Maintaining lifelong knowledge and skills is essential for safe clinical practice. Continuing medical education (CME) is an established method that can facilitate lifelong learning. It focuses on maintaining or developing knowledge, skills and relationships to ensure competent practice (1).
Continuing medical education (CME) is important for professional development among health personnel (2). Educational institutes can provide the opportunity for lifelong learning by conducting a CME programme of continuing medical education (3). The manual of the International Association for Medical Education (the AMEE guide), defines CME as “any activity that is intended to maintain, develop or increase the knowledge, skills, and professional performance and relationships that a physician uses to provide services for patients, the public, or the profession”(4).
The primary purpose of CME is to improve doctors’ clinical performance that ultimately influences the quality of the health outcome. In addition, it decreases professional isolation and sustains interest and confidence (2). CME can take the form of reading journals, attending lectures and seminars, rounds, small group work, audit, informal consultations with colleagues, interactive computer programs and practice visiting.
CME has received increasing attention because of the major changes that it has undergone in recent years - in terms of teaching methods, expectations for results and learning objectives. The effectiveness of CME plays a key role changing the practices and behaviour of clinicians (5).
CME is considered a core component of continuous professional development (CPD). The term CPD addresses a wide range of skills, including education, training, audit, management, team building and communication. The terms CME and CPD are often used interchangeably. In reality CME contributes to CPD.
Recently, the emphasis of CME has shifted from improving knowledge to improving skills, performance and patient outcome through altering clinician practice behaviours (6). Therefore, clinicians are increasingly engaging in learning activities that provide specialist teaching beyond didactic lectures (7). The CPD activities of practicing clinicians are being integrated with practice based learning and improvement (PBLI). Consequently, newer CME methods are being designed to include the concept of PBLI. These CME methods use multimedia, multi-technique and multiple exposures to maximize compliance with PBLI (8). The award of CME points contributes to improved participation at clinical meetings and conferences.
Evolving professional, social and political pressures highlight the importance of lifelong learning for clinicians. Continuing medical education (CME) facilitates lifelong learning and is a fundamental factor in the maintenance of certification. Successful CME must be truly continuous and not opportunistic, erratic or casual. Despite limited evidence, CME appears to be useful at the acquisition and retention of knowledge, attitudes, skills, behaviours and clinical outcomes. Improved CME practice must in turn lead to continuing critical reflection, practice modification and implementation with a focus towards the excellence of patient care (1).
The role of CME in the improvement of clinical practice is currently well established. It is evident that CME will play an even greater role in future clinical practice. Therefore, it is our responsibility to conduct comprehensive CME programs to educate the clinicians and to ensure quality assurance in clinical practice.
Dr. N.P Senanayake
Senior Lecturer in Microbiology
Faculty of medicine
General Sir John Kotelawala Defence University
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