Continuing Education for Professionals
When you hire a professional, whether it be a doctor, a lawyer or an accountant, you probably inquire and make note of where that professional was educated. However, it is also important to inquire about that professional’s involvement in continuing education. Many people place a lot of importance on a professional’s education as an indication of how good that professional is at practicing his or her profession.
However, continuing education is a part of a professional’s education that many of us miss when we are considering a professional’s formal education. It is important for all professionals to stay up to date on the latest research, trends and ideas in their field. The best way to do that is to regularly participate in continuing education programs. Some professions mandate that their members participate in certain amounts of professional development activities in order to maintain their licensure or certification. If you are going to hire, employ or work with a professional it is a good idea to ask about how often they participate in continuing education activities.
Types of Continuing Education
• University continuing education: college is probably the type of continuing education that we most often think of for professionals. Most, if not all, professionals already have a college degree. However, many decide to go back for a master’s or doctorate or related degree to further their knowledge and career.
• Distance or Online Education Opportunities: more and more professionals are taking advantage of online continuing education opportunities. These types of distance education courses are easy to fit in during a busy work day because they can be completed from the office. No time or money is wasted in traveling to a course site and many professionals like being in their own office in case an office emergency arises.
• Seminars: seminars may be offered by local colleges or professional groups. Often they are singular events that allow people to quickly gain the knowledge that they need to effectively do their jobs and to earn continuing education credits.
• Classes: like seminars, classes are also offered by local colleges and professional groups. However, they usually meet more than once and provide more in depth coverage of the subject area.
Who is Required To Fulfill Continuing Education Requirements
The time and content requirements for continuing education vary among professions and among state licensing agencies. However, in most, if not all, of the states the following types of professionals are required to complete some kind of continuing education requirement:
• Continuing education for nurses: registered nurses, licensed nurse practitioners, critical care nurses, EMTs, paramedics and others are required to complete continuing education requirements.
• Medical continuing education: doctors and their patients benefits from regular continuing education requirements. It is perhaps more important for doctors than for any other professionals to stay current on the latest technology, trends and research in their field. Therefore, continuing education is required for physicians. You can ace the college admissions process!
• Pharmacy continuing education: pharmacists are required to participate in continuing education for much the same reasons as other medical professionals. The life of their customers depends on it.
• Other professionals: each state licensing or certification agency makes its own rules regarding continuing education requirements. For example, in addition to the professionals described above, many states require that other professionals participate in mandatory continuing education.
For example, continuing education for lawyers: lawyers are licensed by state boards of bar overseers. This board sets the continuing education requirements that lawyers must follow in order to stay admitted to the bar and practice law in that jurisdiction.
Continuing education for accountants: like lawyers, accountants are licensed by the state. The state agency responsible for the licensure sets the continuing education requirements. Some states require that accountants’ continuing education work include ethics trainings.
The states set the minimum requirements for professional continuing education. However, professionals are always allowed and often encouraged to exceed the minimum requirements. When professionals seek challenging and relevant continuing education opportunities and make the most of those opportunities rather than sitting through boring lectures in order to get confirmation of attendance, everyone benefits. Continuing education serves an important role in keeping professionals who have graduated from school informed of current developments in their field and should be encouraged by those professionals, the state agencies that regulate them and the people that employ them.
Continuing Medical Education Requirements
Continuing medical education makes people better doctors. Many people place their trust in experienced doctors and there is much to be said for experience. It might, for example, make the doctor a better diagnostician. However, for some doctors (as for some other professionals) experience leads to a degree of complacency. Without all of the knowledge of medical school freshly in their minds, doctors tend to fall back on what they know and may not be up to date on the latest research, resources or treatments available. Therefore, the state agencies which license doctors to practice medicine require that doctors complete continuing medical education requirements so that they can give their patients the best care possible.
How Many Continuing Medical Education Credits are Required for Physicians?
The answer to this question depends upon where you practice medicine. Each state has its own continuing medical education requirements for doctors. Massachusetts, for example, requires 100 hours of continuing education credits during each licensure period (2 years). The majority of those hours must be spent in the doctor’s practice area. So, for example for an OBGYN, continuing medical education credits should be primarily in the areas of obstetrics and gynecology and not dermatology. Massachusetts also requires that at least 10 hours of continuing medical education be in the area of risk management. Nevada, on the other hand, only requires 40 hours of continuing medical education during a two year period. Two of those forty hours must be in medical ethics and 18 must be in the area of the doctor’s primary specialty.
The American Medical Association
The different state requirements can be confusing and burdensome, especially for doctors who are licensed in more than one state. Accordingly, the American Medical Association (AMA) has come up with a system that is acceptable in 40 U.S. states and two territories. Doctors who earn the AMA’s Physician Recognition Award (PRA) will have satisfied their continuing medication education requirements in those states and territories.
In order to the earn the AMA’s PRA, a physician must take at least 50 hours a year of continuing medical education that meets that AMA’s standards. Included in the 50 hours a year must be at least 20 hours from AMA Category 1 credits and 30 hours from AMA Category 1 or Category 2 credits.
AMA Category 1
Category 1 refers to activities that are preapproved for this category before the physician participates in them. The most common examples are seminars and publishing in a peer reviewed journal. Other activities that have the prior approval of the AMA’s continuing medical education committee may also qualify for Category 1 hours.
AMA Category 2
Additionally, the AMA accepts up to 30 hours from what they deem Category 2 activities. Category 2 activities are not formally designated as continuing education activities by an accredited provider. Instead, they include more informal but also important professional development activities such as reading medical journals and consulting with colleagues. For an activity to qualify as a Category 2 activity, it must improve the care that the doctor provides his or her patients.
Continuing Medical Education Travel
It is certainly possible to complete your continuing medical education requirements in your local area. However, many doctors who want to attend the most relevant seminars and courses for their specialty often have to travel. Important medical conferences for different specialties are often held in different parts of the country each year and these conferences count toward the requirements for continuing medical education.
The requirements for continuing medical education may seem strict. However, they are so with good reason. Doctors who stay abreast of developments in their field and network with other doctors provide superior care for their patients. Therefore, continuing medical education is something that is required and expected of every U.S. physician.