A Review of “Continuing Professional Development in Medicine and Health Care: Better Education, Better Patient Outcomes”

Editors: William F. Rayburn, Mary G. Turco and David A. Davis
Publisher: Wolters Kluwer: Philadelphia (2018)
Reviewed by: Jack R. Kues, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Continuous Professional Development, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine

Continuing professional development (CPD), formerly known as continuing medical education, has evolved significantly, and this book provides the proof. Its 45 authors span generations of educators and practitioners representing the past, present and future of what has finally recognized itself as a profession.

This book is less of a milestone than it is a reflection of transition. It recognizes the considerable turmoil that American healthcare is experiencing and offers insight and advice for CPD professionals staking a claim in a rapidly changing healthcare enterprise. However, the contributors do not abandon the close relationship between CPD professionals and individual healthcare practitioners upon which the CME/CPD landscape was created. Most of the chapters frame this relationship in the context of complex systems that often create barriers to better practice and patient outcomes.

The book itself is divided into five parts:

  1. Improving the Learning Environment
  2. Learning in the Workplace
  3. Better Faculty, Better Content, Better Outcomes
  4. Creating Better Learners at All Levels
  5. Implementing and Evaluating Change in Professional Development

The 26 chapters and three appendices do a very good job of reviewing some of our historic approaches to learning, a very wide range of our current practices and challenges, and some speculation on what we will need to do in the future.

Each chapter begins with a case or question that is designed to raise the salient points of the topic within a practical context. However, the content of each chapter is built around the topic, and the initial case is typically not addressed directly. Each chapter includes a review of the literature, practical suggestions for implementation and future directions on the topic. The synthesis of theory and research was comprehensive, within the limits of each specific topic, and clearly presented with many chapters referencing current resources. Chapters span roughly a dozen pages, including tables, figures and references. This makes for quick and easy reading on individual topics, but it constrains some subjects that are broader and more complex than a short chapter will allow.

This is not a book I’d pick up with intentions of reading cover to cover. It is probably better consumed as a go-to reference on individual topics or general areas.

The book was commissioned by the Society of Academic Continuing Medical Education (SACME), and the authors are mostly a reflection of their membership. However, the book doesn’t succumb to an overly academic approach to the topics. A rich mixture of authors reflect the perspectives of the U.S. and Canadian health systems and training environments. There are authors from national/international organizations such as Eric Holmboe (ACGME), Graham McMahon (ACCME), David Price (ABMS) as well as a mixed group of CE/CPD icons and the not-so-famous. Each group of authors does a very good job with their chapters and provide practice advice and information. Readers should not be concerned about the content being “over their head.”

If the book has an Achilles heel, it would be that there is a great deal of focus on CME. Some of this is unavoidable because it pertains to different types of physician-specific credit. However, outside of chapters that include team-based learning and collaborative practice, physicians are the primary target of examples and recommendations. This is a reflection of the state of CPD and the need to further integrate the delivery of healthcare across a growing healthcare team.

In our world of constant change and chaos, this book may be our best security blanket. It helps us recognize our past and provides guidance for facing our challenges. In addition to helping us sleep at night, I think the editors have created a book with wide applications to practitioners, administrators and policymakers. There are many lessons that they would find valuable, and it looks far more dignified than carrying around an actual security blanket.

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