News

The Importance for Maintaining Certification Standards

May 18, 2021
Message from the President
Mallory headshot

Mary Nan S. Mallory, M.D., M.B.A.

Emergency Medicine has been beset with challenges over the past year. The pandemic has stretched resources in the ED and caused burnout among staff to escalate. At the same time, ED volumes have plummeted, salaries are sinking, physician hiring is on hold in many areas of the country, all while non-physician providers are being utilized to see some of the sickest Emergency Medicine patients. These factors have strengthened ABEM’s already-robust resolve to ensure that the standards associated with ABEM certification remain high. Certification has and will continue to greatly differentiate ABEM-certified physicians from other providers, especially in an increasingly competitive marketplace. And why? Because on perhaps their worst day, every emergency department patient and family deserves expert and compassionate care from an emergency physician, who—after rigorous training and independent verification—applies continuous learning to optimize outcomes for their patients throughout their careers.

What We Have Done

We launched. In 2017, ABEM began looking at our recertification process, specifically, the ConCert Exam, in response to suggestions offered by certified physicians. We spoke to and surveyed physicians about what they did and did not like about the process. We heard that you wanted an assessment that is more convenient and more relevant to contemporary practice. Additionally, you said the standards of ABEM certification needed to remain intact. All of these elements, plus a learning component, were integrated into the new, formative assessment, MyEMCert, that launched in late March. We are temporarily maintaining LLSAs and the ConCert exam, now taken from home, as continuing certification options during this transition.

We reassessed. ABEM reaffirmed its commitment to the Oral Certification Exam, as it independently confirms the acquisition of competencies during residency, particularly aspects important to expert patient care that cannot be measured on the Qualifying (written) Exam (QE). The Board believes that the Oral Exam maintains a rigorous and differentiating standard for certification.

We self-examined. In 2019, ABEM convened a task force (now a permanent committee) that looks at issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion, at the Board level, staff level, and at the policy level. Although our Board is representative of the EM community, we are still working on making sure diverse points of view are included in our decisions. We also are conducting research that we hope will lead to policy decisions that will promote greater diversity in our specialty.

We supported. ABEM is on record in supporting physician-led care in the ED with statements posted in 2019 and 2020.

What We Are Doing

We are pivoting. When the onset of the pandemic forced ABEM to cancel the 2020 Oral Exams, ABEM was committed to developing an alternative that would provide early career physicians access to certification while still maintaining the standards and integrity of the exam. A virtual Oral Exam was developed that provides certification opportunities to those who were scheduled to take the exam in 2020. With the assistance of a professional technology production company and our 500 committed volunteer examiners, we have administered three of eight 2021 Oral Exams, ensuring the opportunity for all physicians, including those who passed their QE as of 2020, an opportunity to become board certified. Yes, all 4,600 of them!

We are “modernizing.” Post-pandemic planning is underway. ABEM is convening a task force to examine all aspects of the process for emergency physicians to become certified. Informed by a stakeholder advisory group, this task force will assess and potentially redesign a contemporary process of initial certification. Your input will also be an important part of this process.  

What We Will Continue to Do

We ensure. Since 1980, ABEM certification has continued to provide physicians recognition as a specialist, added compensation, practice opportunities, and professional pride. We are committed to ensuring that our certification remains the “gold standard” in the specialty of Emergency Medicine. ABEM-certified physicians serve a valuable and irreplaceable clinical role in the care of the critically ill and injured, and we believe that the delivery of emergency care is best led by physicians with accredited EM training, experience, and ABEM certification. ABEM is committed to maintaining certification standards and promoting the value of certification on your behalf.


Audience:
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  • About ABEM