Optometry Continuing Education

Like many other professions, in order to maintain a license or certificate to legally work as an optometrist, continuing education courses, or CE courses, are required for renewal of an optometry license for all states. Each state has its own unique rules on continuing education credits for licensed optometrists with varying numbers of credit hours needed, types of CE courses that must be taken, and lengths of time for meeting the CE credit requirements. Optometric continuing education courses are generally provided by a number of groups which include state and regional optometric associations, local groups, commercial companies, and many, many more. Optometry CE courses have a multitude of benefits for both optometrists and patients, with very little disadvantages, and come in several different platforms from home study to internet classes. Hopefully after reading, optometrists and patients will see the importance of continuing education credits in this field and others.

Benefits of CE Courses

The benefit of taking CE courses to both optometrists and patients is obvious in the fact that it builds professional growth in knowledge and skill, which is then passed down to the patients. There are continual upgrades in technology, new discoveries in medicine, and improvements in practice settings and optometrists can keep up with some of these by attending continuing education courses. A good example is a course on glaucoma and new detection methods which teaches optometrists some of the emerging methods to detect the eye condition earlier. Optometrists who have taken the course can apply this in their private practice and provide better service to patients. This is just one example course and there are tons of others in many aspects of optometry. Optometrists can use continuing education to increase their scope in other sections like Lasik or cataracts. Optometrists should not just look at CE courses as a requirement to meet licensing standards, but as useful tools to become better in their careers.

The disadvantages of continuing education are minimal with two big ones; time consumption and cost. Attending continuing education courses to meet the state’s requirements takes time and scheduling, which for busy optometrists who are already packed in their schedule, seems more like a hassle. Optometrists who have their own practice and have to manage both the examining side and running the office management side value their free time, and CE courses just don’t fit the schedule. The other drawback is the cost of continuing education courses. Although there are some free offers, most optometry CE courses have a fee for attendance, and those that are held at conferences require tickets, hotel fees, travel expenses, and other miscellaneous costs.

Forms of Optometry Continuing Education

Continuing education can come in a variety of different forms and state boards of optometry set their own rules as to which ones are accepted and a maximum number of credit hours that can come from certain sources. Continuing education credits can come in many forms but can be categorized into three types; home, face-to-face, and examination. Home CE courses can include video tapes, audio tapes, journals, internet courses, and a few others. These are generally more self study and less time consuming, with not much travel time but are usually limited with a cap in total credit hours. Face-to-face CE courses are actual class room courses, seminars, conferences, workshops, grand rounds, and clinical observations designed for more interactive training. Examination optometric CE courses are designed to teach and test application of knowledge from the course. These courses can come in any form but the end result is passing an examination of some sort.

Council on Optometric Practitioner Education (COPE)

The Council on Optometric Practitioner Education, or COPE, is a service offered by the ARBO aimed at centralizing CE courses and eliminating repetitive processes for instructors, state optometry boards, and practitioners. COPE along with participating state optometry boards create a standard for administration of CE courses with standards for submission, reporting, and peer review. This helps eliminate the need for an instructor to submit their courses to every applicable state board, the need for participating boards to determine if a course meets academic requirements, and lessens the time and confusion for practitioners in determining if a course meets state requirements for continuing education.

A great comparison that all optometry students as well as other students face is in-class pre-requisite requirements. Optometry schools and other health related schools require passing of certain pre-requisite courses which are named uniquely depending on the school and may or may not meet the academic standard for the pre-requisite. Thus, applicants to these schools have to have their prior courses checked by all schools they are applying to in order to meet the pre-requisite course requirements. This causes more strain for the school and applicants. Now, imagine, if there was a centralized system where a Biology course taken at one school is the same as another, and both meet the requirements and there is no need to check every school. This is what COPE’s main goal is and it is heading towards that goal because as of June 1, 2009, 52 state and territory boards that accept COPE approved CE courses, with the exception of Florida and the Virgin Islands. Each state still has specific requirements on types of COPE approved courses meeting continuing education requirements.

Optometric CE Courses

The optometry field is huge and there are continuing education courses on all aspects of the field. However, many states require certain course categories be met with a minimum of credit hours, especially for optometrists that hold therapeutic licenses with TPA or DPA certificates. Courses on pharmacology and ocular disease meet many state requirements for continuing education courses that relate to the diagnosis, treatment, and management of eye diseases. Some states like Alabama, allow for CE credit hours towards practice management and some like Georgia, require at least a course relating to jurisprudence. The optometry board of Texas is one that requires credit hours in ethics while the state board of Wisconsin requires credit hours relating to Glaucoma. Some states like Illinois, require credit hours through Continuing Education with Examination (CEE) courses. There are a lot of topics that optometrists can pursue, but the goal is to meet their states specific requirements in continuing education course outlines.

Check out the List of Continuing Education Providers and Sponsors for a list of offerings.


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