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What is Continuing Education?

Inquiring Minds Want to Know

What is Continuing Education? Or Why Continuing Education?

By Audrey Kirchner


Within many professions, the phrase continuing education or professional continuing education is common.  What exactly does it refer to?  Continuing education refers to attending a seminar or participating in an activity that provides a learning foundation for new or updated information within a person’s career field.  Within the medical profession, it is something that is commonplace, as healthcare providers must keep abreast of new developments and information that can affect patient care or improve outcomes. 

Continuing education is specific training that is usually associated with certificates or units of measure that which serve as proof that someone has attended or participated in furthering their education.  In the arena of healthcare documentation, the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity (AHDI) terms these as continuing education credits (CECs).  As AHDI is the licensing body for the RHDS and CHDS credentialing exams, all CECs must be approved through them. 

Who must earn CECs?  A registered healthcare documentation specialist (RHDS) credential is achieved through testing after completion of a medical transcription program or may be pursued based on clinical experience (such as an RN degree, etc).  There are no continuing educational requirements for the RHDS credential, but this certificate is a prerequisite for obtaining the certified healthcare documentation specialist (CHDS) credential.  In order to test for the CHDS credential, one must already possess the RHDS credential and should also have completed at least 2 years of acute care transcription or multi-specialty equivalent work experience.

You might be wondering at this point what continuing education has to do with you, as you are a student and perhaps already studying for the RHDS.  If continuing education is not required, why should it be of concern?  The idea of this article is to expound on this very important subject in order to bring the idea of continuing education to the forefront for anyone working with medical documents.  Isn’t continuing education exactly what healthcare documentation should be about?  It is the epitome of lifelong learning because each and every day the HDS is constantly challenged with new drugs, developments in the field of surgery, newly discovered viruses or conditions and so much more.  Every day in a transcriptionist’s life is a chance to learn something new and expand their individual field of knowledge. 

It is important even as a student to start thinking in terms of continuing education.  Just because a program ends, it doesn’t mean that we can possibly know everything we will need to know.  What do you hope to learn more about?  What specialties or areas of medicine fascinate you?  If we expand that to include what AHDI has already categorized for us, we begin to see a very organized and detailed “outline” of where we as documentation specialists can focus our attention and build upon areas we need or want to learn more about.  AHDI calls these areas of knowledge and expertise core areas.  Unlike the RHDS, the CHDS has to be recertified every 3 years and in order to obtain that certificate, the CHDS must earn a minimum of 30 CECs across 4 core areas plus 1 optional area.  There is no retesting involved, but the completion of the continuing education credits is mandatory.   

The purpose of the core areas is to ensure that the CHDS is strong in areas that affect patient care and the actual day-to-day work of the HDS in terms of technical skill sets.  The core areas have a fixed minimum of credits to be earned of the 30, and then the optional areas where credits can also be accrued to bring the total up to 30 after meeting the core requirements.   

The important thing to remember is that the ongoing educational credits must be approved credits – meaning that they are of sufficient level to qualify as educational for an advanced practitioner.  This is called level 2 content, which means it is above what someone would learn in an MT study program.   

Let’s look at the core areas of the CHDS continuing educational requirements.  Note while we are reviewing these and the descriptions of the core areas how a student or an RHDS would also find great benefit to gain more knowledge in these areas.  The more future oriented one is, the more likely someone will be to go on to become a CHDS.  That carries with it the potential for many opportunities, including advancement, reimbursement for credentialing, as well as higher pay, dependent upon the employer. 

Note:  Usually, 1 unit equates out to 1 hour of approved material review or participation. 

Clinical Medicine – 8 units are required.  Clinical medicine covers the inner workings of medicine such as advanced medical conditions and diagnostics, advanced anatomy and physiology (college-level equivalent),
surgeries (to include procedures, instruments or techniques), new or advanced pharmacologic treatments, advanced lab concepts such as genetics or cytology, new treatments for disease or innovative diagnostic studies, medical research or studies, and clinical care services such as rehabilitation, psychology, etc.

Professional Development – 6 unites are required (covering people management, conflict resolution, communication skills, time management, career management, employee supervision, productivity management, and industry cross-over such as billing and coding, scribing, etc).

Technology & Tools – 8 units are required.  This core area covers new or advanced resources and references to enhance the HDS’ knowledge base, proofreading or editing skill builders, productivity or efficiency information, or ergonomics and workplace modifications.

Medicolegal Issues – 4 units are required.  This core area covers the healthcare record and management, risk management, Advance Directives, HIPAA privacy and security, medicolegal concepts, healthcare accreditation, ethics related to health information management and standards development (such as the Health Story Project).

Optional Areas – Additional units may be earned in these areas plus more within the other 4 core areas to equal the 30 units amassed during the 3-year period. 

Complementary Medicine (covering such subjects as acupuncture or chiropractic, holistic medicine, massage therapy, preventive medicine, health and wellness, medical history such as discoveries, CPR and first aid certifications).


The forward-thinking student can start the journey along the path to eventual continuing educational credits, as the OWLS program will allow you to explore different core areas and practice continuing education while actually furthering your education.  That is the essence of continuing education and embracing that system from the beginning will allow the process to become second nature as your career path unfolds.

For more information, see these AHDI pages:

Why Get Certified