Though a retina specialist, I’m in the midst of re-certifying to remain a board certified ophthalmologist. Every 10 years, I’m required to re-certify, that is, I must pass a test to demonstrate competence based upon my knowledge, skill and experience. Board certification means I practice a high standard of patient care.
Up until about 20 years ago, an ophthalmologist had to pass the exam once for life. My generation of Ophthalmologists must now re-certify every 10 years to remain board certified.
This summer I’m studying to sit for a 4 hour 150 question exam given in September.
Board certification reflects a high standard of competency based upon the doctor’s knowledge and skills.
The American Board of Ophthalmology is the oldest medical specialty certifying board. At present there are 24 medical specialty certifying boards recognized by the Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS).
There are various sub-specialties in ophthalmology. 1/3 of the exam, by requirement, will be on general ophthalmology covering topics felt to be “core” knowledge. By choice, the rest of my exam will be covering diseases of the retina and vitreous…my sub-specialty.
Believe it or not, there is no pre-determined passing score. There is some type of curve and I’ll be judged with all other applicants who sit for the exam for 2013.
In general, board certification ensures some level of competency. It is not required to obtain a medical license in most states, however, most hospitals, malpractice insurance companies (those that insure docs against malpractice) and insurance companies (those who insure patients) require their participating docs to be board certified. So, practically speaking, in 2013, you must be board certified if you want hospital privileges, obtain malpractice insurance or participate in health plans as a providing doctor.
What Does this Mean?
Board certification for doctors is not new. The American Board of Ophthalmology was created almost 100 years ago in 1916. Re-certification, however, is indeed new.
Over the past 2 generations, medicine has become ultra sub-specialized. For instance, I deal only with problems of the retina.
The exam requires me to study because there are sure to be topics which I simply do not see on a routine basis as a practicing retina specialist. The test will require general knowledge of ophthalmology and not simply practical knowledge of retinal diseases.
The American Board of Ophthalmology does not offer sub-specialty certification, yet there are about 10 recognized sub-specialties in Ophthalmology (Cornea, Retina, Glaucoma, Oculoplastics, Neuro-Ophthalmology, Pediatrics, Uveitis, Ocular Oncology, Ocular Pathology). The Board should consider sub-specialty certification to reflect our training and how we practice daily. Perhaps this is why we are graded on a curve.
I am experienced and am professional. I know what I know and I know what I don’t know. If a situation presents where I am not comfortable, I am sure to refer to a specialist who will be able to make a diagnosis.
I object to practicing as a sub-specialist, being able to offer exemplary surgical and medical retinal care, but being subject to more generalized review. We need sub-specialized certification if “board certified” is to be meaningful.
“Board Certification” should be based upon my clinical practice including patient care and surgical outcomes…and not, my ability to study.