Understanding CE providers

Oct. 2, 2014
What courses will be recognized in licensure audits?

What courses will be recognized in licensure audits?


Author's note: This month's From the Podium is a collaborative effort between Kristy Menage Bernie, RDH, BS, RYT, and myself. I would like to thank Kristy for her assistance in compiling this column.

You have attended more than the required continuing education courses for your state dental hygiene license renewal. You have kept all the certificates in a file and returned your license renewal form with appropriate fees and received your license, as well as notification of a continuing education audit. Depending on the state, you must provide copies of the CE certificates for all courses taken during the renewal period. You forward the required paperwork and receive notification that 10 hours of the submitted coursework are NOT accepted for your renewal. What happened? The certificates were issued by dental/dental hygiene societies, and they even have CERP or PACE logos. Why are certain courses accepted for license renewal while others are not? How can you evaluate if courses are appropriate for CE credit?

The past several years have seen changes in continuing education programs. The American Dental Association Continuing Education Recognition Program (CERP) and the Academy of General Dentistry Program Approval for Continuing Education (PACE) have revisited and revised their guidelines. These guidelines help ensure that continuing education programs are appropriate in scientific and educational content.

Both CERP and PACE certify only providers of CE rather than content of courses. Providers participating in either CERP or PACE are required to remind course attendees that courses with CERP or PACE certification may not meet their individual state requirements. Individual state licensing boards determine the appropriateness of particular courses. Providers need to present programs that contain scientifically sound, generally accepted principles or methods that can be substantiated or documented, and whenever possible, relate to evidence-based care. Continuing education presenters must also disclose any financial benefits that they may be receiving from the presentation or any related activities.

The only dental hygiene organization with a formal approved provider program similar to CERP and PACE is the American Academy of Dental Hygiene (AADH). In addition to credentialing groups, since 1985 the AADH certifies individuals who provide CE programs. The Standards of Quality Continuing Education for AADH closely follow those of the most stringent state requirements, and as such, courses that are not clinical in nature do not meet AADH standards. Currently, 17 states list AADH providers as those who are approved to issue credit toward licensure renewal. The individual standards and other organization information can be accessed at www.aadh.org.

The requirements of most states focus on patient safety and clinical-based topics designed to maintain "competency." Courses that focus on business skills not related to dental practice management, self-improvement, or individual success are not accepted toward license renewal. The state boards of registration in dentistry/dental hygiene oversee the licensure process for each state; these boards function under a consumer affair-based agency for the state, and as such their priority is that of consumer safety.

As states vary in their CE requirements, dental professionals are expected to know their state requirements, statutes, and laws pertaining to practice. Today, it's easier than ever to remain up-to-date by accessing the state board/committee's website. Continuing education requirements can be located in statutes or laws and are accessed via a simple search of the state's web page documents.

Do dental professionals take continuing education courses only for the minimum mandatory CE credits, or to contribute to lifelong learning? What is the difference between mandatory courses and lifelong learning? The first continuing education opportunity can be attributed to Florence Nightingale, who encouraged nurses to continue learning. These opportunities in the late 19th to the mid-20th centuries were typically on-the-job experiences in specialty areas vs. theory-based courses. In the 1960s, the government provided universities the federal funds to offer short-term CE courses. This evolved into the mandatory continuing education for license renewal seen in most health-care professions today.

In 2010 the Macy Foundation funded a report, Lifelong Learning in Medicine and Nursing,1 that defined lifelong learning by identifying key competencies, including: an understanding of evidence-based health care and critical appraisal, familiarity with informatics and literature search and retrieval strategies, practice-based learning and improvement methods, self-reflection and assessment, and other skills related to knowledge management.

This report was cited in the 11th Annual Report2 to the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Congress via their Advisory Committee on Interdisciplinary, Community-Based Linkages, titled Continuing Education, Professional Development, and Lifelong Learning for the 21st Century Health Care Workforce. Both of these reports recommend that the concepts of lifelong learning become the tenants of mandatory CE, and that reform is necessary to assure continuing competency within the health-care professions. As dentistry moves toward the preventative medical model, reports such as these become more important.

Lifelong learning concepts include any topic that will enhance the learner's experiences and growth. While some state agencies are beginning to allow a small percentage of CE in these areas, most do not. As evidenced by these reports, continuing education is changing. It will be important for dental professionals to be mindful and take courses that make sense for their given areas of practice and expertise, and more courses will focus on participation vs. lecture-style sessions. As state agencies become more technology-based, license renewals may require renewing professionals to list their courses, number of hours, and institution/group that hosted the course.

Dental hygienists are fortunate to have numerous options for hygiene-based topics, starting with the Center for Lifelong Learning, held at the annual session of the American Dental Hygienists' Association (ADHA). In addition, ADHA state (constituents) and local groups (components) host CE throughout the year and offer discounted rates for ADHA members. Visit http://www.adha.org/national-state-local-organizations to locate your local component/state information.

PennWell Publishing's RDH Under One Roof (www.rdhunderoneroof.com) offers three days of continuing education opportunities annually. this year July 15-17. A number of organizations, including PennWell, provide online and home study courses, but individual states limit the number of credits obtained online.

As educational concepts and state requirements evolve, it will be important to be aware of the latest changes that impact your opportunities for lifelong learning and license renewal. Be educated consumers of continuing education, and seek opportunities that provide optimal educational and license renewal prospects. Invest in yourself, regardless of state mandates, and get ready for the new horizons in continuing education!

Thought for the month: Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. - W. B. Yeats


1. Macy Foundation. (2010). Lifelong learning in medicine and nursing. Final conference report. Association of American Medical Colleges, American Association of Colleges in Nursing. Funded by the Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation. Retrieved from http://www.aacn.nche.edu/education/pdf/MacyReport.pdf May 1, 2014.
2. 11th Annual Report to the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Congress via their Advisory Committee on Interdisciplinary, Community-Based Linkages titles "Continuing Education, Professional Development, and Lifelong Learning for the 21st Century Health Care Workforce" http://www.hrsa.gov/advisorycommittees/bhpradvisory/acicbl/Reports/eleventhreport.pdf

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ANN-MARIE C. DEPALMA, RDH, MEd, FADIA, FAADH, is a Fellow of the American Academy of Dental Hygiene and the Association of Dental Implant Auxiliaries, as well as a continuous member of ADHA. She presents continuing education programs for dental team members on a variety of topics. Ann-Marie is collaborating with several authors on various books for dental hygiene and can be reached at [email protected].