MYTH: Existing current competence requirements are unnecessary.

REALITY: Sadly, there is ample data indicating we could and should do a better job to help our healthcare providers maintain and demonstrate their continuing competence!

The prevalence of medical errors and incorrect diagnoses documented by the National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) and others makes a compelling case for more effective continuing professional development and evaluation.

Malpractice suits, payouts and settlements combined with state licensing board disciplinary data indicate that at least some healthcare practitioners have inadequate knowledge, judgment or skills to provide safe and effective care.

Many if not most existing current competence programs for voluntary credentialing and licensing rely primarily and sometimes exclusively on mandated continuing education (CE) that is untargeted, classroom style, single session CE. Research shows this approach is less effective than programs that require demonstration of skills and knowledge.

Many if not most existing current competence programs miss the opportunity to improve practice and enhance patient safety because they don’t include testing and feedback to assist health care professionals improve their knowledge and skills.

MYTH: Continuing Education (CE) is all we need to keep healthcare professionals competent.

REALITY: Conventional CE is widely discredited as a surrogate for competence and does not change practitioner behaviors or improve patient outcomes.


Most CE is didactic and takes place in a conference classroom; adults learn better from interactive learning that allows them to practice a skill than from listening to a lecture.

Most CE is single-session, whereas adults learn better with multiple session CE, with multiple modalities and with reminders (follow-up email, newsletters, charts, etc.)

Most CE isn’t chosen to address the learner’s knowledge and skill deficiencies identified by objective, third-party assessment

Not all CE includes an assessment to measure knowledge gained or practice improvements, validating that learning is taking place.

Many practitioners chose CE for its location, cost or convenience rather than the subject matter or quality of instruction

MYTH: Healthcare practitioners know what they need to learn – objective assessments are unnecessary.

REALITY: Practitioner self-assessment is shown to be inaccurate, especially for practitioners who are low in ability.

Data suggests that high-ability practitioners tend to underestimate their knowledge, while low-ability practitioners tend to over-estimate their knowledge. Overconfidence in one’s knowledge and ability is dangerous for consumers/patients.

MYTH: Testing doesn’t promote learning; it just generates anxiety and costs too much money.

REALITY: Modern day testing clearly promotes learning.

Feedback to test-takers can direct them to correct answers and additional study resources.

Testing indicates what an individual already knows and where new or remedial education should be concentrated.

Research shows that learning enhanced by testing is better and more durable than education alone.

The National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) has stated that periodic demonstration of knowledge, skills and judgment are critical to public safety.

MYTH: My patients know and trust me – there’s no need for some artificial recertification testing program.

REALITY: Consumers and patients expect that their healthcare practitioners are demonstrating their competence.

 Multiple consumer surveys show that consumers and patients expect that their healthcare practitioners are being tested or otherwise being required to demonstrate current competence on a regular basis.

Consumer surveys show most consumers and patients expect that their healthcare practitioners should be tested frequently (preferably every other year – no longer than every five years).

MYTH: Knowledge is permanent—there no need to retest practitioners on the same content.

REALITY: Knowledge deteriorates over time and/or can become obsolete.

General professional knowledge is known to deteriorate or decline steadily over the professional’s life.

Knowledge acquired quickly becomes obsolete as technology advances and new discoveries are made. Professional knowledge and skills require continuous updating and enhancement with the most current evidence that informs practice.