A well-educated workforce is necessary for improving health care. But despite the long period of professional training and the nature of today’s information-rich health care environment, it remains unclear whether health professionals are effectively and efficiently learning in ways that maintain minimum levels of competence and help improve performance. During the past 30 years, research shows limited effects of continuing education in applied learning opportunities. This must change toward a system that more definitively asserts the value and effectiveness of learning in health care.

The status quo is unacceptable; poor quality of care continues to threaten patient safety, further fragment the system, and potentially increase waste. Inaction would signify society’s unwillingness to support health professional development to systematically improve quality and patient safety in a timely manner. The root of the problem lies with the culture and environment in which health professionals practice, inhibiting them from providing the best possible care.

Although difficult, change is possible and needs to overcome the many challenges facing CPD. Reform is needed to provide health professionals with the capacity to perform to their highest potential. The CPD system needs to be coordinated and harmonized, but cannot and will not be without a central convener. With cooperation and central coordination, clinicians can continuously and systemically improve, raising their levels of knowledge and competence in the care of patients by functional teams. Action must result in the advances needed to assure the public of the health care workforce’s ability to provide high quality, safe care.


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ACCME (Accreditation Council on Continuing Medical Education). 2009. Joint accreditation for the provider of continuing education for the healthcare team. (accessed April 15, 2009).

EPOC (Effective Practice and Organisation of Care). 2009. Priority topics. (accessed April 24, 2009).

FSMB (Federation of State Medical Boards). 2008. Special Committee on Maintenance of Licensure draft report on maintenance of licensure. (accessed July 30, 2009).

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