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Why is Professional Development so Important for Physicians?

By February 19, 2024Providers

Doctors are, of course, subject to rigorous training before even stepping foot in a hospital. However, the many years following residency are what make up the majority of a physician’s career. In this time, best practices change, and not just in how patients’ medical concerns are treated. Many aspects of healthcare require continued education, including career and relationship-oriented skills. These elements, and others like them, form the concept of professional development for physicians.


The semantics surrounding continuing medical education (CME) and continuing professional development (CPD) are murky. What these terms mean is largely dependent on where you live and practice, what continuing education your licensing organization and state require, and what ongoing professional development programs your employer offers.

For a physician in the United States, CME is a broad category of activities that encompass topics ranging from clinical updates to practice management, including professional development. In Europe, CPD is considered the umbrella term for continuing education in healthcare and the two acronyms may even be used together (“CME-CPD”).

The line between CME and CPD as concepts becomes blurrier as organizations and the industry as a whole realize the importance of comprehensive continuing education. Professional development on topics beyond medical skills and clinical updates (including leadership, management, technology, and interpersonal skills for both coworker and patient interactions) is beneficial to practitioners as well as patients and healthcare systems.

The Benefits of Professional Development for Physicians

While the value of keeping your medical skills up to date cannot be denied, leadership, interpersonal communication, and other aspects of professionalism are also important. Professional development delivers a wide range of benefits for physicians and other healthcare professionals:

  • Confidence
  • Career advancement, both in your current position and new roles
  • Career satisfaction
  • Up to date skills, such as inclusive language
  • Networking and collaboration
  • Improved interactions with patients, coworkers, employees, and other specialties

What Professional Development Topics are Right for You?

Just like clinically relevant CME, ongoing professional development is available in a wide range of formats and topics. Courses may or may not be available for CME credit. Some topics to consider as an advanced practice provider include:

  • Adapting to changing roles (For example, the expanding responsibilities of PAs and NPs.)
  • New technologies like AI
  • Physician wellness and managing burnout
  • Patient safety
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Mitigating legal risk

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