made it difficult if not impossible to identify effective educational methods and to integrate those methods into coordinated, broad-based programs that meet the needs of the diverse range of health professionals.
Continuing education efforts should bring health professionals from various disciplines together in carefully tailored learning environments. As team-based health care delivery becomes increasingly important, such interprofessional efforts will enable participants to learn both individually and as collaborative members of a team, with a common goal of improving patient outcomes.
A new, comprehensive vision of professional development is needed to replace the culture that now envelops continuing education in health care. Such a vision will be key in guiding efforts to address flaws in current CE efforts and to ensure that all health professionals engage effectively in a process of lifelong learning aimed squarely at improving patient care and population health.
Establishing a national interprofessional CE institute is a promising way to foster improvements in CE for health professionals. This report proposes the creation of a public-private entity that involves the full spectrum of stakeholders in health care delivery and continuing education and that is charged with developing and overseeing comprehensive change in the way CE is conducted, financed, regulated, and evaluated.
For health professionals, continuing education encompasses the period of learning from postlicensure to career’s end. CE is intended to enable health professionals to keep their knowledge and skills up to date, with the ultimate goal of helping health professionals provide the best possible care, improve patient outcomes, and protect patient safety.
The reality of continuing education, however, is far different. Although there are instances of programs focused on those goals, on an overarching level the U.S. approach to CE has many flaws:
Health professionals and their employers tend to focus on meeting regulatory requirements rather than identifying personal knowledge gaps and finding programs to address them. Many of the regulatory organizations that oversee CE tend