted to find out what potential educational and professional benefits obtaining LSVT BIG certification could have for certified rehabilitation professionals, in our case LSVT BIG certified SUNY Downstate occupational therapy alumni, during their level-two fieldwork and entry-level employment.

What did we do?

This study was the first of its kind. We decided to create a quality assurance study highlighting the perspectives and opinions of SUNY Downstate alumni who graduated and completed the LSVT BIG certification program between 2014-2018. The program was offered for the first time in 2014 and graduates in 2019 and 2020 were experiencing difficulties with fieldwork delays and job acquisition due to COVID-19, so our study did not include these years. The alumni survey provided insight about the use and impact of their LSVT BIG certification during fieldwork, while obtaining their first jobs, and during their entry-level careers.

The survey itself consisted of eleven questions — six Likert style, two select-all-that-apply questions, two open-ended questions, and one yes or no question. The Likert style questions asked the participants to reflect on whether the LSVT BIG certification provided any benefits during fieldwork, during an entry-level job search, and while practicing. The two select-all-that-apply questions gathered data regarding when alumni believe the LSVT BIG training should be offered and whether specific benefits do exist. The one yes or no question asked whether they would recommend the LSVT BIG certification to future students and clinicians. The two open-ended questions inquired about additional benefits and new opportunities the LSVT BIG certification may have provided; the results of these last two questions were used for further considerations and discussion purposes.

What did we find?

Though our sample size was small (n=13) relative to the number of people we contacted and limited to alumni from our program here at SUNY Downstate, we gathered valuable information pertaining to the impact of earning the LSVT BIG certification. According to the results, respondents indicated that they experienced the following as a result of certification:

General benefits: (see Figure 3-7)

– Acquisition of skills could be applied during their fieldwork level-two experiences

– Increased their competitiveness during entry-level job searching

– Increased confidence during an initial job search

-Not enough evidence to support there was a significant impact on work performance appraisals

-Not enough evidence to positively correlate certification and being sought out directly by Parkinson’s patients for treatment

Job-specific benefits: (see Figure 8)

– Increased competency

– Enhanced job performance

– Enhanced workplace empowerment

– Increased job satisfaction and accomplishment

– Did not generally increase compensation

Figure 1

Figure 2

Figure 3

Figure 4

Figure 5

Figure 6

Figure 7

Figure 8

The data gathered in this study suggests there is evidence to support that SUNY Downstate Occupational Therapy Alumni who complete the LSVT BIG program, taken during entry-level education, may experience benefits during fieldwork level-two, during entry-level job searches, and during entry-level jobs. The majority of respondents (62%) also indicated that the course should continue to be offered during entry-level education (see Figure 2), would recommend the course to future students (85%), and believe the certification to be valuable overall (92%) (see Figure 1).

Analysis of the survey data identifies key points about the potential benefits of LSVT BIG certification and brings valuable information to the forefront regarding further exploration for other programs offering the LSVT BIG course; and those interested in becoming certified.

Comments from our research participants:

Some respondents shared additional information about the benefits they experienced:

 “LSVT BIG actually helped me in my pediatrics fieldwork, working with children with Autism who encountered challenges with motor planning and initiating.”

 “It increased tools to use when working with a variety of patients with neurological conditions.”

“ ‘(It) increased confidence in educating patients about their current condition’ and ‘increased confidence in treating patients with Parkinson’s.’”

“I was able to take on a private homecare patient outside of the hospital in addition to my current full-time job.”

Several other respondents indicated that the certification was a helpful point of discussion during interviews with potential employers, and more said that the exercises they learned were very useful in home health care.

Things to consider for the future:

Due to the small sample size of our study, further research is needed.  Surveying a larger population of alumni could provide additional insight into which specific skills were most useful during their level-two fieldwork and entry-level careers. It may also be worthwhile to investigate how working in a specific practice setting, such as outpatient care, inpatient care, home care, etc. may potentially impact which benefits are experienced. For example, a few participants reported that their LSVT BIG certification led to increased compensation. It would be beneficial to know what setting they were working in and what avenues were taken. Additionally, only a few participants reported being sought out by Parkinson’s patients for treatment. A potential reason for this may be that because LSVT BIG certified students are not listed on the LSVT Global Clinician Directory for referrals.  It also remains a question whether some participants provided services through referral, as opposed to being sought out for treatment directly by patients. Lastly, it would be useful to obtain more perspectives on practitioners’ perceived benefits to help inform other programs interested in offering the LSVT BIG certification course to their students, and to current and future graduate students interested in enrolling in the LSVT BIG course. We hope this study sets the foundation for future research regarding the benefits of LSVT BIG certification for certified students and clinicians.

Acknowledgments:

Thank you so much to the following individuals who helped ensure the success of this research project:

Our Faculty Advisor: Dr. Nancy Kline, PhD, OTR/L, BCG, LSVT BIG Certified
Our Course Instructor: Dr. Beth Elenko, PhD, OTR/L, BCP, CLA
Our Peer Reviewers: Alzina Fok, OTS., Akilina Belskaya, OTS., Liana Buchinsky, OTS., Elizabeth Carey, OTS., and Michelle Wu, OTS.
And, of course, a special thank you to our research participants. This study would not have been possible without you.
 

References

Byrne, M., Valentine, W., & Carter, S. (2004). The Value of Certification—A Research Journey. Association of Perioperative Registered Nurses Journal, 79(4), 825–828.

Krapohl, G., Manojlovich, M., Redman, R., & Zhang, L. (2010). Nursing Specialty Certification and Nursing-Sensitive Patient Outcomes in the Intensive Care Unit. American Journal of Critical Care, 19(6), 490–498. doi: 10.4037/ajcc2010406

Rogers, D. (2014). Compensation and Benefits Survey 2013: Education and Job Responsibility Key to Increased Compensation. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 114(1), 17–33. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2013.11.008

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