There are numerous CME conferences that offer courses in any specialty you can name, held in locations across the globe. It can be challenging, to say the least, to determine which are most beneficial to maintain your certification, and worth the cost (which can be substantial). Here’s a brief guide to CME conferences to help you determine which are the best and which are best to avoid.
The purpose of CME conferences
In general, the purpose of CME conferences is to offer education and training that helps physicians meet the ongoing maintenance of certification requirements for their specialty. Most conferences put a fine edge on the topics being discussed so that physicians can update their skills in very detailed areas of practice. For example, within the pediatrics specialty, you can find CME conferences that offer everything from behavioral issues in toddlers to immunizations. It’s up to the individual physician to determine which courses are best to pursue in any given year.
How to select CME conferences
Is the conference offering CME? When selecting a conference, confirm that CME credits are indeed being offered. Some conferences are skills updates or general presentations but not CME courses. Whether or not the conference offers CME credits can be confirmed easily by checking the conference website. For example, you should be able to find easily, information similar to this for each course:
Live, half-day, Commercial Support Free medical events. Approved for 20 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™, AAFP Prescribed, ACEP Category 1, and ACOG Cognate Credits.
Once you attend the conference, you will be given documentation that confirms you have completed the coursework and obtained CME credits. You do not receive CME credits merely by registering at the conference. You must attend the individual classes and complete the coursework.
Is the conference accredited? Check the accreditation of the conference and the presenters as well. It is always best to take CME courses at conferences that have been accredited by your professional association. It’s one more guarantee that there won’t be any question as to the validity of your CMEs when reviewed by your board.
What skills do you need to update? How you select a conference is based entirely on the skills you want to update, new information you want to learn, and the time and money you have to travel. Consider whether you want to learn the latest methods for intubation or you want the latest information on performance improvement, patient-centered care, and public health metrics.
Where do you want to go? Once you have determined the topics you want to study, then you can determine the location of the conference. It is possible to travel anywhere in the world for a conference and to combine personal vacation time with conference attendance. Some conferences are held on cruise ships or in exotic locales like Egypt. As you review the CME you need for the year, look at the conferences being held in your specialty and determine whether you want to drop in just for the courses or attend the conference as part of a vacation.
Is the conference commercial free? It’s always best to select a conference held by a reputable firm. Many now are promoting themselves as “commercial support free”, which indicates that Big Pharma and other industries with vested interests in swaying physician opinion are not involved in the conference. This is one result of the passage of the Federal Sunshine Act that requires transparent reporting of pharma/physician interactions. Once it was passed many physicians hesitated to participate in conferences as speakers, for fear of coming into conflict with the law.
Look for conference leaders
Just like anything else, sometimes a name brand is the best way to go. There are leaders in the CME conference world, and the quality of the CMEs they offer is virtually assured. Two of the best are:
The Osler Institute: Osler offers CMEs in 20 different specialties. They are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) and offer online review and in-person courses as well as home study audio review courses. Osler also offers online courses in 18 specific clinical specialties ranging from family medicine to plastic surgery. An added bonus is the Institute will make hotel reservations for you when booking space at a conference.
Hospital Procedures Consultants: HPC specializes in hospitalist and emergency procedure courses. HPC describes them as ideal for “...all physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurse anesthetists (CRNA), residents or students practicing hospital medicine, critical care, or emergency medicine.” HPC offers conferences, live, online and custom courses that include videos and books. HPC consultants will design a custom course and travel to the hospital to deliver it to physicians on-site.
HPC offers a very specific CME course called the “HPC Hospitalist, Trauma, and Emergency Procedures CME course”. It’s a two-part course, each of which is certified separately; a one day live course with hands-on procedural skills lab training and an internet-based curriculum.
Other sources for conferences include:
Get value for your dollar
Once you are attending the conference you have selected, try to get the most out of it. You are paying a lot of money to learn new information or refresh your skills. Yes, you may be attending on your weekend off, but try to interact with your peers and expand your network as well as your knowledge. Soak up as much information as possible. Not only will it keep your skills current, it may also enhance your position among your colleagues when you return home.