By Dan Miller, WCI Contributor
Part of being a physician and working in the medical field is the need for Continuing Medical Education (CME). Most states require practicing physicians to take a certain number of hours each year to stay up-to-date on current medical practices. Different states have different CME requirements, so make sure to check with your state medical board to see who has to take CME, how many hours you need each year, and what counts toward CME. The good news: oftentimes, physicians are offered CME money as part of their compensation packages.
Here's what you need to know about CME and how best to use it.
What Is CME Money?
Because most physicians are required to take a certain number of CME hours each year, many employers provide a CME allowance as part of their employees' total compensation package. This CME stipend can be used toward the cost of fulfilling your CME obligations. Your CME stipend will vary based on the terms of your employment contract, so make sure that you understand how you can use your CME allowance and be reimbursed.
Some questions to answer as you review your CME allowance:
- How much is your annual CME stipend?
- Does it roll over from year to year? Or do you lose the money that you don't spend?
- Are there restrictions on how, where, or on what you spend the money?
- Are there specific courses, conferences, or topics that your employer requires that you take?
- Are you allowed to keep any incentives from conference organizers? Or do those have to be disclosed and subtracted from your total CME allowance?
Best Things to Spend CME Money On
If you are wondering what to buy with CME money, you have a couple of different options. The best way to spend CME money will depend on your interests and any requirements from your employer or state medical board. Some good things to spend CME money on that you might consider:
- Medical CME conferences, including the annual Physician Wellness and Financial Literacy Conference (WCICON)
- Online courses
- Online subscriptions
- Continuing Medical Education books
You might also ask your coworkers how they spend their CME money. They may give you additional suggestions or ideas that might work out for your specific situation.
How to Spend CME Money
Depending on the state that you live or practice in, your state medical board may mandate certain courses or topics that you must take as part of your CME. As you're considering what to spend CME money on, you'll want to make sure that you are fulfilling your obligations while also staying in compliance with any regulations set by your employer. Required CME amounts and specific courses can be dictated by:
- Your state medical board
- Your board certification organization
- Your national specialty organization
- Your hospital
CME books and continuing medical education subscriptions are two different options for how to spend CME money. Another option is to take an online course that offers CME credit. One of the online courses that we offer here at The White Coat Investor is called Financial Wellness and Burnout Prevention for Medical Professionals that takes everything from our Fire Your Financial Advisor course AND adds an additional eight hours of wellness content that qualifies for CME/CE credit. We also have a number of Continuing Financial Education courses that offer 17 hours of CME.
Top CME Destinations for Travel
Another option for fulfilling your CME requirements is attending a medical conference. Many medical conferences are intentionally held in popular travel destinations. These travel CME courses can be a great way to combine learning, fulfilling your CME obligations, and having a nice trip that could be mentally refreshing. It is common for many medical conferences to be held in destinations like Hawaii, Florida, Europe, New Orleans, or Phoenix.
One of the ways that many conferences incentivize CME travel for doctors is by offering gift cards or other incentives for attending the conference. Conferences know that many physicians have a CME stipend from their employer that they can use toward their continuing medical education. So, they might charge $2,500 to attend the conference and give you a $1,000 Amazon gift card. Depending on the reimbursement policy of the company you work for, you could potentially use your CME money to cover the $2,500 conference fee and keep the Amazon gift card for yourself. This obviously creates an ethical dilemma for the doc. Another interesting ethical dilemma is whether to buy CME from companies that let you take a self-study course in any location you like and then claim your travel expenses to that location as a CME expense.
The Bottom Line on CME Money
Practicing physicians in most states are required to take a certain amount of Continuing Medical Education (CME) each year. The details of how many hours you need each year; what, if any specific, topics you're required to take; or how you fulfill your CME obligations depend on the state where you practice and possibly your employer's policies. Online courses, CME books, subscriptions, and conferences are all common ways to spend CME money. Take a look at your options and decide what is the best way to spend CME money for your specific situation.
Did you know that you can receive CME for participating in most of the courses offered by The White Coat Investor? Check them out today and learn all about financial wellness while getting CME credit!
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