ABEM now recognizes the term “board eligible” to describe physicians who have not yet completed the process of board certification. In the past, the term “board eligible” was not recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), ABEM, and most of the 23 other Member Boards. Candidates for certification had no time limit to become certified, giving board eligibility little meaning. Despite this, the term has been commonly used among credentialing organizations and by physicians.
The ABMS charged each medical specialty board to implement a policy on board eligibility that would restrict the length of time for physicians to become certified. At its February 2012 meeting, the ABEM Board of Directors established five years as the limit between finishing residency and attaining board certification. Effective January 1, 2015, ABEM will recognize physicians as board eligible for up to five years after completing an Emergency Medicine residency training program. Those who completed their training prior to January 1, 2015, will be considered to be board eligible for five years after that date (that is, until December 31, 2019) whether or not they have already applied for certification. This time limit also applies to physicians who applied for initial certification under the practice pathway and still have open applications.
This policy tightens the connection between training and certification. Research has shown that physicians lose knowledge and skills as the years pass after their training. The requirements of the ABEM MOC program address this problem through continuous professional development. The new Policy on Board Eligibility limits the time that can elapse before physicians are certified and therefore participating in MOC. At the same time, this policy meets the need of physicians to use the term “board eligible” legitimately during the period that they are working toward certification.
Regaining Board Eligible Status
Under certain circumstances, physicians can re-enter board eligible status for an additional five-year period. However, after a second term of board eligibility has passed, they must complete additional training (such as a residency program) approved by ABEM to become board eligible again.
FAQ on Board Eligibility
Policy on Board Eligibility