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What are Continuing Medical Education Cruises?

By Jeany Miller
Updated Feb 06, 2024
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Continuing medical education often provides physicians with accredited and current information concerning various health topics. Many regions impose local or national mandates on how many continuing credits a licensed health care provider must complete. Venues for this learning regularly include continuing medical education cruises, which usually combine a relaxed environment with pertinent issues. Physicians often bring their families on such trips, as amenities are likely to mimic those of commercial cruises. Ship activities, port excursions and extended stays may be possible with some cruise lines.

The American Medical Association (AMA) is a membership body for practicing physicians in the 50 United States and its four licensing jurisdictions: the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The AMA not only maintains a directory of members for credentials purposes, but it has also set a standard for continuing medical education (CME). To illustrate, the AMA Physician Recognition Award Category 1 Credit system is generally recognized in the U.S. as the CME measuring unit and is accepted by all U.S. jurisdictions.

CME is often a crucial aspect of many physicians’ careers. Throughout the U.S., for example, many states impose mandates for medical education concerning such topics as pain management, geriatric care and patient safety. European countries that adhere to CME systems generally enact national requirements. CME is required in the United Kingdom and Germany for the renewal of medical practice licenses, and it is mandatory in Italy, Spain and France as well. Some countries, however, do not impose CME regulations and instead place the responsibility for learning on individual practitioners.

CME courses may be held through a variety of venues, such as in lecture halls or via online courses. Continuing medical education cruises offer another option to physicians who wish to use this time as a vacation. These trips are often noted for their relaxed learning environments that usually occur in the style of conferences. In many cases, physicians take their families on CME cruises, as both children’s programs and adult activities are often arranged on the ships.

Topics and destinations often vary with continuing medical education cruises. One conference, for example, may leave from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, and cover the subject of allergies and immunology. Another may leave from Bayonne, New Jersey, and discuss urology. CME cruises are likely to depart from and arrive at a number of different locations around the world. These trips often allow shore time as well at various pre-determined ports.

Similar to those professional courses often provided by a community college or technical school, CME cruises usually pair a credit value with each trip. Some cruises may be worth 14 credits, which often correlate to the AMA system. In turn, those credits may count toward a physician’s annual CME requirements. While ship activities are often available for physicians, such as tennis, golf and swimming, they receive credit only for those hours spent in attendance at conferences or meetings.

A series of steps are often required of physicians who use continuing medical education cruises to fulfill state mandates. Usually, attendees complete an evaluation after the course is finished. The evaluation from that point often goes to the program’s accrediting body, which for many U.S. programs is the AMA. Once the paperwork is processed, a certificate of completion is often mailed to the attendee, which can be submitted to the appropriate state board for purpose of record-keeping or re-licensure.

Many features of medical conferences cruises are similar to those of commercial cruises. All-inclusive pricing is an option often available with both. For physicians, this likely means that social events and food are complimentary for their traveling guests. While many continuing medical education cruises are intended for physicians, some also exist for nurses, dentists, psychiatrists and pharmacists. Specialty cruises are also usually available for physician assistants, chiropractors and lawyers who specialize in medicine.

Additional amenities may allow physicians and their families to opt for pre- or post-cruise hotel packages that extend cruise vacations. Tours may also be available in some ports with such expeditions as those that explore Antarctica, the Amazon rain forests or African Serengeti. Continuing medical education cruises to such spots as Greece, Hawaii or Alaska may provide further options.

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