When I shadowed my podiatrist mentor prior to entering medical school, he informed me that the work of a doctor’s education is never done. There is no end to the literature and there is no end to the learning. Even though my days of sitting in the classroom lectures ended with medical school, doctors are required to continue their learning and education. My undergrad motto was “Enter to learn, go forth to Serve.” Now, for me as a medical professional, it is both a requirement and duty to continue to learn as I go forth to serve.
Required by Law
The Medical Practice Act of 1987 made continuing medical education for Illinois physicians part of the medical license renewal process. Each physician is required to complete 150 hours of continuing medical education in the three years prior to renewing their license, which works out to over a full work week keeping up on current practices, new treatment options and protocols.(1)
Conferences, lectures and credits, oh my!
What do clinicians do to earn CME (Continuing Medical Education)?
CME hours can be earned by attending conferences, participating in formal education events, or completing online or other training courses.
As a student, I spent a considerable amount of time at conferences, easily earning the 50 hours per year required. I have a few observations to share
1. CME is not cheap! Conferences are generally held at resort destinations and therefore the airfare and hotel accommodations factor into the cost as well as the registration fee for the conference. Las Vegas, Hawaii, Orlando? Probably not the most painful places for a medical conference.
2. Doctors go through a lot of effort to stay on top of current medical literature and practice. If you’ve heard about something, go ahead and ask your doctor, because it’s pretty certain than he or she has heard of it too, and knows what’s going on with it.
3. CME for surgeons involves new surgical techniques, training with new technologies and equipment, and CME allows surgeons to familiarize themselves with these new procedures or instruments before using them with patients. So, just because your doctor may have been around for awhile, you still will have the chance for state-of-the-art care by an educated, prepared physician.
4. Medical and residency are not the end of a physician’s learning and training. It’s a lifelong pursuit, one which benefits both the doctors, nurses, and patients involved.
So, don’t be upset if your doctor is out of town at a medical conference, which may inconvenience your appointment planning. You want your doctor to be educated, and get those CME credits.
As I finish eight years of formal education after high school (college and medical school), and consider the next three years of residency education, I will remember Dr. Williams’ injunction “You always have to read!” Although my “formal” education may be behind me, I look forward to continuing to learn and improve so that I can be the best, well-informed physician I can be.