CME Requirements for MDs, PAs, and NPs

How do the CME requirements between an MD PA and NP differ?

There is no doubt that maintaining certification can be complicated and different practitioners must meet different CME requirements. Whether you are a physician or an advanced level practitioner, the pursuit of CME can be time consuming – and even overwhelming – unless you know the differences in requirements, and how to meet them efficiently and effectively. Knowing what you need to do, and approaching it with a plan, is the only way to survive the never-ending pursuit of CME.

What are CME requirements for physicians?

CME requirements for physicians vary widely between specialty. Family physicians must meet different requirements than internal medicine physicians, and dermatologists must meet different requirements than surgeons or other specialists. To know the exact requirements of your specialty, it is best to check your professional association’s website. Here are some examples of how widely CME requirements can vary:

To remain an active, board certified member of the American College of Emergency Physicians physicians must take 50 hours of CMEs every three years. In order to maintain and renew an active medical license in the state in which they practice, physicians must meet the exact educational credits and number of CME hours required by that state.  

In addition to the differences between specialties, differences exist from one state medical board to another. For example, the Maine Board of Licensure in Medicine requires 100 hours of CME credits every two years, 40 hours of which are required to be in Category 1. These requirements are very specific and must be followed to the letter, so be sure to check the Continuing Medical Education Report section of the Maine Medical License renewal application.

In sharp contrast to the requirements of the state of Maine, the New York State Board for Medicine requires only one hour of the “New York CME” and 1 hour of  the “New York Infection Control” CME every 4 years. 

Despite these differences, one thing remains clear. Not submitting evidence of successful CME course completion as required by the state, is to risk having your license renewal denied. Read the list of CME requirements by state to find out the specific number of hours required by your state licensing board. See how you can complete your CME hours online quickly and easily from the web or your mobile device. Learn more about navigating your continuing medical education in this CME/MOC eBook guide.

What are CME requirements for Nurse Practitioners? 

There are not as many variables in CMEs for nurse practitioners as there are for physicians, but there are four. The differences come from the four national boards that award and maintain nurse practitioner certifications. Each nurse practitioner must obtain recertification through the same board that awarded the original certification after graduation from nurse practitioner school. Each board differs in the specialties they certify, their renewal cycles, specific CME requirements, and cost. The four boards are: 

  1. American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)
  2. Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB)
  3. National Certification Corporation (NCC)
  4. American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Program (AANPCP)

To determine your specific CME requirements check with your specific board. There can be detailed differences you need to know about. For example:

  • The ANCC requires either 1000 practice hours in the NPs specialty or the retaking of the certification exam. Seventy-five hours of CME is also required and 25 must be related to pharmacology. 
  • That AANPCP requires that a  nurse practitioner choose to either retake the certification exam or document 1000 hours of clinical practice and earn 100 hours of continuing education (with 25 of these related to pharmacology).

Although there are differences, generally NPs can combine CMEs with practice hours gained through clinical work. All NPs must have proof of an active registered nurse license as well.

To learn more, check the following resources: 





What are CME requirements for Physician Assistants? 

CME requirements for physician assistants are different from those for a physician or nurse practitioner. PAs must participate in a 10-year certification of maintenance process that includes five two-year cycles. The requirements are highly specific, so make sure you create a plan that allows you to adhere to them. 

The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) has the most specific details on accumulating CMEs during the two cycles. They are as follows: 

  • During each two-year cycle, you must earn and log at least 100 CME credits online
    • At least 50 must be Category 1 CME credits
    • The remaining 50 credits can be Category 1, Category 2 or a combination of both. 
  • Two types of Category 1 CME are self-assessment CME and PI-CME. They are not required, but the NCCPA say they “recognize the value of these very interactive types of CME, and will weight these types of CME more heavily.”
    • They will award 50% additional credit for all activities designated for self-assessment Category 1 CME credit (i.e., a self-assessment activity worth 10 credits will be converted to 15 credits by NCCPA). 
  • Also, the first 20 PI-CME credits logged during every two-year cycle will be doubled when logged with NCCPA.

PAs must know their certification window and must document all CMEs online. According to the NCCPA: 

The NCCPA provides the following guidance: 

  • Your CME earning and logging window begins May 1 of the year your current certification was issued and continues through December 31 of the certification expiration year. (For example, PA-C designers whose certification expires in 2020 must have earned their CME between May 1, 2018 and December 31, 2020.)

Regardless of whether you are a physician, NP, or PA, you must know the CME details required by your association and your specialty. You must adhere to them precisely, and you must document, upload, and file them according to exacting requirements. Come up with a plan, mark your calendar, and make CMEs part of your ongoing schedule. It’s the only way to manage a complex process and ensure you retain your all-important certification.  

Deborah Chiaravalloti is an award-winning writer and former hospital executive. Her insider experience helps healthcare clients launch medical procedures, products including artificial intelligence software and knowledge sharing platforms. Deborah writes websites, blogs, opinion pieces, and marketing strategy for elder care, health care consumerism, revenue cycle management (RCM), and the business of healthcare. Her printed pieces have been published and her radio shows syndicated nationally.

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