Maintaining Broad-Based Knowledge Through Years of Practice

February 12, 2020

A question we occasionally hear from Diplomates is “Why am I being assessed on topics that aren’t relevant to my practice?”  The Diplomates who pose this question tend to be optometrists whose practices have a narrower emphasis due to patient demographics or mode of practice. Over time, they’ve developed an area (or areas) of expertise and their continuing education hours, journal reading, and new skill acquisition are focused predominantly in that area.

ABO awards a single certificate – Diplomate, American Board of Optometry – and all certificate holders must meet the same standards, including a minimum level of competency across a core body of knowledge and skills. This core body of knowledge serves as the basis for the initial board certification examination and is determined systematically through a survey of the profession, known as a Job Task Analysis (JTA). The JTA determines what optometrists do on a day-to-day basis – what types of patients they see, what conditions they diagnose and treat, what testing they do – and how critical they consider each task. The blueprint for the board certification examination is derived from the JTA, which is repeated every 5 years to stay current with evolving trends in optometry. The topics that are tested and the number of questions in each topic area is a direct reflection of the JTA survey results.

The CAP assessments are a key component of maintenance of certification (MOC). The standards used in maintaining certification are the same standards that were applied to initial certification, i.e. a minimum level of competency within a core body of knowledge and skills must be maintained. Acknowledging that optometric practices are not all the same, some flexibility was built into the CAP program by requiring successful completion of only 7 of the 9 assessments. This ensures that the same standard is being applied to all Diplomates, with some allowance for differences in modes of practice and patient populations.

ABO Diplomate Tony Chahine of La Canada, CA expressed a refreshing perspective on this issue as part of the QIA he submitted in 2019. Dr. Chahine does a lot of specialty contact lens fitting in his practice and, when attending CE meetings, he tends to select mostly cornea and glaucoma lectures. Dr. Chahine wrote that when he “barely passed” the Systemic Health CAP assessment he viewed his results as a personal wake-up call. He decided to become more focused on systemic conditions that impacted not just the anterior segment, but the uvea and retina as well. He began attending a wider variety of CE courses to expand his knowledge, and he’s taken several steps toward modernizing his practice. Dr. Chahine credits the CAP assessment with motivating him to update his practice and improve the quality of his patient care. 

Thank you, Dr. Chahine, for allowing us to share your experience with your colleagues. If you have an example of how the CAP program has benefitted your practice and improved patient care, we’d love to highlight it in a future newsletter or on ABO’s Facebook page.



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