Continuing Education in Health Careers

Continuing education (CE) is an absolute necessity in health careers and is often required for state licensure or certification. The field of medicine constantly changes with new discoveries, medications, treatments, and equipment. To maintain competency and remain eligible for certification or licensure, health care workers must continuously update their knowledge base and skills.

A medical or clinical laboratory technologist must learn about new equipment and newly developed tests. A health information technician must be up-to-date on health care software, federal guidelines, and insurance processing systems. A patient advocate must remain aware of changes in health care, approval, and reimbursement policies. Physicians, physician assistants, and nurses must keep abreast of all medical advances.

Continuing education is offered through a number of avenues. The staff at a physician's private practice may participate in seminars or workshops led by the physician, a registered nurse, or outside instructors. Medical care providers, including physicians, physician assistants, and nurses, might read medical journals or attend online educational sessions. They may also attend nearby single-day seminars or far-away multi-day conferences.

Hospitals frequently build their own continuing education programs by using staff specialists to educate others. Continuing education conferences are offered by medical organizations and associations to cover general and highly-specialized topics. For example, the American College of Cardiology offers an annual international symposium on congenital heart disease in the adult. The American Nurses Association offers a continuing education module in basic genetics and genomics. The American Health Information Management Association offers an all-day seminar in ICD-10-CM/PCS: Building Expert Trainers in Diagnosis and Procedure Coding. Free continuing education opportunities can be found through professional journals and associations, while major conferences tend to demand a significant fee.

Required continuing education hours to maintain certification or licensure varies. Health information technicians must complete 20 continuing education units every two years for recertification. A physician assistant must log 100 continuing medical education (CME) hours every two years to maintain licensure. A physician's required CME credits vary by the physician's licensing state. A physician in Wyoming need complete 30 hours of continuing education over a two-year period, a relatively low amount. In contrast, physicians in Pennsylvania must complete 100 hours of continuing medical education every two years. Of course, many health care workers complete more than the required amount.

Continuing education is an absolute necessity to maintain many credentials and licenses. Necessity aside, continuing education provides the up-to-date knowledge needed to be a state-of-the-art practitioner or health care worker and to ensure that all the knowledge and skills are in place to maximize positive impact for patients. While journals, online education modules, and webinars offer low-cost, convenient access to CE, educational meetings and symposia offer an opportunity to visit and bond with colleagues. Numerous opportunities exist to support all health care positions, budgets, and schedules.

Last Updated: 05/21/2014