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10 Tips to Make the Most of CME Opportunities

Integrating Intellectual Growth in the Modern Age. By Bryan Campbell & Melissa Carter

OK, we know. completing continuing medical education (CME) is not always at the top of your list of favorite things to do. particularly when regulatory boards and licensing authorities impose seemingly arbitrary and cumbersome requirements that may seem irrelevant to your everyday practice. With the resulting box-checking, credit-counting and searching for mysterious “mandatory” education, it is no wonder that physicians are left scratching their heads, wondering about the point of it all. Throw in the fact that Florida has an official continuing education tracking system (CE Broker) tied in with the renewal of healthcare licenses, and it is a potential recipe for confusion.
Yet, we can all agree that when done well, CME can and should be an invaluable tool for busy healthcare practitioners challenged to stay abreast of advancements in the field, changing practice guidelines and rapidly evolving research and technology. The bottom line is that participation in accredited CME helps physicians maintain their Florida license, earn board certification status and fulfill credentialing requirements. There is no doubt that a healthcare system without CME would be a much less effective and scarier place to be for patients.
The good news is that the American Medical Association (AMA), as the owner of AMA PRA Category 1 creditTM, and the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME), as the national organization entrusted with setting CME accreditation standards, are working diligently to advance a CME system that values relevance, drives quality and creates positive change. According to the ACCME, “Clinicians are expected to deliver safe, effective, cost effective, compassionate care, based on best practice and evidence. Accredited CME helps make that happen.” As staff members of the Duval County Medical Society (DCMS) and the Florida Medical Association (FMA), we strive to provide educational activities and products that are cost-effective and relevant for our members. Indeed, we have written this article to encourage physicians and help you make the most of your educational opportunities. Since you have to participate in CME, it should be relevant, supportive, and dare we say it, enjoyable. 

Here are ten tips to help you make the most of the CME opportunities available to you as a Florida physician:

1. Think Locally. Many county medical societies, state specialty societies, and community hospitals are either accredited by the FMA or work in partnership with an accredited organization (like DCMS) to offer convenient educational courses addressing issues that affect you as a local practitioner. Allow them to support you in your effort to practice good medicine.

2. Read the Fine Print. Before participating in an online activity/enduring material or registering for a live course, it is a good practice to confirm what organization is accrediting an activity, as well as the number of credits you can earn for participation. There should be a credit and designation statement on every CME brochure that clearly identifies the organization responsible for approving the activity and the number of CME credits a learner can earn for participation. Even save-the- date notices should include a brief statement about who is approving the activity for CME credit. The ACCME website features a Find a CME Provider search tool, which allows you to verify an organization’s status as an accredited CME provider.

3. Don’t Pay for CME, if Possible. This one may seem like a no-brainer, but it can be easy to miss free opportunities when you are rushing around to find the CME you need. There is a wealth of free CME available to you through local hospitals and medical associations. For example, much of the of the state-mandated topic-area CME in Florida (e.g., HIV/AIDS, Domestic Violence, Medical Errors) is available for free to DCMS members and FMA members via our websites: and Log on and check it out.

4. CME On the Go. Technology gives you unique opportunities to complete CME. If you enjoy listening to podcasts on your commute or during your morning runs, why not apply that time to earning CME credit? There are a number of podcast CME sources available for download, and the number is growing every day. Open your favorite podcast player (iTunes, Sticher, Pod-Beam), search for “CME,” and start learning.

5. Think Outside the Box. Thanks in part to the work of the AMA and ACCME to streamline accreditation requirements and respond to the evolving needs of health care practitioners, many CME providers are starting to accredit activities beyond regular formats (e.g. live and online CME) and content (e.g. mostly clinical topics). CME providers are beginning to see the value of accrediting activities that focus on emerging topics like
leadership, as well as activities that physicians must engage in for performance improvement credit or to earn CMS performance incentives. Although it is still early days, it can’t hurt to ask your CME provider if you can earn CME for something a little less traditional.

6. Double Dip. CME providers now have the option to use a single, shared system for registering CME and MOC for some specialty boards, including ABA MOCA, ABP MOC, ABIM MOC, and ABPath Continuing Certification. Looking for specialty conferences that offer both CME and MOC points can really pay off in the long run.

7. Take a Long Weekend. Out-of-town conferences are a great way to earn quality,
specialty-relevant CME over a long weekend. You might even be able to knock out most of
the 40 credits you are required to complete as a Florida-licensed physician. Conferences often come with a higher price tag, but time spent listening to thought leaders, networking with colleagues, and browsing exhibit halls is truly invaluable. We all need the opportunity to recharge our batteries from time to time.

8. Mix Business and Pleasure. When you identify a good out-of-town meeting that supports your CME needs, why not bring the family along? Everyone benefits. There are thousands of accredited CME providersin the United States and this means lots of opportunities in terms of content, format, and locales. The DCMS has offered CME cruises to the Bahamas and Alaska. The FMA, like many medical associations, has its Annual Meeting in Orlando, the perfect destination for kids. Organizations often pair CME with ski trips, European tours, and spa getaways. Doctor’s Review ( is one website that enables you to search for CME conferences by specialty and location. These organizations often are able to deliver prices that are lower than you would receive as a regular tourist.

9. Ask Your CME Provider to Report to CE Broker. Although self-submission to CE Broker is fairly simple, why not bypass this extra step and rely on your CME provider to do it? One less thing is one less thing. We are happy to report that all CME provided by the DCMS and the FMA are reported to CE Broker for your convenience.

10. Don’t underestimate the evaluation section of CME. Communicate with CME providers about your experience and let them know how you think the education they provided will impact you as a practitioner. Don’t be shy about including constructive criticisms or suggestions for improvement.

As providers of CME ourselves, we can promise
you that evaluation data is like gold. It is used to plan future programming and to validate the effects of the accredited CME we offer. Though we can’t erase the many challenges that you face every day as a practicing physician, we hope that you can use these tips to make your CME what it should be—relevant, beneficial, and effective.

  • By Bryan Campbell and Melissa Carter