The Seating and Mobility Specialist (SMS) Certification: An Overview

The Seating and Mobility Specialist (SMS) Certification: An Overview
Michelle Lange, OTR, ABDA, ATP/SMS
July 22, 2019

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Introduction

During this course today, we are going to talk specifically about what the SMS certification is.

  • What is the SMS certification?
  • Who is the SMS certification designed for?
  • Why was this certification developed and why should I consider it?
  • How do I acquire my SMS certification?

Who specifically is it designed for? Why was it developed, and why should I consider it? We are all busy and have lots of things to do and lots of directions we can take as therapists. Why is this something I should consider? And then finally, how do I acquire this certification if I so desire?

What is SMS Certification?

  • The Seating and Mobility Specialist (SMS) Certification “recognizes demonstrated competence in seating and mobility assessment, funding resources, implementation of the intervention, and outcome assessment and follow-up."
  • The SMS is a specialty certification for professionals working in seating and wheeled mobility
    • *RESNA website

SMS is a specialty certification for professionals who are working in the field of seating and wheeled mobility. It is a way of demonstrating competence within this very specific field, including all areas of intervention with these particular products across ages and across diagnoses. RESNA is the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America. It has been around since the '80s. It is an international professional organization that represents not just rehab engineers but actually quite a wide variety of disciplines.

  • In 2002, RESNA began offering the Assistive Technology Professional (ATP) certification.
    • Broad-based- covers all major areas of AT
  • The Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) developed the SMS certification in 2010.

Back in 2002, they began to offer certification, and it was called the Assistive Technology Professional or ATP. You might be familiar with this. Many suppliers, especially suppliers that work with more complex rehabilitation equipment have the certification of ATP. As a matter of fact, it is not uncommon to hear a supplier referred to as the ATP. Though, many different professionals within that team can acquire the certification. I have the ATP myself, and I am not a supplier. The ATP, however, is rather broad-based. It covers all major areas of assistive technology, but it does not dive down really deep. It was originally designed to make sure that someone who was working with a client had an introductory level of competence in the world of assistive technology, enough to recognize their scope of service, to recognize their qualifications, and refer to appropriate team members as needed. Whereas, in 2010, RESNA decided to develop the SMS or Seating and Mobility Specialist Certification. This was designed to provide a more specific measurement of competence in this specific practice area within assistive technology looking at wheelchair seating and mobility. 

Who is the SMS Certification Designed For?

  • Per the RESNA website:
    • “The Seating and Mobility Specialist (SMS) is a specialty certification for professionals working in seating and mobility. While the ATP is a broad-based exam covering all major areas of assistive technology, the SMS exam is focused specifically on seating, positioning, and mobility. The program is intended for clinicians, suppliers, engineers, and others involved in seating and mobility service provision.”

Looking at the RESNA website, the Seating and Mobility Specialist is designed for professionals working in seating and mobility. Again, while the ATP is broad-based and covers all major areas of assistive technology but not at a real in-depth level, the SMS is focused specifically on seating, positioning, and mobility for a more advanced level of competence. This particular certification is intended for clinicians, suppliers, engineers, and others that are involved in the provision of seating and mobility technology. As therapists, we have quite a bit of continuing education, specialty certifications, and advanced educational degrees available to us. We have a lot of different opportunities to demonstrate competence in different areas in order to meet an employer's requirements or to advance in our career. So, if you are a therapist who works in seating and mobility, this certification may be appropriate for you and might be something that you want to consider. Here I am in Figure 1 with one of my clients.

Figure 1. Me with a client.

Why Was This Certification Developed?

  • The ATP certification is fairly general. This certification is designed to measure basic competence in assistive technology, including the scope of service and ethics.
  • The SMS certification is designed to measure advanced knowledge in this practice area.

The ATP is fairly general. This certification is designed to measure the basic level of competence, including the scope of service which I already mentioned. Even though I have my ATP, if I had a blind client that was referred to me for computer access, I would refer them to someone else. My specialty is not working with people who have no vision as that is an extremely specialized area of practice. Each clinician needs to recognize their scope of service, and it is their responsibility to refer a client to someone else who has the competence needed in that area.

There is a code of ethics that is available from RESNA. When you receive your ATP certification, you agree to abide by that code of ethics. We also need to abide by other code of ethics that may be appropriate, such as one from AOTA. If a consumer or other team member, even a funding source, has reason to believe that someone who holds this certification is not being ethical, they can contact RESNA. As RESNA has awarded this certification, they may choose to revoke the certification for an individual, and the person may no longer be able to work with this population. They also have a professional standards board, the PSB, that is in charge of addressing any ethical concerns.

The SMS certification, again, is designed to measure advanced knowledge in this practice area. It has, as a prerequisite, the ATP certification. Even within this very limited scope of practice area of wheelchair seating and mobility, there are a variety of interventions, clientele, diagnoses, and ages. The SMS certification can be used to demonstrate to the clients that you work with, their caregivers, other team members, and funding sources that the certified provider is competent in these areas. 

Seating and wheeled mobility is a very specialized area of practice, and it really requires a very thorough knowledge of complex rehab technology. There is quite a range of products from seating interventions and manual wheelchairs and power mobility devices. Not only do you need to be familiar with the technology itself, but you need to know how to best apply that to an individual client. There are many inappropriate equipment recommendations that I have seen leading to both poor outcomes and abandoned equipment. This is especially frustrating as funding is limited. For example, if I am seeing a client and they have inappropriate equipment that they have received recently, my hands may be tied from a funding standpoint. This puts a lot of burden on us to ensure that the recommendation is correct the first time and that we are both meeting current needs and hopefully their future needs as well.

Why Should I Consider It?

  • Acknowledgment of your skills and expertise
  • Demonstrates Professional Development
  • Funding trends indicate that this certification may be required in the future by some sources (i.e. Medicare)
  • Your Mom will be so proud!

By receiving this certification, we are receiving acknowledgment of a level of skill and expertise that we may otherwise not receive. It is an objective external recognition that says that you have achieved a certain level of competence. It demonstrates professional development and shows that you are committed to learning about this important practice area in order to better serve your clients. Funding is also quite important. Right now, Medicare requires that a supplier who is working with complex rehabilitation equipment have their ATP certification. I think that it is only a matter of time before this SMS certification starts impacting therapists as well. Even now, there is legislation in front of Congress to protect complex rehabilitation equipment. Part of that legislation includes some degree of ensuring that the evaluating team has the competence to make these recommendations, and there is some discussion about including the SMS as a part of those requirements. This is not likely to happen in the immediate future because the amount of people who have their SMS certification is still rather low, particularly in comparison to the ATP.  However, as more and more people have received their ATP over the years, the number of SMS is steadily increasing, and I think will continue to do so.

How Do I Acquire My SMS Certification?

  1. Meet the pre-requisites
  2. Complete the application
  3. Study
  4. Take the exam

There are four main steps if you are interested in getting your SMS. First, you have to meet the prerequisites. Second, you have to complete an application. Third, you need to study. And fourth, take an exam. Once you pass that examination, you receive this certification.

Prerequisites

What are the prerequisites?

  • ATP Certification
  • 1000 hours or more in seating and mobility-related service with consumers over any time period of your professional experience
  • 2 types of professional activities within the past 5 years

First and foremost, you have to have your ATP. Next, you have to demonstrate that you have worked a thousand hours or more in seating and mobility-related services with consumers over any time period of your professional experience. Finally, you have to have completed two types of professional activities within the past five years.

Let's look at these in more detail. All of this information is also on the RESNA website. First, the ATP certification.  Perhaps, you are not certified with your ATP yet. If you are interested, you can check out the RESNA website at RESNA.org. There is lots of information there about the ATP exam process and about the prerequisites for the ATP itself. Once you have met those prerequisites, completed that application, and passes that exam, then you can move on towards the SMS. Many people have asked, how do I prepare for the Assistive Technology Professional Certification? At OccupationalTherapy.com, we have created a series of prep courses specifically for that. I hear from people on a very regular basis who have used these resources and have successfully passed that examination. This is just one of many resources out there to help you prepare for the ATP, but one that is certainly very handy to you if you are already a member.

After receiving your ATP certification, you also have to demonstrate a thousand hours of related work in this field. That sounds like a lot, but let's break that down. If you work full time, and you work about 50 weeks in a year, that is already 2,000 hours. Let's say, you spend about 10 hours a week related to seating and wheeled mobility. That still adds up to about 500 hours a year. You have already met the requirement if you have done that just for two years.

The other prerequisite is two types of professional activities within the past 5 years.

  • 2 of the following in the past 5 years
    • Continuing Education
      • (1 CEU in seating and mobility-related services = 10 hours)
    • Client Service Delivery
    • Advocacy
    • Mentoring/supervision
    • Presentations/formal instruction
    • Publication
    • Leadership

The other prerequisite is two types of professional activities within the past 5 years. One option is continuing education. You have to demonstrate one CEU in seating and mobility-related services. That is 10 hours over a five-year period. That could be an in-person class, a CEU article, or it can be webinars such as this one here. In addition to that, other activities include client service delivery. You could demonstrate that you have spent a certain amount of time directly working with clients. This is not too difficult as one of the prerequisites was a thousand hours of doing just that. Next is advocacy. We can demonstrate specific activities that we have done to advocate for the field of seating and wheeled mobility. Mentoring and supervision can be more informal. This can be mentoring of someone who is shadowing you or more formal supervision like with an occupational therapy student. Also included under professional activities are presentations or formal instruction. If you have presented or are planning to present a webinar or teaching a class, this can count as a professional activity towards your prerequisites. Publication counts as well. If you have written a blog, a journal article, a chapter, or anything along those lines, these can also count as a professional activity. It does need to be related, of course, to wheelchair seating and mobility. Finally, there are leadership activities that do count towards these prerequisites. Each of those categories is explained in more detail on the RESNA website, and most of these categories include several activity options.

Part of the reason that the Seating and Mobility Specialist Certification decided to have a portfolio sort of approach to certification is that there are a number of people in the field of wheelchair seating and mobility that are truly experts in what they do. This is just what they live and breathe. They are very well-respected in this area. However, maybe they are not seeing clients anymore. Perhaps they used to, but they might primarily be doing other things. So there are people who are extremely knowledgeable in the field of wheelchair seating and mobility that are primarily working in advocacy or in education. This was a way of making sure that people who have a variety of roles can still have the ability to qualify for this examination.

Application

  • 7 pages
    • Contact and demographic information
    • Education and experience
    • Work verification form
    • Good moral character affirmation form
    • Professional activities and documentation
    • $250 fee

The application is seven pages long. You have to fill out basic contact information. It also asks for an education and work history. There is a work verification form that your employer needs to complete. There is a form affirming that you have good moral character. Again, this is because ethics are a very important part of what we do. Personally, I find that most people I run into that work in this field are extremely passionate about what they do and the clients that they work with. There is also a form when you document your professional activities from the previous list I went over. And then finally, there is a fee of $250 along with the application.

Study/How Do I Prepare?

There are three ways that I feel like you could prepare for the exam.

  • Experience
    • This is truly your number one preparation
  • Courses
    • OccupationalTherapy.com will offer an entire series to assist the clinician in preparing for the SMS exam
  • Reading
    • Seating and Wheeled Mobility: a clinical resource guide, Michelle Lange and Jean Minkel editors, 2018, Slack.

First is the person's experience, and this is the number one preparatory activity.

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michelle lange

Michelle Lange, OTR, ABDA, ATP/SMS

Michelle is an occupational therapist with over 30 years of experience and has been in private practice, Access to Independence, for over 10 years. She is a well-respected lecturer, both nationally and internationally and has authored numerous texts, chapters, and articles. She is the co-editor of Seating and Wheeled Mobility: a clinical resource guide, editor of Fundamentals in Assistive Technology, 4th ed., NRRTS Continuing Education Curriculum Coordinator and Clinical Editor of NRRTS Directions magazine. Michelle is a RESNA Fellow and member of the Clinician Task Force. Michelle is a certified ATP, certified SMS and is a Senior Disability Analyst of the ABDA. 

 



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