Continuing medical education (CME) is often a fact of life for doctors and other clinicians — sometimes by choice, more often by necessity. And physicians, physician assistants (PAs) and nurse practitioners (NPs) who frequently work locum tenens assignments may have an even closer relationship with CME, as it's often required to maintain licenses in many states.
Created with the goal of ensuring that healthcare professionals stay up-to-date on evolving practices and technology, CME is more relevant today than ever, given the rapid advances in technology, pharmaceuticals, research, legislative rules and other factors facing America's doctors, nurses and clinicians. Also, thanks to those advances, CME today is largely available via online classes, making the process of continuing education more accessible than ever before.
The tradition of CME in the United States goes back to the 1920s (and the idea of conferring with fellow healthcare professionals to share new information and insights goes back even further, to the earliest days of the medical profession). The first formal guidelines were created in the 1950s, and by the 1960s, the "mandatory nature of continuing education was widespread," according to a history of CME published in La Presse Médicale, "with variable regulations from state to state."
Today, CME is systematized by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME), a national accreditation system founded in 1981 "to oversee a voluntary, self-regulatory process for the accreditation of institutions that provide continuing medical education (CME) and develop rigorous standards to ensure that CME activities across the country are independent, free from commercial bias, based on valid content, and effective in meeting physicians’ learning and practice needs."
Whether or not they need to for licensing purposes, many physicians, PAs and NPs embrace CME for its potential to expand their breadth of medical knowledge, as well as their hiring power in a competitive medical workplace. Whatever the precise reason, staying informed and on top of new developments is key to being a leader in your field in any procession, and that's especially true in medicine. With that in mind, we offer the following rundown of CME resources and requirements for physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners in the United States.
Continuing Medical Education and Locum Tenens
The need for continuing medical education is particularly relevant to locum tenens professionals — particularly those who travel frequently, taking full advantage of the opportunities locums work offers to work in a variety of regions across the United States. After all, CME is often required to either obtain a state physician license, and sometimes to maintain it.
Although we arrange and pay for state licensing for the assignments you work with Staff Care, if you wish to maintain those licenses past your assignment, taking the requisite CME courses is your responsibility.
This means that, although taking CME courses is a wise professional move for any clinician, it's often also a mandatory one. With that in mind, another way that CME intersects with locum tenens is in the benefits offered by any given assignment: Some of them will arrange and pay for your CME courses as part of the benefits offered.
So, whether or not you work locum tenens assignments or work in permanent practice, chances are good that you'll have a need to take CME courses in some capacity in the months and years to come. With that in mind, we offer the following overview of continuing education requirements and resources for physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners.
CME Requirements & Resources for Physicians
The types of continuing medical education required or even available to physicians depends a great deal on your specialty and the state in which you maintain licensure. For instance, in the state of California, CME courses on pain management for the terminally ill are required for most physicians, but not for pathologists and radiologists.
Despite one's specialty, however, there are also some across-the-board CME requirements for all medical doctors (MDs).
Haymarket Medical Media's MyCME website offers a highly informative state-by-state rundown of these requirements, which range from no CME requirements at all (Colorado, New York, South Dakota) to elaborate requirements based on either first-time licensure or renewal. The MyCME.com website also offers a comprehensive overview of each state's licensing and expiration cycles, explaining how each of these are tied to mandatory continuing medical education. View MyCME.com's CME requiremments for doctors here.
AHC Media's CMEweb offers a similar list of CME requirements for physicians, which also includes requirements for doctors of osteopathic medicine (DOs). View that list here.
Perhaps even more useful is AHC Media's handy, interactive state-by-state map of physician requirements. Check it out here.
Other useful CME resources for physicians include the American Medical Association's Guide to Continuing Medical Education, the ACCME's website, and this 2014 history of CME published in Baylor University Medical Center Proceedings.
CME Resources & Requirements for Physician Assistants
Continuing education is an integral part of the physician assistant profession. In 2014, PA certification maintenance was changed from a six- to a 10-year cycle, divided into five two-year periods, each of which requires earning a minimum of 100 CME credits.
However, the CME requirements mandated by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) seem to be in a state of flux. In the summer of 2016, the NCCPA Board of Directors decided to "relax the self-assessment and PI-CME requirements introduced with the new 10-year certification maintenance process,” the organization announced in August.
“Effective immediately, self-assessment CME and PI-CME are no longer required,” the statement adds. “However, in recognition of the value of these very interactive types of CME, NCCPA will weight those types of CME more heavily, awarding extra credit for these now optional types of CME."
“To encourage PAs to continue to pursue self-assessment activities, NCCPA will award 50% additional credit for all activities designated for self-assessment Category 1 CME credit (i.e., a self-assessment activity worth 10 credits will be converted to 15 credits by NCCPA). Also, the first 20 PI-CME credits logged during every two-year cycle will be doubled when logged with NCCPA."
To parse all this information, the AAPA's website offers a comprehensive list of CME FAQs for physician assistants; it's worth checking out (and bookmarking). You can find it here.
Haymarket's MyCME offers the same highly detailed state-by-state overview of CME requirements for physician assistants as it does for doctors; check it out here.
CMEResources.com also offers education resources and seminars connected to the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE) and Physician Assistant National Recertifying Exam (PANRE). You can view that website here.
CME Requirements & Resources for Nurse Practitioners
For nurse practitioners seeking CME resources, the first stop should probably be the CE Center offered by the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), an online portal offering more than 150 free CE activities (membership is required). The AANP's CE Center generates certificates immediately after completion and evaluation of each test and is "universally accepted by all state boards of nursing and NP certifying bodies to meet NP CE requirements." Access it here.
There's also the Nurse Practitioner Associates for Continuing Education (NPACE), a non-profit organization founded in 1980 by nurse practitioners to improve "patient outcomes by providing relevant, evidenced-based accredited continuing education and professional enrichment." NPACE offers CME programs, conferences and online classes that are "focused on primary care and pharmacotherapeutics and tailored for nurse practitioners, advanced practice nurses and NP students to promote continued competence in a rapidly changing health care environment." You can learn more at the NPACE website.
And, again, for informational purposes, we recommend Haymarket's MyCME website for a detailed overview of CME requirements for nurse practitioners for all 50 states; view it here.
The more continuing medication education courses you take, the more informed and up-to-date you are as a practicing physician, physician assistant or nurse practitioner. Healthcare professionals who are fluent in the latest practices and technology are always more in-demand than those practitioners who neglect such knowledge — something that will likely work to your advantage later in your career, whether or not you continue to work locum tenens.
We invite you to share these CME resources with your social networks, and with ours! Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and YouTube.
More Physician Resources
Please note that the websites listed above are owned and operated by private CME companies and may reflect those companies' views and opinions. Staff Care does not endorse, and is not partnered with, these websites, and offers them for informational purposes only.
Image (c) Can Stock Photo / focalpoint