Mike Metz takes a sharp-eyed look at the Continuing Education system for hearing health professionals.
For many years, Bob Sandlin and I provided continuing education courses throughout California, bringing various “authorities” to annual meetings in order to fulfill the continuing education requirements. We followed what we thought was the intention of continuing education, even though we took advantage of the knowledge of audiologists employed by manufacturers.
Dutifully, we submitted courses for approval, logged attendance, monitored breaks, and reported hours to the licensing agencies. I am pretty sure those agencies trusted us although, notably, they never audited our records. The arrival of the Internet and streaming, recorded classes and lectures, and a huge variety of offerings by CE providers changed things.
Which brings me to my criticisms of the present CEU “system”:
- The only course Bob and I could not get approved over the years was a lecture by the guy who invented cochlear implants. Even though the protocols for implanting involve ruling out hearing aid success—the people in the field dealing with hearing aids have to test appropriately—the criteria for referral and implanting was unknown to most clinicians and salespeople. We knew because we asked! The board said such information was not appropriate. Who makes decisions about what is needed, required, appropriate or whatever? I still wonder about that.
- California, and I suppose other states as well, require that some audiology CEUs involve hearing aids and some hours are “audiology-oriented”. How does the state know what I need to get or remain current? Let alone what materials I might use to continue my education. Is there some master sheet of things I should know that is kept by “those guys”? How do they get their data?
- In California, physicians who have a dispenser in their office must also be licensed as a dispenser and must adhere to the CE requirements. This is a throwback to the concessions made in getting HA licensing into law. Of all the physicians who attended our courses, I recall only a few who:
- did not leave early
- stayed awake until the end, and/or
- did not “do charts” during the presentations.
Do all states do it this way or is it just folks on the Left Coast? Why would physicians need CEUs when they probably never got any hearing aid EUs?
- Does anyone who takes a CE course need to demonstrate the amount they learned via a test? Do most tests do any more that assure anyone who asks that this attendee merely attended? Do the agencies overseeing these courses and our competencies really distrust us to the point that they believe we are only sincere if we take a simple test? I was a professor at one time—I know how these things work.
- In thinking about agencies, associations, or companies keeping track of my CE hours, I guess they deserve a fee for such organization. But I hope that they don’t think that the paying of this fee (after registering and taking “tests”) assures anyone that I got more from the presentation than I would have if I didn’t pay the fee. And, if the licensing or the CE-requiring association thinks that such “logging” by some agency other than me proves that I am honest, boy, have I got a guy selling a bridge that they might be interested in buying.
- Here’s a big one. How does anyone monitor the courses that receive “approval”? I have reported instances where information, materials, and ideas from sources other than the presenter have been passed off as unique. Not once have I been notified that anyone investigated these plagiarisms. Perhaps those presenters were sent a copy of journalistic or publishing rules, but somehow, I doubt it.
I was once on a panel that also consisted of a person who noted that all of the continuing education that his dispensing organization presented was “approved.” He failed to note that the approving body was voluntary and not “official”. Stated simply, it appears that most fields requiring continuing education do so as an effort to demonstrate to their consumers that they are concerned enough to learn new things and keep current with their profession. The facts would seem to imply that CE does very little for most except to salve the public. This is probably self-evident, even to the public.
There are some who relish and consume education during their entire professional career. Some do CEUs reluctantly and only because it is required. How does the public tell the difference? I suspect they don’t know and have little except their own observations to inform them. And, that’s a shame because continued learning is essential in most every field.
It would do every profession well to regulate, choose, and monitor their continuing education carefully. If they don’t, sooner or later, some agency will step up and do it for them.
And that, people, is what happened to us.
Dr. Metz has been a practicing audiologist for over 45 years, having taught in several university settings and, in partnership with Bob Sandlin, providing continuing education for audiology and dispensing in California for over 3 decades. Mike owned and operated a private practice in Southern California for over 30 years. He has been professionally active in such areas as electric response testing, hearing conservation, hearing aid dispensing, and legal/ethical issues. He continues to practice in a limited manner in Irvine, California.