IEBE: The art and science of embalming

words: Sarah Maclean, John Fraser & Son

For those of us who do not already know, the International Examinations Board of Embalmers (IEBE) functions as an examinations provider specialising in the art and science of embalming.

The board is made up from representatives of the British Institute of Embalmers, the National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD), the Co-operative Funeral Service Managers’ Association, a representative from the University of Edinburgh – Professor Gordon Findlater – and now myself as the representative for SAIF.

My first meeting with the board was held on Saturday 6 January at Anubis House, the headquarters of the British Institute of Embalmers in Knowle. As the responsibilities of the board are broad (from overseeing candidate registration, examination administration and appeals policy to maintaining necessary data protection and equal opportunities) so were the topics covered.

The usual housekeeping was attended to – with roll-call providing an opportunity to introduce myself to those members I had not already met, and apologies from those who had been hampered by the snowy conditions – accompanied by the necessary hot beverages and chocolate biscuits. A report was presented by the IEBE Administrator Scott Grigsby, who the board agreed was doing a sterling job in effecting efficient systems.

Perhaps the most exciting item on the agenda was the new BIE Syllabus and long-awaited textbook. With the draft textbook now circulating around BIE members it seems that we are finally drawing closer to seeing this come to fruition.

The challenges in compiling such an important educational publication for both students and practicing embalmers alike are considerable, and although much of our discussion was positive, it was clear to the board that further work will be necessary. In particular, debate has centred on diagrams and whether these are essential in order to facilitate greater understanding as well as to better serve visual learners.

Our discussions around the new textbook also led us to the particularly on-trend topic of professionalism in the funeral service, to the importance of Continuing Professional Development (CPD), and to some dialogue regarding future consideration of embalming apprenticeships. Time was also given to deliberating how to ensure the Tutor/Examiner weekend is an attractive prospect and worthwhile for all attending.

At a time of great change in education and training, as well as in the funeral service, it seems that the IEBE will be kept on its toes.

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