What are CERPs and do I need them?

This is a common question in the “Want to be an IBCLC?” Facebook support group for exam applicants and I hope this blogpost will help clear up the confusion.

A CERP is a certified education credit point awarded by IBLCE to education for certified lactation consultants. In simple terms, a certified lactation consultant must study a certain number of hours and certain types of education to maintain their certification. This is common to many health professions. If you take a look at a health conference programme you will see something like this:

“…..ERRPs, CMEs, CNEs, MEAC Midwifery CEUs & CERPs have been approved”

Each set of intials represents a type of continuing education credit as each profession has their own accrediting body that awards these points (to education they have approved). For example, the organisers of a lactation conference must present details of the conference programme presentations, speakers credentials, declaration of conflict of interest etc. (as well as pay a fee) to have credit points awarded to the programme by the IBLCE (International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners). Nurses, doctors, midwives, etc. have their own accrediting bodies and the other acronyms apply to their professional education.

But don’t worry, if you are not yet a lactation consultant, you do not need to know all of this (unless you are presenting a conference abstract, which is how I learnt about it 🙂 ):

Lactation Consultant exam applicants do not need CERPs. Lactation Consultant exam applicants do need 90 hours of lactation specific education.

Conference organisers could help applicants here by advertising alongside their education credits, that “this conference provides xx hours of education”. They may not be able to declare that it is “lactation specific education” as that would then put the responsibility on them to prove that it is suitable for exam applicants – and I believe that to do so they would have to apply to LEEARC, Lactation Education Accreditation and Approval Review Committee.  LEAARC reviews and grants formal recognition to education programs in lactation. The programmes approved by LEEARC are typically 45 and 90 hour courses and generally structured to cover a part or all of the exam content outline.

Conference organisers do not need to do so, as IBLCE leaves the choice of how to get the 90 hours of lactation specific education up to the applicant. Get yourself a copy of the exam content outline from the IBLCE website http://iblce.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/IBCLC-Detailed-Content-Outline-for-2016-for-Publication.pdf and use that as a guide for choosing your lactation education to  make sure you are covering all of the topics.

In conclusion, a common reply in IBCLC exam applicant forums is “You don’t need CERPs but you can use CERPs for your lactation hours”. I used to say this also, but I think we should stand up for ourselves a little more and ask education providers to explain in simple terms how many hours of education or lactation education their courses provide.

Simplicity and plain language are one way to achieve lactation exam equity 🙂