Whether required for licensure, sought for professional advancement, or needed as part of an advanced degree, continuing professional education plays an important role in today’s licensing and professional development. The methods of delivering continuing education are vast and varied and have come a long way the past 25 years. Since continuing education guidelines and requirements vary from state to state, it is crucial for licensed health care professionals to remain informed about what is required by states in which they practice. In a world of instructional advancement, wide provider choices, and state guidelines, the issues are numerous, and a well-thought-out plan is a necessity in putting together the pieces.
STATE LICENSURE CONTINUING EDUCATION REQUIREMENTS
It is imperative that licensed health care providers know what the requirements are for their particular professions. In consideration of today’s technology, most licensing boards and departments of state licensing have this information readily available online. Simply choose an Internet search engine and conduct a key word search for a particular state licensing board. Once the appropriate Web site is accessed, clinicians can connect to the commonly visited link for continuing education license renewal requirements. Regardless of the rehab profession, OT, PT, PTA, COTA, athletic trainers, etc, the information is easily attainable and extremely important to know well in advance of the CE information due date for license renewal.
A key piece of information to look for when reviewing renewal information is the possible limitation of delivery method hours accepted by a licensing board. For example, in the state of Florida, physical therapists cannot submit more than 12 hours of the required 24 CEUs during a biennium through online/home study courses.1 This simple inquiry into state guidelines can prevent a surprise deficit at renewal time.
Another important detail to consider in forming a CE plan is an individual state’s conversion of graduate credit to CEUs for licensure purposes. The example below is a guideline provided by the Florida Department of Health/Board of Physical Therapy Practice:”(a) Courses sponsored by a program in physical therapy at a college or university which provides a curriculum for training physical therapists or physical therapist assistants, when approved by the physical therapy or physical therapy assistants program, which is accredited by, or has status with an accrediting agency approved by the United States Department of Education. One credit hour is the equivalent of one contact hour.”2
Fellowship and residency programs can also be thought of when gathering CE documentation. The State of New Jersey, for example, offers a method of conversion for state licensure as referenced by the following:”(e) A licensed physical therapist who successfully completes a residency or fellowship approved by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) shall receive 15 continuing education credits for the biennial licensure period in which the residency takes place.”3
In summation, becoming familiar with state licensure requirements can save time and potential headaches down the road.
When considering a CE delivery method such as an in-person seminar or Web-based option, the first step is to determine what is to be achieved. If it is clinical expertise, then a “live” seminar is in order. This will enable the learner to obtain a new skill or treatment technique that requires the guidance and instruction of an expert in order to keep both clinician and patient safe and to practice and properly implement the newly learned skill.
If the goal for the learner is to broaden base of knowledge with research in specific topic areas, such as imaging or business management, then the learner may want to consider an online option. Online options are not only convenient, but also cost-effective as they eliminate travel expenses and allow the learner to continue to work without interruption and learn at a time that is convenient. A relatively new online delivery option that is gaining popularity in continuing education is the webinar. This enables the attendee to hear first-hand information while also allowing participant interaction as if it were being conducted in a classroom.
In addition, the “read and test” CEU offerings in peer publications may be another possibility. Normally, this option is associated with very few CEU hours, most commonly .1 CEUs, which indicates an hour of commitment from the participant. Once the article is read, a short test is administered, and with a passing score the CEUs are awarded. This method gives health care professionals a taste of a topic and, if interested, they may further explore other in-depth offerings in that area.
CHOOSING A PROVIDER
Use the following checklist of questions when choosing a continuing education provider:
- Is the entity well established?
- Are the instructors experienced?
- Is the program accredited or is the entity evaluated by an independent source?
- Will the CEUs awarded count toward licensure?
Regardless of health care profession, high standards and quality are essential. Accreditation and/or oversight by a third party assures the participant that the provider must meet and adhere to strict guidelines on a continual, monitored basis. An example of such a continuing education entity is the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET).4 This organization is set up as a nonprofit association focused on assuring the quality of continuing education and training programs. Regardless of what provider is chosen for CE learning, the CE consumer should become adequately informed about the provider and be confident all units are fully accredited and recognized.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
The decision is yours! You are the health care provider and “consumer” of continuing education, which allows you the choice to move your career as well as your profession forward. Establishing a well-thought-out continuing education plan and/or goal can position you to earn a certification or even an advanced degree. This in turn can lead to specialized areas of care as well as potential professional advancement. Take advantage of continuing your education and your passion!
Lori Hankins is the Director of Continuing Professional Education at the University of St. Augustine in Florida. The university is a nationally accredited institution offering graduate education for physical therapists, occupational therapists, and orthopedic physician assistants. For more information, contact .
- Florida Department of Health; Physical Therapy Continuing Education Licensure Renewal Requirements. www.doh.state.fl.us/mqa/physical/pt_ceu.html.
- Florida Department of State Division of Library and Information Services; Rule 64B17-9.001. www.flrules.org/gateway/RuleNo.asp?title=CONTINUING%20EDUCATION&ID=64B17-9.001.
- www.IACET.org www.iacet.org/content/about-iacet.html.