Featured Educator Debbie Craig Describes Role and Impact of New BOC Exam Results Format
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Debbie Craig, PhD, LAT, ATC was the program director (PD) for the athletic training program at Northern Arizona University (NAU) for 18 years, before recently being promoted to the position of Associate Dean. During her time at NAU, she has worked to strongly support students on their path to becoming Certified Athletic Trainers. We asked Debbie some questions about her time in the PD role, as well as some insight into how her department has been able to expand their support of students with the new, updated BOC results exam notice format implemented earlier this year.
How long were you at program director at NAU? Describe your new role and what has your transition been like?
I was the PD here at NAU for 18 years, from the initial undergraduate cohort of seven students in 2003, to the professional master’s degree, on two campuses, with 68 students spread from across the country in 2021. It was a fantastic and ever-changing road!This July, I transitioned to the Associate Dean role for the College of Health and Human Services. The most challenging part was leaving the program that I had devoted my full passion and energy toward growing and improving for a majority of my academic career. Getting to work with our BS athletic training students and then MS athletic training students on a daily basis is certainly what I miss most about the PD job. But the program is in fantastic hands with the continuation of our excellent faculty on both campuses, the NAU Flagstaff Campus and the NAU Phoenix Biomedical Campus. My new role requires my focus to be on all programs offered across seven different departments within our college. So, my learning curve is steep for now, and I’m enjoying the new challenges!
In your role as PD did you teach any classes? If so, which one(s)? What classes, if any, do you continue to teach?
Yes, I taught every semester. Through my 18 years, I taught both upper extremity and lower extremity assessment, therapeutic modalities, cadaveric anatomy, pharmacology, general medical conditions and pathophysiology, rehabilitation techniques, professional development, research design and administration in athletic training. I am currently not teaching in the athletic training department with my new role as Associate Dean, but that’s not off the table for the future.
How many students are currently in your AT program?
How do you prepare your students for the BOC exam? What tools and resources do you use?
We meet with our students at the end of their first full year in the program to discuss BOC exam study strategies, how to navigate through the BOC candidate website to schedule the exam and resources available to them during their second and final year in the program. This gives them a full year to get focused on preparing for the exam. We have also instituted some practice exams as components of their second-year clinical education courses. These include the practice exams offered by the BOC, along with our own lengthy list of exam questions. They work through a set of these questions each week, with the focus being NOT on how many they get right and wrong, but on finding the correct answers to their wrong answers to solidify that knowledge.
How can PDs utilize the updated BOC results notice format, implemented in 2021, as an effective tool following the exam?
The new details offered in the candidate’s BOC exam results letter are so much more helpful. An overall exam score at the top, supplemented with basic descriptive feedback related to personal performance level within each domain in comparison to a reference group of candidates receiving a passing score, provides much more insight to the student. These new detailed results per domain give students a clear roadmap of where to re-engage with their study efforts with greater focus. We remind students that they need to refresh their knowledge in all domains, but most prominently in their lower scoring domain(s).
Please provide some tips for how PDs can prepare students for entering the real world (e.g. completing the BOC paperwork post-exam, state licensure/registration/certification, NPI numbers).
Transition to practice is a daunting task for graduating students. Not only do they need to worry about passing the exam and then finding a job (a task made especially challenging with the pandemic), but they need to be able to navigate state regulatory requirements. To assist with this before graduation, we have our students engage with our Arizona licensure law in our Professional Development class during their final semester. We ask discussion questions such as, “Is this too prescriptive (narrow) or too broad to allow for evidence-based changes in the future?”Second, we have a project in this course where they gather all of their paperwork needed to apply for licensure/regulation in the state that they hope to gain employment in upon graduation. Third, to impress the importance of gaining and maintaining licensure/regulation, we have them attend one of our state licensing board meetings, where they typically witness what happens to individual ATCs who let their licensure slip and have to come before the Board.This creates a rather lasting impression! And fourth, we have our final semester students attend (sans pandemic) our state “AT Day at the Capitol”, where they shadow ATC’s during meetings with individual legislators and health committee meetings. Our intention with this project is to create a sense of shared responsibility for maintaining our licensure law in Arizona.
Do you have any tips or suggestions for other PDs?
My most important tip for other PDs is to work – very hard – at creating a sense of community with other PDs. So many things we do require new policies, procedures or re-designing – and we do NOT need to reinvent those wheels every time! I’ve had numerous PD’s from around the country reach out to me asking for help or just to talk through a current hurdle they are facing. I very much enjoy helping others like this, to the degree of setting up an annual “Educators Meeting” at our district meeting each spring. I hope every PD understands that there is more than one way to achieve something – and getting fresh minds involved to find solutions only helps to find and enrich those outcomes. Many PD’s have taken advantage of the NATA’s Educationalist Community space on Gather, to post questions about what others are doing when facing a particular hurdle. I hope that more and more PD’s find this free service of the NATA to be helpful in creating this sense of community - a community full of help, cooperation, and of altruism in pressing our profession forward.