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The Activity Professional

Is Being One Right for You?


The Activity Professional
@Rob Melnychuk, Getty Images

Do you enjoy working with the elderly? Do you like a job that requires flexibility, ongoing learning, organization, communication skills and openness to new experiences? Then a career as an activity professional may be for you!

Activity professionals provide engaging programs designed to create positive, social, fun, educational opportunities for residents of independent, assisted living, personal care and nursing home communities as well as adult day centers. Federal law, OBRA, requires that every facility activity department be directed by qualified professional, according to Nancy Richards, founder and executive director of Activity Pathways, LLC, based in Warrington, Pennsylvania.

She has over 25 years experience in activity services to elders, specializes in gero-psychiatry and is an instructor for the Modular Education Program for Activity Professionals (MEPAP) in the Philadelphia area. “The four vital goals of this education program include developing specialist activity clinicians via strengthen leadership, advocacy and communication skills,” Richards said.

The National Certification Council for Activity Professionals (NCCAP) is an activity professionals the certifying bodies recognized by Federal law and incorporated into many state regulations. This is an international organization with a focus on providing activities for the elderly.

NCCAP has three activity professional levels:

  • Activity Assistant Certified

    Works one on one and in group settings providing quality programs for an elderly population including games, music, social events, religious services, and one on one time with clients.

  • Activity Director Certified

    Oversees an activity department, establishes programs, schedules activities within facility, oversees staff, keeps state required records, works with administration, community, residents and families.

  • Activity Consultant Certified

    Meets with facility staff to review procedures, offer instruction and suggestions to improve activity programs.

In addition, you can earn specialized certification in: EDU-Education; MC- Memory Care; ALF- Assisted Living and AD- Adult Day care.

Training for each level of certification requires completion of educational classes, hands-on experience and beginning in 2012 passing a national activity professional certification exam. Once certification is earned, the activity professional must complete continued education credits, ranging from 20 to 40 hours, to renew certification every two years.

The Modular Education Program for Activity Professionals (MEPAP, 2nd. Edition) was developed by a core of Activity Practitioners across the nation, representing various levels of elder care.

The courses presents an understanding of social gerontology; adult development and growth across the life span are taught as the cornerstone for service approach. Students also learn regulatory mandates, documentation, care plan development, activity program design and volunteer management, she said.

The MEPAP course format varies from eight-hour classroom instructional hours to four hour blocks or more concentrated during weekend hours as long as the 90 hour criteria are met. Practicum assignments range from professional journal critiques, generational comparatives, client shadowing and care plan development, oral presentations, demonstrations of sensory activity interventions, organizational culture investigations, department refurbishment plan, and reviews of job descriptions and policies and procedures, Richards said. Recertification, every two years, requires between 20 and 40 hours of additional educational credits depending on the level of certification.

NCCAP certification is recognized by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) as an organization that certifies activity professionals who work specifically with the elderly. This certification assures long term care facility administrators and state health care surveyors that you have met professional standards to become certified, Richards said.

In addition, many administrators will only hire activity professionals who are certified. Some administrators offer a higher salary to a certified professional because they recognize you are nationally qualified and offering quality of life thru activity service to your residents/clients, she said.

To learn more contact Nancy Richards at: Nancy.richards@activitypathways.com.

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