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May 15, 2020

Some states temporarily modify CE requirements as social distancing continues

Online continuing education sees rise in interest as in-person events dwindle
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As social distancing and shelter-in-place orders continue in most cities and states, related to the novel coronavirus pandemic, many events across the world where veterinary professionals would have obtained the necessary continuing education credits to keep their licenses in good standing have been postponed or canceled. Several states have temporarily modified their CE requirements in response. However, there could be the potential for licensing delays.

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Several states have modified their continuing education requirements in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. However, there could be the potential for licensing delays.

The AVMA is monitoring how states are changing their policies and providing updates through a document that can be found at jav.ma/stateorders.

The American Association of Veterinary State Boards is also keeping track of how states are changing requirements and guidelines. That resource can be found at jav.ma/AAVSBlist.

State to state

As of press time in mid-April, at least 20 states had made short-term changes to their CE requirements, around 18 states had updated their telehealth guidelines, and 18 AAVSB jurisdictions had changed their business practices, such as being closed to walk-ins, according to information provided by the AVMA and AAVSB.

Idaho, per a temporary rule change, has said licensees who have CE due for this year will only be required to submit 10 CE credit hours, and all can be done online. Veterinarians in the state typically need 20 CE credits for renewal.

“I have spoken with veterinarians around the state that are happy about the change,” said Jeremy Brown, the executive director of the Idaho Board of Veterinary Medicine. He said he received calls from veterinarians before the temporary change who were concerned about meeting requirements. The temporary rule will be in place until the end of the legislative session in 2021.

Other states have made similar changes such as Minnesota, which is offering a 24-month extension to veterinarians who cannot obtain sufficient CE credits by the March 1, 2021, renewal date.

Canceled meetings

Most state VMAs that typically hold their annual conferences in April, May, and June have canceled this year’s events. Several other events such as the British Small Animal Veterinary Association Congress and the 2020 Texas A&M University Veterinary Technicians Conference will also not be held.

But some conferences and conventions later in the year are still moving forward, with meeting organizers reporting that they are monitoring the situation and weighing their options.

The World Small Animal Veterinary Association Congress was still on as of press time in mid-April. The event is set for Sept. 23-26 in Warsaw, Poland.

Virtual licensing

As governors across the U.S. continue to order residents to shelter in place or extend previous stay-at-home orders, veterinary board members and staff members have shifted to working remotely, which has come with logistical challenges that could cause licensing delays.

Jim Penrod, executive director of the AAVSB, said the majority of state boards are working through the challenges successfully.

For example, getting fingerprints for a criminal background check is difficult during this time, so licenses in Minnesota will be issued temporarily after searching a date of birth and a name, said Dr. Julie H. Wilson, executive director of the Minnesota Board of Veterinary Medicine.

“At this point, Minnesota does not expect a significant delay in license issuance,” she said.

However, there is concern around the closure of the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination testing centers and whether recent veterinary graduates will face licensing issues. The NAVLE is administered at Prometric Testing Centers throughout the U.S., Canada, and other selected locations worldwide.

“If a student graduates from a veterinary college but has not passed the NAVLE, he or she has no more legal privilege than a kennel worker,” Dr. Wilson said.

Dr. Heather Case, CEO of the International Council for Veterinary Assessment, the company that administers the NAVLE, said it is difficult to say how many centers have been closed.

“Centers are closed for different time frames due to their respective national, state, or local responses to the outbreak,” she said. For example, Prometric has closed all of its centers in the U.S. and Canada until May 1 and in the United Kingdom until April 30. Some sites are closed through early May.

ICVA decided to give all current April NAVLE candidates an extension to June 30 to allow for testing. ICVA has also provided candidates with an option to defer, at no additional fee, to the November-December 2020 testing window.

The vast majority of current fourth-year veterinary students set to graduate in May have reportedly already taken NAVLE.

Other issues related to licensing include the need for board meetings to be public. Veterinary boards are having to figure out how to notify the members of the public and give them access to virtual meetings, Penrod said.

“In general, we are seeing that they are responsive to licensing requests. I have only seen one example of a board saying they might have a delay,” he said.

The AAVSB also has released an online license verification service through its fee-based Vault Premium Transfer Service for veterinarians who are seeking licensure in another state. The tool is meant to increase the efficiency of the licensure process and speed up the ability of the regulatory board to issue licenses, Penrod said. The tool has been in development for a while, but he said this is a good time to release it.

The online tool would allow a state to verify licensees are in good standing, the expiration date of their license, and their license number.

The Vault Premium Transfer Service is available at jav.ma/vault.

Online all the time

While veterinary professionals face decreased in-person opportunities for CE, online ones are seeing an obvious rise.

Online resources such as AVMA Axon, Vet Girl on the Run, Vet Bloom, and Vet 360 offer virtual informational and CE sessions that veterinary professionals can take advantage of.

Dr. Kevin Dajka, AVMA chief of professional development and strategic alliances, said AVMA Axon’s online offerings have seen an increase in traffic, in part, because of the recently developed COVID-19 Update series. These webinars focus on four key areas that the pandemic is impacting in the veterinary profession right now: small business, essential practice resources, economic impact, and well-being. Members of the AVMA can access axon.avma.org with their login, and anyone else can view the webinars once they create a profile with the AVMA.

Vet Bloom, an online CE company, has a free course for dealing with COVID-19–related anxiety at jav.ma/COVIDanxiety.

VetBloom is also working to help veterinary professionals and partnering with associations that have postponed or canceled events such as state VMAs and veterinary technician associations so the associations can provide free CE to their members during this time.

In a separate effort to help veterinary professionals facing CE-related challenges, the AAVSB changed its Registry of Approved Continuing Education requirements on March 20 to allow live and interactive webinars to count as in-person meetings. More information can be found at aavsb.org/ce-services.

The AAVSB also announced that the National Examining Board of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association will recognize applicants who have completed the AAVSB Program for the Assessment of Veterinary Education Equivalence as being eligible to apply for veterinary licensure in Canadian provinces.