IN CASE YOU haven't noticed, the skills required for today's CME professionals are changing. The Accreditation Council for CME's Essential Areas, the updated Standards for Commercial Support, and the Office of Inspector General advisory suggest a change in the CME environment that is vastly different from in the past. Those who manage and staff today's CME offices need to take stock of staff skills, identify the gaps in their knowledge, and develop a plan for expanding their knowledge and careers.

The key to understanding these new competencies is to realize that the staff of CME offices are educators, not logistics coordinators. You do not need to become a content expert in medicine but rather you need to be proficient in facilitating excellent educational activities that affect physician behavior, knowledge, and skills, and, as a result, patient care. Here are our suggestions for CME professionals:

  • Needs Assessment Develop mastery in facilitating CME planning. Understand needs assessment methods and coach the planning team in conducting them. Make sure key needs are synthesized. You must know how to complete a literature search and compile a synthesis of that search. You also need to proactively communicate information to the planning team.

  • Objective Writing Pull key information from the faculty and the linkage process to write learning objectives that are measurable and written in terms of physician performance.

  • Course Design Consult with the planning team to suggest interactive teaching methods to bring the information to practitioners. To do this, CME professionals need to understand adult learning principles and techniques.

  • Evaluation Methodologies Measuring outcomes is a focus for both the ACCME and commercial entities today. You must be knowledgeable about evaluation options, tools to measure results, and ways to use the data collected from those evaluations.

  • Systems Impact Think about what barriers in the physicians' practice environments may prevent them from successfully implementing change — or what enhancements might be suggested — and include them in the education. Also consider patient safety. The ACCME strongly suggests that providers always look at patient safety considerations in any activity they teach.

There are many other competencies that make for an effective CME office and staff. The Alliance for CME has conducted a survey of current skills as compared to the list of desired skills for an effective staff person. This list is available at A quick self-test also is available on our Web site at

Your Action Plan

Here are some immediate steps to move forward with a plan for these new competencies:

  • Assess current staffing capabilities. Meet with each staff member and develop a personalized learning plan to assist him or her in reaching full potential in these new competency areas. Make sure that annual staff reviews include metrics to enable the rewarding of achievements.

  • Develop an in-service training program for your CME team by offering specific, key skill training that ties to their competency gaps each month. Identify experts to lead training sessions; set training goals and keep to them.

  • Send as many staff members as possible to the Alliance for CME annual meeting to support training goals. Select workshops that fit into the learning plans for your employees.

Steven M. Passin is president of the CME consulting firm, Steve Passin & Associates in Newtown, Pa. He has served as deputy health secretary for the state of California. Contact him at Susan O'Brien is senior associate, Steve Passin & Associates LLC.