Einstein-Montefiore Center for Continuing Professional Development Reaches New Heights

The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the way we work, live, and learn. But at the Einstein-Montefiore Center for Continuing Professional Development (CCPD), this disruption has been turned into an opportunity, and as a result, more than 100,000 physicians, nurses, and other clinicians were able to receive training in 2020 alone—the most ever.

Victor Bernard Hatcher, Ph.D.

Victor Bernard Hatcher, Ph.D.

“Thanks to the flexibility and inventiveness of our staff, we quickly responded to changing circumstances,” said Victor Hatcher, Ph.D., associate dean for continuing professional development at Einstein, and director of the CCPD, and research director at Montefiore Medical Center. “We made significant changes to the center over the past two years—including a new major accreditation prior to COVID-19—so we were able to extend our reach, right when it was needed most.”

Once the pandemic hit, the center halted all on-site live events and increased the number of live, online meetings to 169 in 2020, about nine times as many as the previous year. Approximately 50 of the online meetings were related to COVID-19. Add to that Grand Rounds, the center’s at-your-own-pace online courses, and greatly expanded learner base, and 2020 was a banner year for the center.

“We’re now one of the largest medical-school–based providers of education for physicians and others in the United States,” said Dr. Hatcher.

Joint Accreditation

The center was founded in 1976, and Dr. Hatcher took the helm in 2000. Under his leadership, the center grew quickly, securing grants and prioritizing innovation. By 2008, CCPD was educating 39,000 physicians a year.

One of its most significant advances occurred in 2019, when Dr. Hatcher applied for and received Joint Accreditation for Interprofessional Continuing Education (IPCE) for CCPD. Up until that point, Einstein and Montefiore could offer continuing medical education (CME) credits only to physicians. Joint accreditation expanded the center’s audience of learners to include nurses, physician assistants, psychologists, dentists, dietitians, nurses, pharmacists, and social workers, among others.

Training offered by the Einstein-Montefiore Center for Continuing Professional Development

“Joint accreditation enables healthcare professionals to learn from, with, and about one another,” said Kate Regnier, M.A., M.B.A., cofounder of Joint Accreditation for IPCE and executive vice president of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME). “Simply put, the teams that teach each other and learn together perform better,” she said. “Working as a team leads to improved healthcare delivery and better patient outcomes.”

Securing joint accreditation required a CCPD team effort. Staff members Stacy Atkinson, Maureen Quiles, and Ana Maria Martinez took the lead on the overall application; Grace Mota and David Dimattia covered the section for nurses; and Mark Sinnet represented the pharmacists. In 2020, the center received the joint designation with the blessing of leading accrediting bodies such as the ACCME, the American Nurses Credentialing Center, the American Academy of PAs, and the American Psychological Association.

The new designation sets Einstein apart: “In 2020, only nine combined medical schools and health systems were certified to provide continuing education activities for multiple professions,” said Dr. Hatcher. And the joint accreditation reflects and supports Einstein and Montefiore’s spirit of collaboration, encouraging and facilitating “interaction between, for example, pharmacists and physicians, or nurses and physician assistants,” said Dr. Hatcher. “We push the different groups together to bring about true interprofessional continuing education.” In 2020, 40% of the center’s offering were jointly accredited.

Filling Knowledge Gaps

The menu of IPCE offerings has grown over the years thanks to the center’s topical relevance and nimbleness. For example, in 2014 the center noted a need for clinicians to receive training in prescribing opioids. They quickly assembled a program to help educate those who prescribe extended-release, long-acting opioids for patients with chronic pain, detailing when and how to use them safely and effectively. A large grant from Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy for Extended-Release/Long-Acting Opioid Prescribing Program of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration supported the program.

COVID-19’s arrival also required a quick response. “Early in the pandemic, we put together a session on COVID-19 and the kidney in just two months,” said Dr. Hatcher. More recently, working with Allison Stark, M.D., M.B.A., from the Montefiore Care Management Organization, the center created a program for nursing home physicians, nurses, social workers, and administrators. The content focused on knowledge gaps in preventing and limiting the spread of COVID-19, the best use of personal protective equipment, cleaning and disinfecting, dealing with social isolation, and a dozen other need-to-know topics. The program ran twice, from November 2020 to March 2021 and again from April to June 2021.

We made significant changes to the center over the past two years—including a new major accreditation prior to COVID-19—so we were able to extend our reach, right when it was needed most.

Victor Hatcher, Ph.D.

Partnering with Medscape

The center’s relationship with Medscape Education, one of the largest online resources for continuing medical education in the country, further strengthened its programming. The agreement provided a large outlet for Einstein-Montefiore’s CCPD programming, which increased its audience and funding.

One successful collaboration was for pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), a rare and fatal disease for which there is no cure, though new treatments have emerged in recent years. “We knew from previous programs that clinicians were unaware of advances in treatment for PAH and did not know how to properly apply the treatment guidelines,” said Dr. Hatcher. In 2019, the center and Medscape Education joined forces to create “Updates and Perspectives in Pulmonary Hypertension,” an online curriculum designed to close that knowledge gap.

The series launched with “PAH and Hospitalizations: How to Improve Quality of Life,” which attracted more than 7,000 nurse, nurse practitioners, and M.D. learners. More sessions were quickly added. By the end of 2019, the series counted more than 41,000 learners, the largest program for that year.

Keeping It Flexible

Dr. Hatcher hopes for the day when education can once again be delivered in person. “People are looking forward to going to meetings again,” he said. “There is no substitute for the interactions that happen when healthcare professionals are shoulder to shoulder: ‘Hey, I’ve got a problem with this patient …’ ‘That’s interesting, so do I…’ ‘How’d you solve it?’ ‘Well, we did this.’ There’s a lot missing on Zoom.”

Missing as well from Zoom are live cases. “We’ve been doing live cases for the past 20 years,” said Dr. Hatcher. “You bring a team in and set up cameras and mics in the operating room. Learners love them.” One case, for example, showed an angioplasty procedure. “You could see the doctor, the patient, the instrument going into the person’s vessel, you could see them clearing it,” said Dr. Hatcher. Occasionally, problems arise: “Some take much longer than expected, or patients can back out at the last minute,” he says.

But Dr. Hatcher takes it all in stride. “Just as the pandemic has taught us to be flexible and develop new ways to reach learners, these unexpected snags can make for a compelling learning experience.”