Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition

Becoming Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition

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Becoming Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition, or BCHN®, demonstrates that you have achieved the highest level of professional recognition and validation of your knowledge and experience in the holistic nutrition industry. Achieving Board Certification will provide benefits such as credibility, assurance, validation, confidence, and access. 

We recently posted a multi-part series of PodTalks, taking a deep dive into the board exam. We interviewed the staff at the NANP, an NTI graduate who is preparing to take the exam, and three grads who have taken and passed the exam. In the first episode, we heard from Dani Gibbs and Nicole Hodson of the National Association of Nutrition Professionals (NANP) about the benefits and importance of being board certified, and what applicants can expect throughout the process. The second episode is all about the process of preparing to take the exam with NTI graduate, Selina Rai. In the third, fourth, and fifth episodes, we hear from graduates Valerie Federwitz, Aimee Smith, and Sheri Johanson. All three have passed the exam and share their experiences and tips and tricks learned. 

Why Should I Become Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition?

NANP: Upon achieving Board Certification in Holistic Nutrition®, you can say with confidence and certainty that you have passed the most rigorous process in our industry. The BCHN® is trademarked to set the credential apart. Having the board certification, you are safe to practice even in title protected states.

Selina Rai: It is the highest certification we can get in our field. I participated in HEALcon and met people from all over the world who think just the way I do. Having that community made me feel like I want to be a part of this for my whole life. 

Valerie: Even though I didn’t know what I wanted to do after graduating, getting board certified was always in the back of my mind. It was a personal challenge for myself. It’s one thing to take a course and take exams, but to take a comprehensive exam like this is where it really shows if you are prepared to practice. 

Aimee: It was always my goal since day one. It’s such a valuable tool because it shows we are continually educating ourselves, we are looking at the research, we are growing.  

Sheri: I couldn’t feel complete unless I took the board exam. I know it’s not necessary, but it’s like a stamp of approval and gave me the confidence I needed. It’s a national exam, so it legitimizes not just me, but the profession as well. It reaches beyond NTI and beyond me, and I think the more people that take the exam, the more we can build this unity of knowledge and professionalism in the holistic nutrition field. I think that’s very important and I am glad to be a part of it. 

The Application Process

To be eligible to apply for and sit for the board exam, you need to have graduated from an NANP approved school, like NTI, and get a professional membership with the NANP. Nicole and Dani highly recommend reading through all the FAQS on their website. Go through the application process first, before submitting any documents. There is a lot of information and instructions during the application process, so apply first, then send in your documents.

Valerie created a checklist for her application process so she wouldn’t forget anything. It was simple: contact NTI to get the official transcript sent, update resume, get the NANP professional membership, pay the fees, and provide references.

For Sheri, the application process was very straightforward. She suggests applying within a year of graduation, because then you can postpone the 500 contact hours requirement. Otherwise, you have to document all contact hours before taking the exam.

Contact Hours

If you apply within one year of graduating, you qualify as a new grad and you get two years from the date you take the exam to submit the 500 contact hours. From the application date, you get a whole year to take the exam. So there is a bit of a grace period for getting those hours. 

The NANP divides the 500 contact hours into 250 direct hours and 250 indirect hours. Direct hours are hands-on: internships, employment, self-employment, consultations, etc. The indirect hours are research based, so anything that doesn’t deal with client interactions: writing blogs, research papers, prepping for workshops, classes, etc.

As soon as Selina graduated, she started seeing clients and getting her direct contact hours. Valerie was already working as a nutrition consultant for a missionary organization and attained her hours that way. Aimee did an internship with a functional medicine doctor before she graduated. She had close to 300 hours by the time she took the exam and, through working with the functional medicine doctor, got the rest of her hours not long after she took the exam. 

Sheri earned the status of a BCHN Candidate® by taking the exam before submitting her contact hours. As most things in life, things didn’t go quite as she had planned. She had three internships lined up which all fell through, and she was hoping to get all 500 hours before she started her practice. Since she had so many people asking to work with her, she decided to start taking clients to get her hours. Now, she not only has a handful of clients, she is also making money! Sheri recommends keeping a detailed log of all client meetings because you have to write up a case study and validate all your hours with evidence. There are many ways to get the hours: research intern, teaching, putting together presentations, publications…. Sheri found that once she started working with clients, she easily attained the hours. 

The contact hours requirement is a one and done deal. Once you submit them, you don’t have to do them again every time you go through the re-credentialing process. 

What Should I Study?

The NANP offers a free, downloadable study guide on their website. The exam questions come from the list of materials that are listed on the study guide. Every question has been curated from those materials. Nicole says, “If you do not study the given materials, you may not do well!” NTI has a particularly high rate of passage and Nicole praised us for providing a strong foundation to be able to do well on the exam. The NANP also provides access to study groups so that you can study with other people who are preparing to take the exam. 

Selina joined a study group and found she really enjoyed the community. They meet once a week, divide the curriculum amongst themselves, and make a presentation to build confidence in what they are studying. To study, Selina used all her NTI materials and the NANP study guide. As she started studying, her confidence grew because it felt like a revision of what she had already learned. She also praised NTI’s curriculum. She said she was able to help a lot of people in her study groups understand the more difficult concepts. 

Valerie used the NANP study guide and found it really helped her in understanding the topics on the exam. She felt very well prepared from what she learned at NTI. 

Aimee also felt that the education she received from NTI prepared her really well for the exam. Someone recommended that she take a course with the Energetic Health Institute. She found it helpful but, after taking the exam, she realized she would have been just fine studying the NTI materials. She also downloaded Quizlets and did questions every day to prepare herself. 

Sheri said that the NANP study guide was thorough and extensive. For books, she highly recommends studying the Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, and the book on nutrition counseling. She said, “I don’t think you’d want to take the exam without really delving into those books. I think many questions on the exam were pulled directly from those.” She combined her extensive NTI notes and the NANP study guide and that was all she needed. She also signed up for a prep course, but didn’t find it that helpful. It covered a lot of topics but it wasn’t specific enough for the exam. Sheri found Quizlets and the NANP practice exam to be helpful, but when it was all said and done, the information on the practice exams did not help her as much as her NTI materials and those books mentioned above. 

How Is The Exam Administered?

You take the exam online with a proctoring service. It is closed book (no notes), you are being watched, and it is timed. The NANP utilizes the proctoring platform, ProctorU. You will create an account and be provided a handy video that explains everything you can expect. You need to show your ID, show your face, and pan around the room to show there is nothing else in there with you. Dani and Nicole recommend that you go through the resources provided by NANP to be well prepared.

Both Aimee and Sheri experienced technical difficulties on exam day. On the morning of the exam for Aimee, nothing was working. After 45 minutes she ended up canceling due to the anxiety around the issues, saying she felt she was not in a good state of mind to do it. The company helped her get everything upgraded and updated and she rescheduled for a month later. Sheri described her technical difficulties as “dramatic” and “nerve-wracking,” worrying she might have to reschedule. Despite the challenges, she and the proctoring company worked through them, and once resolved, everything proceeded smoothly.

You have 3 hours to take the exam, and you can bring a blank piece of paper to jot down notes. There are 150 questions in 5 different domains, all multiple choice. You have the ability to bookmark a question and go back to it later. Sheri said she really appreciated having the blank piece of paper to help her through the reasoning process and being able to bookmark questions she wasn’t sure of and go back to them later. 

To pass the exam, you need a score of 70% or higher. You can retake it 3 times, and each time must be within 6 months of the previous exam date.

When Should I Take The Exam?

The unanimous consensus is to not wait! Dani and Nicole say you should take the exam as close to graduation as possible because you’ve established good study habits and the information is fresh in your mind. That is when they see the greatest success. Selina said she wished she had started the process right after graduation so all the information was fresh. Valerie also advised not to wait too long. She said you can easily psych yourself out from doing it, especially if it’s been a while since you’ve been in school. 

Final Thoughts and Advice

Aimee’s advice is, if you are considering it at all, to just do it! It gives a lot of credibility to our profession and it shows we are committed to continually learning. NTI is a great place to get an education and provides all the tools needed to get through it. She also recommends reading the recommended books and using the NANP study guide. There are more opportunities out there once you are board certified! 

Sheri’s advice is to not be afraid. You know more than you think you do. Dive in and do it, it’s not as scary as you think. It’s worth it to be a part of the community and build up the holistic nutrition field to a point where it is recognized nationally and validated. She also says to take good notes while you’re going through school and listen carefully to the instructors. Another tip from Sheri – once you finish the exam, stay on the screen. After a few moments, a little button popped up on her computer that said ‘View Test Results.’ She pressed it and she was shown her exact score, how many questions she got right, what percentage, and each was broken down by domain! 

Selina took a lot of time to find the right school and is really grateful she chose NTI. “We really do know so much more than some people who went through other programs. I’ll ask about their curriculum and it was like half of what we learned at NTI and half the duration. I don’t think that is enough. When I was thinking of going back to school, I wanted to go to the best one. I really feel I made the best decision choosing NTI.”

Are You Ready?!

We hope this helps answer many of your questions about taking the NANP board exam. Our industry is fast-growing and we want YOU to be at the forefront! At NTI, we are out to change the world. One bite at a time, one student at a time. Attend an informational webinar, or contact our admissions team today at ad********@nt*******.com, or call 303-284-8361.  

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