The ABCC Pathway for C-L Psychiatry: Start Reading Now to Beat The Deadline!

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The ABCC Pathway for C-L Psychiatry: Start Reading Now to Beat The Deadline!

If you are on the ABCC pathway to maintain your certification in C-L Psychiatry and have not begun the articles, the time to start is now!

From ACLP presidents Bob Boland, MD, FACLP (2016-17), and Catherine Crone, MD, FACLP (2014-15).
Former ACLP presidents Bob Boland, MD, FACLP (2016-17), and Catherine Crone, MD, FACLP (2014-15). Dr. Boland is chair, and Dr. Crone is vice-chair, of the ABPN’s C-L Psychiatry ABCC Committee.

Like many C-L psychiatrists, we were delighted when we at the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN) finally started the alternative pathway for certification in C-L Psychiatry.

Historically, we were all used to maintaining our board certification (MOC) by taking an exam every 10 years and, while simple enough, it was questionable that it proved we were keeping up in our field.

In 2016, ABPN held a crucial issues forum to discuss improving the maintenance of certification process. Alongside ABPN, it included stakeholders, MOC experts, and representatives from other fields of medicine, all sharing innovative approaches to MOC. After discussing many possibilities, the group felt the most compelling one was the one chosen—the Article-Based Continuing Certification pathway (aka ABCC).

For this pathway, instead of cramming for an exam every 10 years, we read C-L Psychiatry articles and answer a few questions per article, much like continuing medical education (CME) to which we are all accustomed. This encourages us to continue learning in C-L Psychiatry—something we should all be doing, but often put off given our busy careers and more immediate tasks pulling at our attention.

ABCC gives us the extra incentive to learn and keep up in our field.

How many articles do you need to complete? It depends on the number of certifications you hold. For example, if you need to maintain certification only in C-L Psychiatry, you will need to complete 30, but if you need to maintain certifications in both General Psychiatry and C-L Psychiatry, then the total is 50.

Each year, ABPN publishes a list of articles, which includes 10 different content areas with four to six articles in each subject area. We can choose up to four articles in any area, ensuring we get some variety in our field. We have three years to finish them, an average of 10 articles a year (note this is less than some other specialties).

Value of lifelong learning
We are ABPN committee members who choose the articles and write questions for the ABCC pathway. So, yes, we are biased toward this approach to certification! However, we chose to be on this committee because we sincerely believe in the value of lifelong learning.

Regardless of the profession, research supports what we already know—time alone does not improve us. The opposite is true—our skills decline over time unless we do something about it. To be a good doctor, we must be avid lifetime learners. When we go to our primary care physicians and ask about the latest guidelines for hypertension treatment, we expect them to be up to date. Why should our patients expect any less from us?

ABCC became live in 2022, and most of us became part of that cycle. Our experience is that the process is simple: we go online to our physician portfolio, click on the link for the ABCC, look at the list of articles, read one, and then answer five online, open-book, non-timed questions about the article. The questions are straightforward; however, they require reading the article, and we have learned that you cannot pass the test after skimming the article. 

Deadline for YOUR article reading
If you’re wondering whether you are part of the ABCC, it’s simple: if you did nothing, then yes, you are. The default pathway for everyone is ABCC unless you specifically opted-in for the traditional 10-year exam pathway.

Furthermore, if you are wondering when you have to complete the ABCC for this cycle, the chances are it is the end of this year, as most of us are on the 2022-2024 cycle.

You may be in a different group if you recently took a certifying exam. You can learn more about this by visiting your physician portfolio—the link is on the ABPN website home page.

Our experience is that this approach is simple and educational. The group that picked the articles was chosen among our ACLP members, and they did a great job identifying articles with both core and cutting-edge information. 

However, we have also discovered that it takes time. On average, for us, it takes about two hours per article when you count finding the article, reading it, and answering the questions. (ABPN does not provide articles as that would make this certification pathway very expensive. However, if you are an ACLP member, you will be able to get quite a few of the articles for free.)

When you multiply that time by 30, it becomes clear you cannot cram for this.

ABPN recently reported that of the people enrolled for the ABCC in the 2022-2024 group, about half have not started the articles. This finding means that about half of us have less than a year to complete all 30 or 50 articles (based on whether you have one or two certifications). The timeframe is still reasonable, but if you are in the same situation this fall, it will become a significant burden for you to complete the ABCC in time. 

If you do not want to do the ABCC pathway, you still have the option to take the traditional multiple-choice MOC recertification exam, though the deadline for registering for this is May 2, 2024 (late application deadline May 9, 2024), to be taken between August 5-30, 2024.

Thus, we would encourage you to start looking at the articles now.

To find everything you need to get started, visit your physician portfolio on the site. If you have questions, ABPN is very responsive and easy to contact (see their website for contact information). And you can always feel free to email us.

Happy reading! 


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