Veterinary continuing education: a must-do or a want-to?
Article Type: Discussion
Subject: Continuing medical education (Conferences, meetings and seminars)
Veterinarians (Conferences, meetings and seminars)
Pub Date: 06/01/2009
Publication: Name: Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery Publisher: Association of Avian Veterinarians Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 Association of Avian Veterinarians ISSN: 1082-6742
Issue: Date: June, 2009 Source Volume: 23 Source Issue: 2
Product: Product Code: 8044000 Veterinarians NAICS Code: 54194 Veterinary Services SIC Code: 0741 Veterinary services for livestock; 0742 Veterinary services, specialties
Geographic: Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States
Accession Number: 252006956
Full Text: When we graduated from veterinary school, we thought homework would finally end. Little did we know that even after we became full-fledged veterinarians, homework would never end. Veterinary medicine is constantly evolving. Because new medical treatments and surgeries are constantly being developed in all fields of veterinary medicine, it is our responsibility, even our obligation, to ourselves, our clients, and our patients to keep abreast of these developments. Making time and resources available to obtain continuing education (CE) can be challenging given the demands of our work and families. In veterinary school, new information was spoon-fed to us in a classroom. But as graduate veterinarians, we have to actively join organizations, spend hard-earned salaries, and often travel long distances to obtain CE. We also must be knowledgeable of CE requirements demanded by the various states in which we practice and by the various specialty colleges to which many of us belong.

Veterinarians handle CE in different ways. Some look forward to CE; others dread it. To address this issue, I invited 6 practitioners working in different states to comment on their feelings and approaches to CE. The participants are William Benner, MS, DVM, VCA South Hadley Animal Hospital, South Hadley, MA, USA; Kenneth D. Dazen, VMD, Dipl ABVP (Avian Practice), Animal and Bird Health Care Center, Cherry Hill, NJ, USA; Robert Hess, Jr, DVM, Winter Park Veterinary Hospital, Winter Park, FL, USA; Michael Lutz, DVM, West Meade Veterinary Clinic, LLC, Nashville, TN, USA; Robert Ness, DVM, Ness Exotic Wellness Center, Lisle, IL, USA; and Rhoda Stevenson, DVM, Dipl ABVP (Avian Practice), Exotic Bird Hospital, Jacksonville, FL, USA. I hope this discussion will make you aware not only of how your colleagues approach CE but also of how you think about CE, so that you can stay on top of new developments in veterinary medicine.

Laurie Hess, DVM, Dipl ABVP (Avian Practice) Associate Editor

Question." How often do you participate in some form of veterinary CE?

Dr Benner:

Daily, especially with regard to exotics, for which I participate in a couple of online forums. I also annually attend veterinary conferences, as well as 1-day meetings 2 to 3 times a year.

Dr Dazen:

I attend specific conferences during the year that provide the best sources of CE for the species I see. My practice is 50% dog and cat and 50% avian and exotic species. I usually attend the Association of Avian Veterinarians (AAV)/Association of Exotic Mammal Veterinarians (AEMV) conference, the Atlantic Coast Veterinary Conference, or North American Veterinary Conference (NAVC), and, when my schedule allows, the Association of Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarians (ARAV)/American Association of Zoo Veterinarians (AAZV) conference. In New Jersey, where I practice, veterinarians are required to obtain 20 hours of CE every 2 years.

Dr Hess:

I generally am able to attend some form of CE once a month. Living in the Orlando area, I have numerous opportunities for CE.

Dr Lutz:

All veterinarians in Tennessee must fulfill 20 hours of CE every year. I always get more, especially if it is free and interesting.

Dr Ness:

I usually participate twice a year, once for avian and/or exotic pets and once for holistic care, or I attend a single meeting (such as NAVC) for all purposes. On occasion, I participate in an in depth course on a specific subject or field to broaden my professional abilities, in addition to, or instead of, traditional conferences.

Dr Stevenson:

I usually try to attend a meeting or conference twice a year. I also like to send my associates to 2 meetings a year.

Question: How often do you participate in CE related to exotic species?

Dr Benner:

For exotics, I participate daily online. I also try to get to an exotics-related, large veterinary conference annually or, at least, a conference with a large exotics component.

Dr Dazen:

I attend the annual AAV and AEMV conference, and when my schedule has allowed, I have attended the ARAV and AAZV conference (when they were combined). These organizations have conveniently combined their meetings to enable better attendance. When I have not been able to go to the ARAV and AAZV meeting, one of my associates has gone.

Dr Hess:

My participation in CE programs related to exotic species is more limited but is usually 2 to 3 times a year.

Dr Lutz:

I have always tried to attend the AAV annual conference. At state meetings, I have always attended the exotics sessions when they have been available.

Dr Ness:

I attend at least one avian and/or exotic pet conference a year. My practice primarily consists of avian and exotic pets (85%), with limited dog and cat holistic care (15%).

Dr Stevenson:

Because I am part of an avian and exotics practice, practically all the CE is exotics species related.

Question: By what means (attending large veterinary conferences or local veterinary meetings, reading journal articles, participating in online chat groups, taking online courses, etc) do you most commonly obtain CE?

Dr Benner:

I do all of these things. I belong to the Exotic DVM Listserv, where I learn something daily. I also belong to Veterinary Information Network (VIN), which has a good amount of information on exotics. I read the articles in the Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery, Journal of Exotic Mammal Veterinarians, and Journal of Reptilian and Amphibian Medicine and Surgery, and I try to attend a conference every year, sometimes the NAVC in Orlando or one of the large exotic association conferences, such as the AAV conference.

Dr Dazen:

I obtain CE primarily through attending veterinary conferences, reading journal articles, communicating with other veterinarians, and following VIN.

Dr Hess:

I almost always attend 1 or 2 large meetings a year, including the NAVC in Orlando and the AAV annual conference. I vary these with the AAZV annual conference, on occasion, or one of the other small specialty meetings. I scan and read almost all of the exotic journals to help keep up with new thoughts and techniques.

Dr Lutz:

I always try to get CE at meetings and conferences. The interaction between speakers and audience helps to settle ideas into my knowledge base. If I see the information presented, it always sticks with me better.

Dr Ness:

I obtain most CE through regional or national veterinary conferences, unless a local group has a specialized focus on avian and exotic species. I also pursue advanced training in specialized courses, such as endoscopy or Chinese herbal classes.

Dr Stevenson:

Usually the large veterinary conferences, although the best CE I have ever been involved with was studying for the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP) boards with a couple of my colleagues.

Question: What factors (eg, cost, time off subject matter, location) are most significant in your participation in CE?

Dr Benner:

Taking time off to attend a conference is one big factor, as well as the cost of the meeting, including the cost of lost income. Another factor is the variety of CE available and how I can juggle exotics CE with small animal (dog and cat) CE. It is impossible to get to every meeting, and sometimes it is difficult to get to as many exotics meetings as I would like while still keeping up with the dog and cat part of my practice.

Dr Dazen:

The most significant factor to my participation in CE, specifically traveling to conferences, is my family. I have 2 sons who are involved in sports, school, and community activities. My wife and children are a huge part of my life.

Dr Hess:

Subject matter and location of the conference are probably the 2 biggest factors. However, trying to help all the doctors in the practice get useful and valuable information is also very important, because everyone in the practice sees exotic patients.

Dr Lutz:

Finding time in my schedule is always the major issue in deciding which meetings I can attend. Rarely do I consider the cost of traveling to a conference. I also like to go places I have never been before.

Dr Ness:

The factors that determine whether I participate in CE, in order of greatest to least significance, are: timing and duration of meeting, subject matter, cost, and location.

Dr Stevenson:

Subject matter is definitely most important to me, although it is nice to visit different places. My favorite conference was the combined AAV/AAZV conference in Hawaii.

Question: What means of veterinary CE do you most enjoy or would you participate in if neither money nor time was a limiting factor?

Dr Benner:

Meetings with wet laboratories are great, and I probably learn the most from that sort of handson teaching. Hearing a variety of approaches and opinions from other veterinarians at meetings is also great. If I had to pick, I think I would go to more of the national exotics meetings.

Dr Dazen:

If money and time were truly not a factor, then I would most enjoy going to conferences in vacation spots in the United States and abroad that most interest me, such as in cities (eg, Paris) or in lavish resorts (eg, golf/ski/spa resorts). However, I would like to see CE classes set up in such a way that I could enjoy both the CE and the amenities of the area.

Dr Hess:

I find small specialty meetings with a limited focus and practical laboratories the most helpful and fun.

Dr Lutz:

I always like the fellowship of conferences. If time and money were not an issue, I would attend all the conferences I like best.

Dr Ness:

I would choose specialized national meetings, where the attendance is not huge, there are smaller discussion groups, and networking with colleagues is easier. These types of meetings, such as AAV's conference, also provide the best overall conditions for learning cutting-edge scientific research, practical clinical tips and procedures, in-depth topics (master classes), hands-on laboratory sessions, networking with world renowned colleagues in nonthreatening settings, social interactions, and family friendly environments.

Dr Stevenson:

I like the really intense, immerse-yourself-in-a-subject type of meeting like the ones that the ABVP offers (such as this year's 2 clays of avian surgery with Dr Avery Bennett) or the preconference lectures at the AAV annual conference.

Question: These days, there are many different veterinary organizations holding conferences around the world. Would you rather attend a large, general conference that covers a broad range of species and topics, or would you prefer to go to smaller meetings with a narrower focus on individual species?

Dr Benner:

I like both, but, the large, general conferences, like the NAVC in Florida, provide a lot of information and a lot of choices that help me with all of the different animals I see daily in practice. I sometimes have to skip the smaller, more specialized exotics meetings, because I can only do so much.

Dr Dazen:

With regard to CE on birds, small mammals, reptiles, and amphibians, I prefer to attend conferences that are held by organizations such as AAV, AEMV, ARAV, and AAZV. The topics at these conferences are typically cutting edge and focus on scientific and technologic advancements. I usually also go to conferences such as Atlantic Coast Veterinary Conference or NAVC, which cover a broader range of species, but at these, I specifically attend feline and canine sessions.

Dr Hess:

I like the large meetings once a year to be able to learn about a variety of subjects and especially to visit the exhibit halls. The exhibit hall enables me see new products and meet corporate supporters. This helps me do a better job and lets me obtain products and equipment to keep my practice up to date.

Dr Lutz:

Broader conferences are nice, at times. However, if a conference is too broad, the information gets too general. The old saying, "Jack of all trades, master of none," may well describe these conferences. When a state or local meeting tries to cover avian and exotics topics, along with other species, the message often gets lost.

Dr Ness:

My ideal conference would include in-depth sessions on avian, reptile, and small mammal species, led by renowned leaders in each field, including clinical practitioners, academicians, and researchers. A single larger conference that consists of AAV, ARAV, and AEMV would provide the best environment to receive quality information on all the exotic species we treat. It is very difficult for the typical practitioner, like me, to attend more than 1 or 2 conferences a year, so we are forced to choose between specific, in-depth conferences on a few species and a generalized meeting on all species.

Dr Stevenson:

There are advantages to both, as I often attend the NAVC in January for broader choices and the AAV in August for a more specific focus. I must admit, after attending the AAV conference, I am always invigorated with new ideas and things to try. I also loved the International Conference on Exotics and was sad when it was discontinued.

Question." Do you electively seek out CE, or are you fulfilling a state, veterinary college, or practice requirement?

Dr Benner:

I have to fulfill 30 hours each year, and I have no problem doing that, because I get a good amount of CE every year. Some of it is required for my job. But, with the exotics CE, in particular, I actively seek out information. This has been a habit ever since veterinary school, and so I advise all veterinary students to get to as many exotics meetings as they can! Even if they have to miss a day or 2 of school, they will learn a tremendous amount, and they will get to interact with a lot of like-minded people. For would-be exotics veterinarians, I think getting involved in the national exotics organizations as soon as possible sets a great precedent for the rest of their veterinary careers.

Dr Dazen:

I electively seek out CE, because I want to be completely informed and up to date on the most current veterinary information. I also attend CE to fulfill 20 hours every 2 years for licensing in New Jersey and to recertify my ABVP Diplomate status every 10 years.

Dr Hess:

I electively seek out CE and usually have 5 to 10 times more than the state regulations require.

Dr Lutz:

Obviously, the mandate to attain CE cannot be overlooked. Can I honestly say that I would be as attentive to my need to re-educate and re-energize myself without this mandate? I am not sure.

Dr Ness:

I seek out CE to further my professional knowledge and capabilities, and I only track down my certificates when the licensing boards request them. I usually have many more hours of CE than I need, and, in 18 years of practice, I have never needed to attend a meeting just to get credit.

Dr Stevenson:

We are required to get 2 pharmacy credits every 2 years in Florida, so I do that because it is required. Other than that, I always have plenty of

credits from the conferences and meetings I attend, because I want to learn what is on the cutting edge and to review knowledge that often takes a back seat to the everyday problems I see in real-world practice.

Question: Do you think all veterinarians should be required to fulfill CE requirements? Why or why not?

Dr Benner:

Yes. I think it makes a big difference in keeping up with new information. I think the amount of CE you absorb directly effects the quality of medicine you practice.

Dr Dazen:

I believe that all veterinarians should want to attend CE classes, especially on avian and exotic species. Veterinary medicine and surgery is constantly changing, with new advancements in research and technology. If veterinarians do not keep current, they clearly are not providing the standard of care to their patients and are doing a disservice to themselves and to the veterinary oath.

Dr Hess:

Yes! We all get a little lazy, and, for most people, life gets really involved. It is easy to get isolated in practice and in your thinking. Going to CE meetings helps minimize this isolation if you approach CE with the right attitude.

Dr Lutz:

No veterinarian can realistically assume that he or she would be able to stay on top of all the advances in medicine without CE. As with changing your oil or painting your house, reading all of those veterinary CE articles becomes less pressing as we get further behind in our daily lives. Mandating CE at least forces us to set aside time to meet with our colleagues and to update our education.

Dr Ness:

Yes, I think all veterinarians should be required to obtain CE to keep up with advancements in medicine. However, I would like to think that the majority of us want to keep up with the latest information to better our professional abilities for our patients' sake. We owe it to our clients to keep up with advancements in the profession and to offer the best choices in care, medicine, and surgery.

Dr Stevenson:

Absolutely. I think CE is important to expose us to rapidly advancing knowledge in our field. Furthermore, even though the Internet makes information acquisition easier than ever, it is impossible for the Internet to substitute the experience that direct contact with our colleagues provides.
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