By Cheryl G. Murphy, OD
Yellow school buses, the smell of sharpened pencils and last minute back-to-school eye exams for the kiddos are all signs that autumn is upon us. As optometrists, we are very good about promoting that a full, comprehensive eye exam is essential for children to ensure they start the school year off right, but what about us? September could also serve as a reminder to ourselves that despite our 20 years of schooling, we, too, have more to learn. We need continuing education credits to prove that we are staying on top of our game and setting ourselves up for another great year of caring for the vision of our patients. We need to remain knowledgeable of the latest methods, treatments and technologies available.
Now, I have sometimes overheard mumbles from other ODs implying, "If you do not complete the required amount of continuing education credits in time, do not sweat it because 'the powers that be' rarely check." Well, take it from someone who was randomly selected to be audited--me--they check, oh they check alright. It was about three years ago that I got that innocent looking white envelope in the mail with the return address of Albany, NY. When I opened it up and read the contents, the panic set in. They were auditing my continuing education credits to ensure I had completed the proper number of credits before routinely renewing my license to practice optometry in the state of New York.
I had nothing to worry about, as I had always kept up my CE credits, but the challenge was finding all of the paperwork to prove it. I made a sudden dash for the family filing cabinet and milled around for my accordion folder labeled optometry. It took some sorting but I finally came up with all of the printed and signed certificates that I needed, and I did, in fact, surpass the total number of CE credits required, but I will never forget that initial shock. After photocopying all of the certificates and sending it via certified mail to Albany, it wasn't until I got the final letter back confirming that I had fulfilled the requirements and that the audit process was complete that I exhaled and felt at ease. And just an aside: I now make sure I use the ARBO OE tracker and give my ID number so that my credits will be verified and held online after attending CE classes wherever possible.
So, now that you know that auditing does happen and can happen to you, what can you do to make sure you complete your state's requirements? Start by thinking of CE as an asset rather than a chore. You can do this by picking CE that you feel passionate about and that you are interested in. The monthly CE meetings and dinners of county optometric associations are an easy way to meet your fellow, neighboring ODs and also pick up credits each month. However, I encourage you to spread your wings a little and travel outside your local network of optometrists. Ophthalmology practices in your area may also host CE days for optometrists. If you are fortunate enough to live close to a college of optometry, they often have CE classes and events. You could also gain CE credits by sitting in on the thesis presentations of their resident ODs at the college in the spring. Can't get to the college? Some optometry schools offer CE online on a variety of interesting topics written by their professors.
In addition, optometric publications and magazines have opportunities for CE inside. Or you could go big at International Vision Expo East or West. Another possibility? Attend a ski weekend, cruise or vacation in an exotic locale with CE classes thrown into the mix. Whatever you choose, review the courses offered and pick a subject that interests you so you will be attentive and excited to participate. Think outside of the box, pick a wild topic, try something you know nothing about. Last year, I took a course on the ocular-muscular effects of Botox and learned a ton--and it was a great refresher on my neuroanatomy!
Now is the time to start looking at your calendar and choosing which CE classes or events you would like to participate in this year. Have fun learning from CE, use it to spark the passion of your inner student once again and come back to your patients a better doctor because of it.
How do you get your CE? Do you look at it as an asset or a chore? Have you thought about trying a new way or place to take classes? What topics do you usually pick? What's the most memorable topic you ever took a class on? The wackiest?
Cheryl G. Murphy, OD, practices at an independent optometric practice in Holbrook, NY. You can like her on Facebook or follow her on twitter @murphyod. To contact her: firstname.lastname@example.org.