by Louis Lazo
Continuing Education (CE) has been highly effective at improving patient outcomes and saving lives. According to the Institute for Health Care Improvement, “CE is a vehicle for spreading best practices and how to improve patient outcomes.” In short, continuing education is a way to keep health care teams abreast of current research in the fields in which they practice. Continuing Education modes of delivery have also changed significantly throughout the past five years. Today, there is a greater movement towards computer-based courses and less emphasis on live seminars, which were so predominant and popular for so many years.
In accordance to many state boards regulating continuing education requirements for healthcare providers across the country, home study/online courses are no longer limited to a specific number of hours. All courses, however, including home study /online courses are mandated to be completed by a state- approved respiratory care provider. Live courses are still acceptable, available and are not limited, but are no longer mandatory. According to numerous state-licensing boards for healthcare providers, there are no restrictions on the number of home study courses allowed per biennium. Licensees can now obtain all continuing education requirements via computer-based offerings in many states.
There are obvious advantages and limitations relevant to all continuing education modes of delivery. A ‘perfect” system of instructional delivery is non-existent. Licensees are sometimes encouraged to participate at work-site seminars/conferences. They may also be encouraged to complete online courses/webinars that the work-site may deem of high importance. Today, there are many continuing education options and professional growth opportunities for licensees. The preferred route of instructional delivery should be, however, decided by the actual licensee.
Live seminar offerings have diminished significantly in recent years due to the advent of computer-based offerings. This is unfortunate because live seminars provide many academic benefits to healthcare licensees unlike other modes of instruction. According to the IRIS Software Group (2015), with a seminar that one can attend in person, it is a great opportunity for one to network and meet like-minded individuals that could be in similar positions. There are also no distractions at a seminar. Participants are fully engaged with the presenter(s) and their attention is dedicated to them and the taking of notes. Seminars are increasingly becoming two-way situations where organizations hosting can learn an equal amount from the people attending.
Fans of in-person education advocate that the complex, layered world of questions, spur-of-the-moment thinking, shared problem-solving and enthusiasm for learning can never be replaced by the flatter world of online learning. There is also a focused learning environment. Networking is a big advantage. Being able to ask questions and connect with like-minded practitioners and friends in person is a huge advantage of in-person learning (Brown, 2013).
Freifeld (2017) admits that e-learning has the reputation of being more convenient and cost-effective than classroom training. But is it as effective when it comes to learning “stickiness” and changing behavior? Classroom trainings are most ideal for small groups and especially in cases when interaction, team bonding, and/or nonverbal communications are vital to achieving learning objectives. Role-play and simulations, often used in sales and management trainings, are perfect activities for live classroom trainings. Live seminar advantages include a wealth of knowledge usually, presented by many speakers at one time in one place; a sense of camaraderie, where individuals can meet others with the same interests/problems/concerns that they may have in their chosen field; and being with others that “understand” individual’s problems or concerns, is usually a great morale booster (Rao, 2017).
According to the Institute of Somatic Therapy (2017), live seminars are good for people who prefer supervision and structure in their studies, where you have instant feedback and the ability to feel the work being performed on yourself from your fellow classmates. The size of the class will determine how much instructor feedback you will receive. Another consideration is the impact of comprehension and retention of the material. With a live seminar, you may have a tremendous amount of information that comes at you during a short time. Studies indicate that the retention rate can be as low as 50% in a classroom situation dependent upon the interest level of the participant; presenter delivery methodology; instructional setting; and possible distractions.
During live seminars, healthcare providers have the advantage of interacting with colleagues, networking with seminar sponsors, and learn about medical innovations that have proven to be successful at neighboring hospital sites. Seminars and conferences may also address professional growth and career initiatives with “on the scene” hospital administrators and extended health care facility managers. The ability to open doors to new opportunities makes attending a conference a worthwhile part of career development (Witt, 2011). The participants can also ask questions, provide professional insights, and debate controversial issues at the spot of the moment. Live seminars and conferences allow presenters to learn from participants. Local, state, and national representatives from respective allied health societies, boards, and organizations may also be invited to present in a live setting. Expert motivational speakers add great intuitive challenges during seminars/conferences. The human interaction of all parties involved is unique and creates a learning environment for all in attendance. This multi-sensory interaction is most needed and should not be ignored or replaced in its entirety by other modes of continuing education.
In conclusion, Morton-Rias (2017) agrees that lifelong learning, regardless of instructional delivery, can make us better providers because continued learning expands knowledge, capabilities and commitment; benefit us professionally by exposing us to new concepts and research-driven strategies, which can be reassuring to patients, and improve the quality of our professional and personal lives by expanding our professional network and resources.
Dr. Louis Lazo is President of Continuing Education Unlimited of South Florida, Inc., a state-approved provider of continuing education for respiratory therapists and clinical lab personnel. He is a registered and licensed respiratory therapist and pulmonary function technologist. Dr. Lazo has been an allied healthcare educator provider for over 35 years.
- Brown, L. (2013). Continuing education showdown: Online learning vs. in-person seminars. Acupuncture Today, 14(12). Retrieved from http://acupuncturetoday.com/mpacms/at/article.php?id=32824
- Freifeld, L. (2017). Online vs. in-class success: E-learning can be an inexpensive alternative to classroom training, but does it yield the same results? Training Magazine. Retrieved from
- IRIS Software Group (2015). The webinar versus the seminar. Retrieved from
- Institute of Somatic Therapy (2017). How do online continuing education courses compare to live seminars? Retrieved from https://www.massagecredits.com/pages/online_vs_live.php
- Morton-Rias, D. (2017). The value of continued education for healthcare professionals. Advance Healthcare Network. Retrieved from http://health-system-management.advanceweb.com/the-value-of-continued-education-for-healthcare-professionals/
- Rao, V.P. (2017). Advantages and disadvantages of a seminar. Street Directory. Retrieved from
- Witt, C.L. (2011). Continuing education: A personal responsibility. Advances in Neonatal Care, 11(4): 227-228. DOI:10.1097/ANC.0b013e31822648f3.
Disclaimer: The viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at Healthcare Staffing Innovations, LLC.