Continuing Medical Education: Enhancing professional development and patient care.

Author:Barbour, Tracy

It's vital that medical providers stay current with recent developments and the latest threats in the healthcare field. Challenges like the coronavirus outbreak--which emerged in China in December and has since spread across the globe--require that medical professionals stay current on the latest prevention and treatment options available. This is pertinent to making decisions and providing care to the community while keeping providers and their staff safe by reducing transmission, according to Susan Gorba, medical educator for Providence Health & Services Alaska.

That's where continuing medical education (CME) comes into play. CME allows healthcare professionals to maintain competence and learn about new and developing areas of their field. "By offering continuing medical education, we are bringing current information to our providers and helping them to remain current with their medical knowledge," Gorba says. CME refers to educational activities that serve to maintain, develop, or increase the knowledge, skills, and professional performance and relationships that an individual uses to provide services for patients, the public, or the profession. The content of CME is the "body of knowledge and skills generally recognized and accepted by the profession as within the basic medical sciences, the discipline of clinical medicine, and the provision of healthcare to the public," according to the American Medical Association (AMA), which authorizes CME credits.

CME is closely associated with physicians who seek to demonstrate that they have participated in educational activities and obtained CME credit to document meeting the requirements of state medical boards, medical specialty societies, specialty boards, hospital medical staff, the Joint Commission (formerly the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations), insurance groups, and others. In practice, CME allows doctors--who typically spend four years in medical school and three to five years in residency training--to expand their expertise throughout their professional career. It can help them drive improvements in practice and optimize the care, health, and wellness of patients. "Whether physicians work in clinical care, research, healthcare administration, executive leadership, or other areas of medicine, accredited CME is designed to be relevant to their needs, practice-based, and effective," the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) states on its website.

However, CME is mandatory for many medical professionals, not just physicians. Most US state and territory medical boards have compulsory CME requirements for license renewal. CME requirements for licensure and license renewal vary for different individuals according to the jurisdiction. In Alaska, for example, all medical professionals must have a minimum number of professional continuing education credits to renew their professional licenses, according to Jennifer Gehrke, clinical educator for Foundation Health Partners in Fairbanks. Foundation Health Partners includes Tanana Valley Clinic, Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, and Denali Center. "Physicians need fifty hours every two years, and two of those hours must be in pain management and opiate use and addiction," Gehrke says. "Registered nurses need thirty continuing education hours every two years to renew their professional licenses. Many nurses and physicians have additional certifications in their specialty, which require additional hours."

As another example, the state of Alaska also requires emergency medical technicians (EMTs) to complete CME for their recertification. EMTs can earn CME in a variety of ways, depending on their needs and interest. They can take certain amounts of CME training courses per certification period, including advanced cardiac life support, advanced burn support...

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