Continuing Education Should Be Interprofessional, Team-based, Report Says

March 24, 2010 01:25 pm News Staff

A report sponsored by the Association of American Medical Colleges, or AAMC, and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, or AACN, describes the "preferred future" for continuing education, or CE, for health professionals as including increased diversity in CE methods and greater use of technologies to deliver evidence-based information.

The report, Lifelong Learning in Medicine and Nursing(, which was funded by the Josiah Macy Foundation, says CE should get away from didactic lectures as the primary format for imparting information and should emphasize interprofessional and team-based education. The panel of thought leaders and organizational representatives in medicine and nursing who produced the report directs its recommendations to stakeholders in education, practice and regulation.

The recommendations are similar to those in an Institute of Medicine, or IOM, report, Redesigning Continuing Education in the Health Professions(, that called for creating a national interprofessional CE institute to achieve a new vision of continuing professional development for health professionals with the goal of improving patient care and health care delivery.

According to an executive summary of the AAMC/AACN report, the recommendations on education encourage faculty members responsible for basic and undergraduate training, as well as CE providers, to promote "interprofessionalism, collaboration and the development of lifelong learning skills." CE providers also should support the adoption of innovative and more "learner-centered" teaching methods.

Specifically, the recommendations on education call for

  • educators and curriculum planners to incorporate meaningful, formal and experiential interprofessional education, or IPE, in entry level and advanced training of all health professionals;
  • licensing and certifying bodies to develop and assess interprofessional team competencies in conjunction with health professional organizations;
  • continuing education providers, faculty members, and certification and CE accreditation bodies to create strategies for outcomes-oriented IPE, including streamlined curricula and program design and the development of certification processes that encourage IPE; and
  • health care institutions to create or collaborate to ensure multiple opportunities for interactive health professional learning experiences.

According to the report, primary care workforce shortages, access to care for underserved populations, and family-oriented and preventive care needs have driven the
development of interprofessional care models, and education needs to incorporate these new models. Stakeholders should adopt a new IPE framework that is patient-centered and nimble and that contains IPE "across the entire educational continuum, from admission into a health professional program through retirement."

CE methods, activities and interventions must be relevant to health care practitioners and improve patient care, says the report. Although didactic, classroom CE imparts new knowledge, the method has little effect on provider performance. The report's authors suggest that interventions include outreach visits by knowledgeable professionals, use of opinion leaders, reminders at the point-of-care, protocols and checklists, and audits and feedback on clinical implementation to improve performance.

Some specific recommendations on CE include that providers should increase their engagement in professional development processes, including teaching strategies and methods, to reshape CE and address the diverse learning styles and needs of practicing clinicians. Educational strategies could include the use of multiple media, interactive techniques, online methods and post-course follow-up. Information and communication technology training would include the use of audio/videoconferencing and the Internet.

In addition, the report recommends that CE accrediting bodies continue, accelerate and strengthen efforts to support alignment of CE methods with health system and health professional needs, and that certifying boards, licensing boards and other credentialing and health care regulatory agencies collaborate to adopt requirements for continuing education that incorporate evidence-based effective methods.

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