Continuing medical education (CME) is vital to the practice of medicine and the healthcare industry. It has evolved over the years, from whirlwind workshops held locally to travel CME conferences at exciting destinations and online education featuring live webinars and on-demand courses by medical leaders. It is important that there are more CME options available because the requirements have also become more demanding.
Whether you’re excited to travel and ready to attend the next available CME conference or are content earning CME credits online and on-demand, now is a great time to revisit the basics of what CME is and its impact on you.
What is CME?
According to the American Association of Continuing Medical Education, continuing medical education (CME)is: “Educational activities that serve to maintain, develop, or increase the knowledge, skills and professional performance and relationships that a physician [or health professional] uses to provide services for patients, the public, or the profession.”
What are CME Credits?
CME generally refers to an educational endeavor that has been approved for CME credits. CME allowances are allotments that can be spent on earning CME credits. States and medical entities like hospitals set a standard for the number of CME credits needed annually to maintain licensure and practice at a particular facility. Doctors, nurses and other eligible practitioners can be prohibited from seeing patients and put their employment at risk if credit requirements are not met.
Who Awards CME Credits?
For physicians like MDs and DOs, credits are authorized by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME). Other frequent recipients of CME credits are nurses (ANCC), nurse practitioners (AANP) and physicians assistants (AAPA). Medical specialists like Urologists (AUA) and Clinical Oncologists (ASCO) can receive credits authorized by their corresponding professional organizations as well.
Who Needs CME?
Those with the titles listed in the section above need CME credits in all 50 U.S. states. Any person with a medical licensure and certification is likely to need some form of continuing education to continue practicing. But CME isn’t just about the year’s requirements, it is a career-long endeavor that expands medical knowledge and professional development. Keep in mind that it is the practitioner’s responsibility to keep up with CME credits and connect with their employer, state licensing boards and their applicable professional association, like the AMA.
Spending your CME Credit Allowance
There are multiple ways to earn CME credits with your annual CME allowance. The number of credits required varies on the professional position held. Some states and professional associations had shrunk requirements due to the pandemic. If the pandemic contributed to you falling behind, check to see what options are available to you in your state. Temporary licensure could be available depending on your standing and eligibility.
CME Seminars can help you remain in good standing with your state and facility with a variety of informative courses available as travel conferences, webinars, on-demand online courses–all designed by top medical experts. You can also earn credits without spending your allowance by proctoring established accredited CME curricula or creating your own courses to be used by other practitioners. Self-produced courses must be submitted and receive formal accreditation by governing bodies like the ACCME (for physicians), prior to receiving CME credit for your materials.
Keep in mind that not all CME credits are created equal. For physicians, this means earning both elective and prescribed credits in a given year. Prescribed credits are considered “formal activities” and are directly related to clinical and patient-focused topics. For physicians, elective credits are more flexible and comprise a smaller number of total required credits. They can involve topics related to medicine more broadly or be self-study that requires submitted documentation to governing bodies.