Proposed mandatory CE receives mixed reviews


As Wisconsin's governor inks a new law mandating veterinarians in the state receive 30 hours of continuing education biannually, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island legislatures mull much the same issue.

As Wisconsin's governor inks a new law mandating veterinarians in the state receive 30 hours of continuing education biannually, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island legislatures mull much the same issue.

Factions in four of the nation's seven remaining states devoid of mandated continuing education, or CE, now view adding educational requirements for license renewals as positive public relations for DVMs - not to mention sound practice training. At the same time, the shift stirs negative feelings among practitioners criticizing CE's use as a competency gauge and its enforcement costs as well as subsequent elevated licensure and office fees.

While leaders in each state boast distinct motives for solidifying mandatory CE, veterinarians challenge its necessity.

"They're Mickey Mouse requirements," says Dr. Laurel Kaddatz, New York State Veterinary Medical Society's government relations chairman. "But we've had some problems with activists on the state board trying to push CE, so we decided to do something preemptively to make sure there wasn't going to be any bureaucratic nightmare. CE has never been shown to equate competency. And the price tag - who knows where in the state's coffers your money goes?"

Table 1: Required Continuing Education in the United States

At presstime, New York lawmakers were considering a bill calling for 20 hours of CE annually. If passed, licensure fees would increase $45 to fund policing via random audits. New York State Veterinary Medical Society's longtime legislative resource Walt McCarthy, DVM, claims the measure is offensive and "overplayed."

Overriding the honor system

"I get annoyed that everyone treats us like a criminal group when we are people who dedicate our whole lives to veterinary medicine," says McCarthy, who completed 50 CE hours last year. "There should be some benefit of the doubt. The state board feels they should do something to prove to the public they're policing veterinary education, but their concept actually may lower our standards."

But failing to mandate continuing education for the veterinary profession is an "embarrassment," says Rick Alampi, New Jersey Veterinary Medical Association's (NJVMA) executive director.

Coursing an alternative route

When the state's veterinary medical board failed last year to adopt CE via standard regulations, NJVMA proposed amending its practice act legislatively. The bill, introduced last year, requires veterinarians with active licenses to complete 20 hours of continuing veterinary education, approved by the State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners, during each two-year license renewal period. The New Jersey Assembly passed the bill in November. At presstime, it awaits the state Senate's approval.

"When we went to legislators to lobby for this, they were amazed that a professional organization would want to impose additional regulatory requirements on its members," Alampi says. "We've made it simple for our members. We're using the honor system until there is a complaint, and there will be no additional fees for the program. Hopefully it will come out of the Legislature that way."

The Rhode Island Legislature has left Dr. Gary Block frustrated as veterinary leaders struggle to mandate CE for the third straight year.

Last-ditch moves

"How often does a professional association come to the Legislature and say, 'We want to police ourselves; let us impose this on ourselves?' " asks Block, past president of the Rhode Island Veterinary Medical Association. "The most ridiculous, controversial bills go through. Yet, we've had to hire a lobbyist to get our bill passed."

Like Rhode Island, Michigan's veterinary leaders have been working to institute mandatory CE for years, says Dr. Peter Prescott, Michigan Veterinary Medical Association's executive director. While state law provides the board of veterinary medicine authority to mandate CE for licensure requirements, the Department of Consumer and Industry Services promptly vetoes the measure each time it arises.

"Our board of veterinary medicine is trying to get it in the Legislature this year because we have a new government," Prescott says. "Right now our only alternative is to take another route by passing a law that specifically requires CE."

Like New York veterinary leaders, Prescott acknowledges criticisms of mandatory CE but notes that it's good for the profession's image.

Considering public image

"There are valid arguments against mandating CE, but I support it more for the public's perception," he says. "If a client calls in complaining and asks what veterinarians have to do to get their license, it looks better if I can tell them they're required to have 30 hours of continuing education every two years."

It's under that premise that mandatory CE passed as a virtual "slam dunk" in Wisconsin, where 30 hours now is required every two years and policed on a complaint-driven basis, says Leslie Grendahl, executive director of the Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association.

"People didn't want it because they don't want government in their lives," she says. "But we wanted to be able to write the laws ourselves without having someone write it for us. The public's perception is that veterinarians maintain their education to keep their license. Imagine the public relations nightmare if anyone realized we didn't mandate CE."

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