The CPHQ: My journey from certification to quality leader

When seeking a professional certification, the task of finding just the right certification can feel overwhelming because there are so many options from which to choose and so many factors to consider.

Is the certification accredited or unaccredited? Is there online testing capability to complete the exam? Is the certification nationally recognized? Will this certification help to further my career? A potential certificant could give up in exasperation when trying to choose the best option. For me it was easy…the Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality (CPHQ) certification. Why do you ask? Let me count the ways.

I have been a Registered Nurse for almost 19 years and started my career as a clinical Neonatal ICU nurse before assuming an informal leader role as a clinical educator. As a natural leader (retired from the United States Army where leadership training and opportunities abound), I wanted to assume a position where I could directly impact the staff who came to me with problems and concerns. This desire prompted me to accept a formal leadership role as an assistant nurse manager and associate director of nursing. I loved nursing operations (still do to this day) and helping my teams, but I felt that something was missing. This led me to transition to quality improvement and patient safety. Being new to the quality & safety profession, I felt it was important to pursue a certification, but I wasn’t sure where to go.

I began researching healthcare quality certifications and found the CHPQ. Yes, there were other quality-related certifications, but the CPHQ resonated with me as I saw so many more healthcare professionals with the credential. I began reaching out and networking with these professionals to learn more about what made them choose to become CPHQs. They shared that their experiences, similar to mine, started with a sense of confusion and uncertainty. A deciding factor for choosing the CPHQ was because the organization that offers it (NAHQ) also provided numerous resources to help the quality professional not just pass a certification exam, but to positively impact patient care and the role that quality professionals play in that care. As someone new to healthcare quality, that was something I was definitely looking for!

After successfully obtaining my CPHQ, I can honestly say it is one of the best professional decisions I have ever made and has catapulted my career and opportunities in various ways. At the local/hospital employment level, I was able to grow within my previous facility and not only establish myself as a quality leader and subject matter expert, but also help train future quality leaders and those working within the profession without any formal knowledge or training.

After that, I transitioned back to formal leadership as an Assistant Director of Clinical Practice and Nursing Quality and continued to positively impact quality and safety at that hospital. This is when I began to engage even more with NAHQ at the national level.

After nine years at my former organization and seeking opportunities for growth, I took a leap of faith and applied for a Vice President of Quality position in a large healthcare system and the rest is history. In my current role as Vice President of Quality and Safety, I have had the opportunity to grow my team and help take our organization to new levels in our quality & safety performance…successfully achieving 94% of our quality metrics within my first year of employment. The Director of Quality position within the company is required to hold the CPHQ credential or earn it within one year of employment. I strongly feel this is the best requirement because it sets the expectation that leaders are the subject matter experts while leading by example to their staff to obtain certification as well. As we increase the number of CPHQs, we are able to better care for our patients and families, support our teams providing that care, and advance the profession of healthcare quality and safety within an ever-changing healthcare landscape. When you do what you love, you love what you do, and earning the CPHQ has increased my love of healthcare quality & safety. If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing!


Sheranda Fesler CPHQ 2
Sheranda Fesler PhD, RN, RNC-NIC, NE-BC, CPHQ, CPPS, FNAHQ
Vice President of Quality and Safety, HCA Houston Healthcare

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