By Shilpi Banerjee, PhD

You’ve come to expect an update on the goings on within the Academy in these regular updates. The board, committees, and staff have been hard at work on a number of different fronts. I wanted to take a moment to discuss professional development.

Professions and industries are constantly changing. Technologies advance, scientific knowledge increases, thinking evolves. Continuing education (CE) is a cornerstone of professional development. It is a great way to meet state licensure requirements, hone existing skills, acquire new ones, or even just learn something for its own sake.

For members to have access to a full range of training opportunities, the Academy partners with its approved CE providers to offer CEUs. The CE approval process is rigorous to ensure high educational quality. For several years now, the Academy’s approval of CE activities has been contingent on the event meeting the tenets of the Academy’s Code of Ethics and Ethical Practice Guidelines for Relationships with Industry. This was spurred by scrutiny and legal mandates of increased transparency in the financial relationships between healthcare providers and industry partners; the goal is to uncover potential conflicts of interest and ensure patient safety. A few months ago, the Board voted to approve CE activities based solely on the quality of the educational content, effectively decoupling CE approval from the Ethical Practice Guidelines. This change took effect on October 1, 2015.

While the social science literature is reasonably clear on the effects of attitudes and financial relationships, there are also acknowledged benefits to partnerships between health-care professionals and industry. This makes interpretation and implementation of processes a bit more challenging. The change in the CE approval policy reflects a progression of our thinking. In principle, this is similar to the interpretation of religious texts and laws—i.e., although the texts and laws remain the same (like our Code of Ethics and Ethical Practice Guidelines for Relationships with Industry), their interpretation evolves as conditions (e.g., our thinking, environmental challenges, legal obligations, etc.) change.

The main message regarding the Academy’s current CE approval policy is this …

  1. The onus of abiding by the Academy’s Code of Ethics and Ethical Practice Guidelines for Relationships with Industry rests with you, the members. This is the reasonable extent of the Academy’s ability to police and manage violations of the Code of Ethics—educate, reprimand, and, if necessary, suspend/revoke Academy membership.
  2. The role of the Professional Development Committee and the CE approval process is to ensure high-quality continuing education opportunities for members. This decision will be based solely on the merits of the educational content.

So, what does this mean for you? There are many events—AudiologyNOW!, specialty meetings, Academy Research Conference (ARC), national and state conferences, manufacturer-sponsored trainings and meetings—where you can obtain Academy-approved CEUs while abiding by the Academy’s Code of Ethics. With the new policy, it is possible for an otherwise “unethical” event to have great Academy-approved educational content. Here are some practical steps that you can take to ensure your professional development is consistent with the Academy’s Code of Ethics 

  1. Become familiar with the Academy’s Code of Ethics and Ethical Practice Guidelines for Relationships with Industry.
  2. Determine any ways in which the event may violate the guidelines. Find out if there are suitable workarounds for any potential violations (e.g., pay for your own travel, skip the extracurricular activities, etc.).
  3. Perhaps most importantly, exercise good judgment in making an informed decision about your participation in events for professional development!

If you take away nothing else, know that you have the power of choice. We are confident that you will choose wisely. The Board welcomes your input on this and other issues of importance to you. We encourage you to contact us with suggestions and comments.

Shilpi Banerjee, PhD

Member, Academy Board of Directors (2015-2016)