Reflecting on Continuing Medical Education

This month, I’ve been struggling with and thinking about my own continuing medical education. I consider myself fortunate to have a laboratory medicine practice. Our work directly impacts nearly every patient in our hospitals and clinics. Our river of knowledge is wide, and in certain places, quite deep.

Why then should I be concerned with continuing medical education?

I am well-trained, board-certified, and work in a large multi-specialty group practice. Doesn’t continuing medical education just happen? In other words, are the experiences of daily medical practice and annual society meetings sufficient for maintaining my medical knowledge, skills, and behaviors? In the case of daily medical practice, I’m concerned about the natural gaps that develop given the realities of clinical practice. Hence, we supplement with educational sessions at medical conferences. But how do we choose which sessions to attend? Initially, I was laser-focused on sessions that interested me. After training, I started making a conscious effort to attend sessions in my weaker areas. In recent years, the presence of self-assessment module (SAM) credits, necessary for my recertification, has taken priority in my session attendance decisions.

I wonder . . . how do these activities integrate into my curriculum?

Continuing medical education is profoundly important. It is our mechanism of maintaining competence. It is how we offer the very best patient care. A component of professionalism, continuous medical education is self-regulated. Is self-regulation of continuous medical education a competency? Are there degrees of proficiency relevant to one’s skill at maintaining competence?

How do you manage your ongoing education? Do you have a longitudinal plan? Do you take an active or passive role when it comes to maintaining competency? How often do you think about your continuing medical education?

Turning to the wisdom of TED speaker Kio Stark, “Independent learning is a lie . . . . [We] need to find a learning community.” For me, a salient example is learning the bass guitar. I got a bass in 1997. I learned on my own from books until 2014. Then, I found a teacher and doubled my knowledge after two lessons! Do you use a learning community or a helper of any kind for continuous medical education? In what ways could your continuing medical education become even better?

Relevant to several aspects of this blog post, I recommend the Institute of Medicine’s publication on continuously learning health care in America. I offer my professional gratitude to those who comment below and share personal answers to some of these questions!

Justin Kreuter

Justin Kreuter

Justin Kreuter, M.D., is a clinical pathologist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. His practice consists of both general and subspecialty aspects of clinical pathology. At Federal Medical Center-Rochester, Dr. Kreuter runs the general laboratory that supports a local in-patient population and does a large amount of reference work. At Mayo Clinic, Dr. Kreuter's time is split between the transfusion medicine service and transplant laboratory. In addition to clinical activities, his academic interests include several aspects of medical education, including teaching clinical judgment, frameworks for feedback, and reflection in medical practice.