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How do Doctors Earn Continuing Medical Education Credits?

By K'Lee Banks
Updated Jan 24, 2024
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Lifelong learning is important for everyone, but it is especially crucial for doctors to earn continuing medical education credits. Doctors perform actions and make decisions that affect the health — and sometimes even the survival — of their patients. It is essential, therefore, that their medical education is kept current. Ongoing education and professional development can help ensure that doctors are aware of the latest advancements and expertise on procedures, treatments, and therapies, allowing them to provide quality care to patients.

Whether a resident or a practicing doctor with years of experience, a doctor can enhance his or her knowledge base, professional credibility and performance through continuing medical education (CME). Doctors can choose from various formats to complete their CME credits, depending on needs and availability. CME modules may be available in any of the following formats: live activities, online learning, print learning, or journal reviews of current breaking medical news and events. Print learning includes items such as workbooks and training manuals; journals may be print or online resources.

In some cases, doctors must complete their continuing medical education credits as hands-on activities, particularly if mastery of a new technique is part of the learning unit. Other times, online courses and exams can be sufficient to fulfill CME requirements. When available, computer-based training and online medical education can provide more convenient, flexible means for busy medical professionals to acquire mandatory credits and training.

On-site, live activities for continuing medical education credits may include a variety of hands-on training exercises. For instance, worldwide events including acts of war and terrorism, and devastating natural disasters, have led to mass casualty and disaster life support training for medical professionals. Other live training for CME credits includes demonstration of mastery in surgical preparation and procedures, new delivery of care techniques for specific conditions, and strategic life-saving maneuvers.

CME credits earned via computer-based training or online medical education modules are convenient for doctors currently practicing, who have very busy schedules. Modules are available for numerous topics and categories, covering every relevant area of a doctor’s individual practice. Some CME modules vary based on specific local, regional or national regulations. Other modules cover particular specialty practices, such as alternative medicine, bioterrorism, critical care, infectious diseases, medical ethics, and neurology.

It is important for doctors to ascertain whether their chosen medical education program has the approval and accreditation of their respective country’s governing medical association, such as the American Medical Association (AMA) in the US or the European Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (EACCME). Alternatively, programs offering continuing medical education credits may receive accreditation from the International Academy for Continuing Medical Education (IACME). Confirming that their program has legitimate accreditation ensures doctors that the time and effort spent will in fact count as CME credits.

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