We’ve complied helpful hints and suggestions for completing your application portfolio.
A Portfolio Application should demonstrate a balance of knowledge, skill and experience. The application should demonstrate both the science of your practice (facts, data, observations) as well as the art of your practice (style, approach, philosophies).
Knowledge can be demonstrated by including foundational information that shows you understand core principles or concepts, facts and theories that serve as a basis for the chosen practice domain. The applicant should not assume the reviewers have knowledge but rather provide information in an instructive manner by including comprehensive in-depth explanations. When completing EFs, supporting information may be gleaned from textbooks or journal articles. However, it is important that the information presented be in your own words to convince the reviewers that you have a solid understanding of the practice domain.
Skill is demonstrated by explaining how your knowledge and understanding of a practice domain is being applied with a burn patient. When describing your interactions with burn survivors, their family, the burn team, and/or the burn community, you should describe your abilities and capacities in a way that shows competence, expertise and fluency with the burn population. It is helpful to include specific examples that demonstrate the breadth and depth of your skill and ensure that your professional reasoning is clearly articulated.
Experience should be evident in your application by including details of treatment response, creative solutions, lessons learned or other examples of information that may have only been gained from extensive and personal burn rehabilitation related experiences.
Before preparing your application, read all instructional materials thoroughly and familiarize yourself with the SPOs and the EF. It is helpful to develop and plan for what your Portfolio Application will include prior to beginning to prepare each EF. By reviewing the EFs in their entirety before trying to complete them, you will be able to provide the information in the proper location and avoid repetition and irrelevant information. The SPO grid should be reviewed carefully before, during and after the completion of your application because it offers guidance and information that can help you provide successful responses.
Read the section of this handbook called “Choosing an appropriate case” for details on how to choose the right cases to present. It is expected that you will be choosing a real patient case that you have experienced. No HIPAA protected information should be included at any time. Your Portfolio Application will be screened for such information and if any is found, you will be asked to remove it from the application and resubmit.
When choosing which patient case to present, be sure that you have played a significant role in the patient’s care. Make your contributions and involvement in that patient’s care clear for the reviewer. Focus on YOUR actions with the patient, and avoid cases from the remote past, especially if you do not have a clear recollection of the details of the case.
Read the evaluation criteria BEFORE you select your cases. Choose a case to fit the criteria, do not try to make your case fit the criteria.
The certification process is about reflecting on your practice and growing as a clinician. Become familiar with the evaluation criteria prior to starting your case study submission and plan your evaluation and intervention based on known best practice, your clinical experience, within your clinical protocols. As you prepare for certification, reflect on past cases and consider what you would do differently based on increased experience and current literature. Prepare your application prospectively and use the reflection process to improve your skills. This will take more time but will result in a stronger application.
Choose a well-defined start and finish to the phase of care in which you provided rehabilitation. Do not use actual dates but instead describe the phase. For example, from admission to inpatient rehab until discharge to outpatient follow up. Address the goals and treatments that are appropriate to THIS phase of care.
Present your case in a logical progression from start to finish. How did the patient present? How did you evaluate him/her? What did you actually do? Did it help or not? If not, why not, and what did you do to change your plan? How did you include the family? How did you interact with the rest of the burn team?
Information needs to be linked from one SPO to the next i.e. Intervention choices need to be justified by assessment results; patient education relates to treatment progression, etc.
Don’t present brand new information about the case towards the end of the EF that hasn’t been addressed in the other aspects of the case. For example, mentioning that the patient has no social supports during explanation of the discharge plan. Similarly, don’t present important information about the case early in the EF and neglect to address it where appropriate. For example, mental health issues discussed early in the case but not referenced during patient education or discharge plan.
The most common reason for not succeeding at certification is lack of detail. For any given SPO, there is no minimum or maximum length requirement, but the information provided should demonstrate you have the knowledge, skill and experience to meet the SPO. For example, do not only mention WHAT evaluation test was used, but provide the rational for the use of the test and what the results of the test were for the patient case. Include enough detail to paint a complete clinical picture. Be as concise as possible, but often more information is better than less. PRIORITIZE the most relevant information and do not just “dump data” with no clear clinical reasoning.
Review the Practice Domain Standard and SPO grid, which provides information on the details that should be included in your response AND the criteria that the reviewer will be using to evaluate the response. Regardless of how complete you feel the answer is, if you do not meet these criteria, the reviewer can not give you credit for the response. It is OK if not all objectives are met, BUT…provide an explanation of why you think certain objectives were not met and what you may have changed.
When the evaluation criteria states something should be included, you need to include it. For example, the Evaluation Criteria in SPO#1 clearly states “Relevant findings/data for the factors relevant to (chosen domain) are provided”. THEREFORE include findings such as ROM values, assist levels, etc.
Be very thorough and descriptive in SPO #1 (evaluation) because it sets the stage for all of your other responses. Be sure that assessment results are complete and justify the treatment plan. Describe your clinical reasoning that you used during decision making. The reviewer must see a clear pathway to how the case developed.
Focus on what each SPO is requesting. Do not describe the entire case in SPO#1, and do not provide unrelated information within each SPO. This makes it difficult for reviewers to find the answers needed for that SPO, and may result in a lack of information in remaining SPOs. Use the actual words in the SPOs/evaluation criteria in your own response; this helps guide you in addressing the specific criteria and allows the reviewer to link your answer to the criteria more easily.
Do not provide vague “lists” of care that you provided. For example, listing out treatment techniques. Describe assessment methods and results, treatment techniques, education methods, team communication strategies, etc, in detail so that the reviewer has a clear vision of your skill and knowledge. Present well-developed narratives in your SPO response.
When deferring to your burn centre’s protocol for how you do things, provide additional information about how the protocols are derived and whether they might be flexible based on patient cases. Don’t refer to a protocol unless you can describe the therapeutic component of what was done and relate it to THIS patient. Provide a justification and rationale for decisions that are made. Although protocols and pathways can be used to guide our decision making, they should never dictate it. When a patient presentation deviates from a protocol or expected presentation, this provide the best opportunity to demonstrate your professional reasoning.
Do not underestimate the process and “assume” certification based on many years of experience as a burn therapist. This process is a lot of work! Be sure to present your application in an “elementary” way ie. assume no knowledge on the part of the reviewer and provide a lot of detail and explanation. Break down your clinical reasoning; you are not wasting the reviewers time by “over explaining” things that you think are common knowledge.
Even if you think it is standard burn care, you still must thoroughly explain your approach. For example, do not say “I used standard scar management techniques”. Additionally, don’t leave out the basics, like range of motion. Treat the application like a test in school; make sure the professor knows what you know, do not leave it to them to guess what you know. Plan on the reviewer looking for important detail, so reveal to the reviewer that you are an expert through comprehensive answers and responses.
When choosing the Program Development, Publication or Research supplemental EF, you must respond to each of the SPOs, BUT instead of using information from a case experience, you will use information from the program development, publication or research experience. Make sure you describe your specific contribution to the project if the program development, publication or research experience was done as part of a team. For example, an educational module was created and taught on pruritis during a course on burn care; describe who the course was intended for, method of teaching (lecture, webinar, small group, etc) and time allotted. Provide an outline of your section, talk about any new pertinent research you came across while preparing your module, etc.
Demonstrate current up-to-date knowledge on the latest burn rehabilitation literature. You should be able to intelligently discuss and incorporate the latest issues/concepts in burn rehabilitation, for example, cutaneous functional units, early mobilization, etc. Provide enough basic science information to demonstrate that you are fundamentally sound in your practice as well as technically skilled. You do not need to “choose” literature OR your experience to support your response; even if you are drawing off of experience, showing that you can understand and interpret recent literature is important.
Do not regurgitate information from a text book or research articles. Literature should be discussed so that it relates to the case, supports your clinical decisions and is explained in your own words while citing the source appropriately. You don’t have to agree with everything in the literature, but if you disagree, state your opinion and rationale.
If standardized assessment tools/outcome measures weren’t used, justify why, and describe what you used instead. For example, a different assessment was used instead of one validated in burns because it was the most appropriate for the individual patient factors.
It is acceptable to use some seminal references that are older. Acknowledge that they are “older” articles but are foundational burn rehabilitation knowledge. Supplement with, and discuss in conjunction with, more current evidence.
Provide sources for practice decisions, especially in SPOs that specifically indicates to provide evidence. Do not simply list the article or textbook but specifically link this resource to the information you used in the specific case described. What information or guideline in the specific response led you to your therapeutic decision? Evidenced based care is a sign of a proficient clinician and is not just for academic purposes.
The reviewers DO read the articles cited, so make sure they are accurate and relevant.
You are able to attach up to two optional documents to each EF. Attachments are not required and should only be used if the information supports or help clarify your response to a SPO. They should not be included in lieu of a response. The reviewer should be able to find your direct response to address the SPO in the application itself and not need to sort through the attachments to do so.
Ensure that you have removed any information on the documents that might identify you or your place of employment or the application will be returned to you to correct.
Examples of appropriate attachments may include evaluation data that is explained further in the application, a picture of an orthosis that is described, a form that may have been used for patient education, or a handout from a program developed. Again all forms MUST have any identifying information redacted before submitting.
The preparation of your Portfolio Application may take many days up to a few months, depending on your work style. It is recommended that you download the forms and prepare drafts of the information that you want to include. Another strong recommendation is that you complete your information in a Word Document and then ‘copy/paste’ this information into the online submission form. This will give you the opportunity to review the information for content and grammar before submitting which will result in a more well thought out application. You should save your word document in case you need to revise the application due to screen failure or you receive an “Inconclusive” decision because it will ease the process of modifying your applicant information for resubmission.
Check for accuracy of word choices and spelling. Avoid the use of acronyms, abbreviations, and jargon. Some acronyms, abbreviations, and jargon may not be universal. If you do use acronyms, make sure that you define the meaning of the acronym for the reviewer.
It is strongly recommended to have an experienced colleague review your application to ensure that it makes sense, and that evaluation criteria are met. Give your colleague a copy of the criteria; the final column can be used to identify gaps in your submission.
Read through and review all information a final time before submitting your application. A Submission Checklist is available as part of this Handbook for your convenience.
Every effort will be made to blind your identity to the reviewers. The registration form is processed by the ABA but does not get passed on to the reviewers. When preparing your application, be sure not to include any information that may reveal your identity to the reviewers. When you submit your Portfolio Application, the ABA will also screen the information submitted for any identifying details. If any such information is found, they will notify the applicant that the information must be removed, and the Portfolio resubmitted without the identifiers.
Because the burn rehabilitation community is small, complete anonymity may not be possible when the author of a publication or research project is recognizable without including the names. If a reviewer recognizes the applicant and believes there is a conflict of interest or that he/she cannot provide a non-bias and objective review, then he/she must recuse themselves from reviewing that Portfolio Application. Example reasons for recusal are:
- Supervisor or colleague of applicant working within your institution or organization
- Professor or academic relationship with applicant
- Belief reviewer cannot provide an unbiased review
Knowledge of current literature and up-to-date clinical practice are important to demonstrate, but don’t be afraid to showcase your unique style. There are many different ways to successfully implement burn rehabilitation, and as long as your method is justified, it is likely valid. Present what you do each day to adapt what is in the literature to your patient presentations. Show off your creativity!