Continuing professional education: Responsibilities and possibilities

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Increased regulation of professional practice imposes obligations upon practitioners to keep abreast of professional developments. One mandate of a professional association is to offer opportunities for professional growth in clinical practice, education, and research to its members. But are there others who should be involved? Rapid societal change has dictated new constraints in the practices of health care practitioners, some legislated and others imposed by institutional and economic considerations. At the same time, research and advances in technology challenge health care practitioners to expand their knowledge and change their practices in ways that go well beyond mere technical competence. A philosophical analysis of professionalism places the responsibility for continuing education with the professional practitioners, individually and in collaboration with their colleagues. The purpose of such collaboration is to further professional goals and to ensure that professional competence is maintained. Different organizations typically represent these interests on behalf of their members. Professional ideals extend beyond the local workplace and clinical competence to researching new initiatives that may more accurately reflect the complex needs of individual clients. Professional constraints insist on standards of practice that are evidence based and effective for the majority of clients with similar needs. A systems approach to these issues suggests a framework that delineates organizational responsibilities and relationships; it recognizes the different roles and expertise of each of the players and acts as a catalyst for ongoing discussion and collaboration in the marketplace of continuing professional education.

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