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Article Date: 4/1/2007

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BY WALTER D. WEST, O.D., F.A.A.O.
Chief Optometric Editor

In Quest of the Minimuma

Let’s transform continuing education into a system that truly benefits optometrists, industry and patients.

Continuing education (CE) for optometry is to some degree, required in all 50 states for license renewal. The number of hours varies, as does the length of time to complete the required hours.

In some states you can receive your CE credits merely because your body happens to be in the room in which a presentation is given, while in other states, transcript-quality-CE requires not only your attendance, but a certain level of attention, so that you can pass a multiple choice examination certified by an accredited school or college of optometry. So the requirements vary and the quality of presentations vary, as do the quality of the attendees, their attention and the enhancement of their education.

Exposing a weakness

I find it interesting that most optometrists seem to be on a quest to gain the required number of CE hours, that is, the minimum required by law. In addition, a required course may not fill a specific need for a particular optometrist. For example, an optometrist may attend a CE course on retinal pathology while his individual weakness might be ocular surface disease.

Whether you view CE as education or a reduction of ignorance, it’s good. But have you ever stopped to wonder why certain topics are presented at the state, regional and national meetings around the country? How do they put together those six or eight tracks of CE?

Most meetings that provide CE have an educational committee, or at least an educational chairman. These individuals attempt to offer a curriculum that is varied and meets the needs of their attendees.

And how is the education at these meetings funded? To a large degree, the continuing education meetings are funded through grants from industry, and I thank them for their support. While this funding is critical, it makes the responsibility of the educational committee or chairman tougher. They must not only serve attendees, but ensure that industry receives value for the dollars they have invested or “granted.” In some cases, I wonder if the curriculum is a function of what grant was given by which company, rather than what the needs of the attendees might be. It can be a difficult balance. Industry should receive value for their investments or grants, but at the same time, a meeting’s curriculum should be based on the needs of the attendees.

O.D.s may attend a course on retinal pathology while their weakness is ocular surface disease.

So how do individual optometrists know what they need? Unfortunately, in many cases they don’t. In fact, many don’t care, they just want the “hours,” not the knowledge, not the education and not the enhanced understanding of the topic presented, which results in more comprehensive care for their patients.

Assess it for yourself

For those who do care, however, I believe that industry, along with the educational leadership, could provide a vital service by providing a self-assessment for potential meeting attendees. This self-assessment, which could be located on the meeting’s registration Web site, would allow optometrists to anonymously test their knowledge in the areas covered during the meeting. Based on the completed assessment, attendees would receive course recommendations.

The great thing is that everyone wins. The meeting planners really know what courses they need to offer, industry knows where to make the greatest impact with their grants, and practitioners can prioritize their focus on topics that will benefit them most. Ultimately, our patients receive better care.

Just a thought.



Optometric Management, Issue: April 2007

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