Continuing Education: The Options; The Reality

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Kids, my own or those I work with, are often slightly astonished that I like school—genuinely like school.  They can’t believe I willingly went to school beyond college and even now happily sign up for multi-day seminars.

Apart from the fact that it’s required for us to maintain our certification (30 hrs or 3.0 CEUs/3-year maintenance period) and the ethical obligation to stay current with best practices, I truly enjoy hearing about new methods, gathering information and collaborating with others in our field.

As a result, I’ve racked up a lot of CEUs over the years and  have found not all CEUs are created equal.  There are marked differences between the types offered and unless you’re really just trying to cross off credits, you need to know which will best suit your needs.

ASHA or State Convention

ASHA provides up to 2.6 CEUs; or up to 3.15 if you register for pre-conference activities.  State conventions will vary, but .6-1.4 CEUs seems to be the standard.

Pros:

  1.  There are lots of different topics available, sometimes on very niche issues that wouldn’t make sense, or be cost effective, for an entire seminar.
  2. If you realize 10 minutes into a session that it isn’t what you expected or that the speaker is so dry you’ll be nodding off if you stick around, you can simply hop up and move to another session.  At ASHA you can follow the Twitter feed to find out where the good stuff is happening
  3. Go with a friend and you can double the amount of information you receive (though your credits stay the same).  It’s a certainty that you will find some times slots overflowing with sessions your dying to hear—split up the work.
  4. It’s also a certainty that some time slots will have no compatible sessions to your interests.  No worries, head to the exhibit hall!  The exhibit hall at ASHA requires you to set aside a decent chunk of time, but even the state vendors are worth a look.  This is an outstanding opportunity to see new products, have someone walk you through scoring on a new assessment tool, or find resources for referral in your area.  And don’t forget the giveaways—you won’t need new pens for a year!
  5. Networking is a huge opportunity, especially at ASHA when participants are staying in the area for a few days.  You can meet up at the ASHA sponsored events or join smaller groups like the #SLPeeps at dinner.  You’ll get more information, recommendations and camaraderie than you thought possible and head home reinvigorated about the profession.

Cons:

  1.  Though there is tremendous variety in topics some of them can be fairly obscure, but, hey, that means there really is something for everyone.
  2. The title and even the couple sentence description can be misleading.  You may not really know what you’re walking into until you’re in it.
  3. The sessions are short!  Unless you pony up for a short course, the sessions are 30min-2 hrs.  Sometimes I feel like we’re just getting started when they start wrapping it up!
  4. There can be, for better or worse, a lot of anonymity at a big conference.  If you want to network, you’ll need to put yourself out there otherwise you’re one person in a very large sea.  I think I saw that ASHA broke records this year with over 14,000 attendees!

Seminars

This will vary widely depending on the topic and number of attendance days.  Most will provide up to .6 per day.

Pros:

  1.  You can really delve into a topic at a seminar and the sign-up literature is usually very specific as to what will be covered.
  2. Seminars move around quite a bit and you might get to see one of the stars of our profession in a smaller setting that allows one-on-one interaction at some point (yes, I’ve asked for autographs).
  3. Seminars tend to be more clinically based, rather than strictly research, so you will usually find yourself implementing new techniques, maybe even materials, the day you get back.
  4. Seminars tend to have more participatory components.  You might get to try out techniques on other therapists, write plans/goals, or play a “patient” yourself.
  5. Keep your eyes peeled and you can attend something very close to home, even if you don’t live in a metro area.  This can cut down on costs substantially.

 

Cons:

  1.  If you’ve made a bad decision, you’re pretty much stuck.  Get a cup of caffeinated coffee, try to muddle through awake and ask a lot of questions.  Some speakers will improve with participant interaction and at least you’ll get some of the info you were looking to find.
  2. You can get quite a few hours in with a one or two day seminar, but it will likely take a few to cover your total CEU requirements.  You need to consider travel costs, but seminars themselves are usually pricier/hour.
  3. Some seminars have a bit of a cult-like feel.  If you’ve drunk the Kool-Aid yourself, that’s fine, but if you’re a dissenter and question the theory … you might find the room gets a little chilly.  Oops.

At Home Options

Again, this varies widely.  You can take on-line courses as short as an hour (.1 CEU), or sign on to a webcast and get a few hours.  An ASHA on-line conference like the one on Neurodegenerative Disorders (2/19-3/3) can earn you up to 2.6.  There are also DVD or CD courses and self-study journal article options.

Pros:

  1.  The convenience of CEUs earned at home can’t be ignored.  You can do them at your leisure, devoting just a bit of time each day or make it a marathon session and knock it all out at once.  You can do it before the kids wake up or after they go to sleep, or during a snow day.
  2. With no travel expenses, the cost can be much lower than other alternatives.  ASHA SIG members can earn very inexpensive CEUs through self-study as well as discounts on other related ASHA courses.  SpeechPathology.com offers a yearly subscription for unlimited on-line courses.  Specific organizations such as The Stuttering Foundation have very economical DVD classes.
  3. You have a lot of flexibility in terms of topic.  There are lots and lots of courses available and you don’t need to wait for it to arrive somewhere near you.

Cons:

  1.  You’ll need some discipline.  Make that quite a bit of discipline.  It’s really easy to let a stack of DVDs sit, and sit…and sit some more.  It’s even easier to start a course only to find you never finished it.  Be honest with yourself and what you are likely to accomplish.
  2. The quality of the DVDs/CDs will be fine, but in a world of surround sound and fast paced cable shows you will be astonished at how slow a lecture moves.  Speakers that are dynamic in person are often diminished on film when you lose the energy of the audience as well.  And beware if you stop a DVD and try to find your place again later!  When the “scene” never changes, it can be frustrating to try and relocate your stopping point.
  3. Interaction is often limited.  Live webinars and conferences will give you an opportunity to ask questions, but other options lack this ability.

In the examples above, I’m referring to ASHA-approved course,s which are required for the ACE award and can be tracked through the ASHA CEU Registry.  However, ASHA does permit other CEU credits to count toward your certification maintenance.  Check the guidelines for information on continuing education credits without pre-approval.

Kim Lewis is a pediatric clinician in Greensboro, NC and blogs at ActivityTailor.com.  Attendance at the ASHA convention this fall qualified her for an ACE award (7.0+ CEUs in a 36 month period).