Professional Development Perceptions and Practices Among U.S. Physicians: A Cross-Specialty National Survey

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Abstract

Purpose

Professional development (PD)—both for-credit continuing medical education (CME) and informal self-directed or point-of-care learning—is vital to all physicians. The authors sought to understand physicians’ PD perceptions and practices and how these vary by specialty and practice type.

Method

The authors administered an Internet and paper survey, from September 2015 to April 2016, to randomly sampled U.S. physicians. Survey items addressed perceived PD needs and barriers and how physicians identify knowledge/skills gaps.

Results

Of 4,648 invitees, 988 (21.6%) responded. Respondents believed that they already know what they need to learn (mean 5.8 [1 = strongly disagree; 7 = strongly agree]), can answer clinical questions using available resources (5.9), and want credit for learning during patient care (5.1). They did not strongly desire help identifying learning gaps (4.0) or indicate difficulty accumulating CME credits (3.1). Most PD was done during personal time (5.5). Competencies regarding medical knowledge/skills, wellness, informatics, and practice/systems improvement were rated the highest priority, while research, teaching, and professionalism were rated the lowest. The most important sources used to identify knowledge/skills gaps were immediate patient care needs (4.1 [1 = not important; 5 = extremely important]), personal awareness (3.8), and practice updates (3.7). The most important barriers were time (3.5) and cost (2.9). Differences by specialty and practice type were generally small and not statistically significant.

Conclusions

Physicians feel confident in identifying their own learning needs, perceive medical knowledge/skills as their highest-priority need, and desire more credit for learning during patient care.

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