Closing Practice Gaps: Educational Needs

Published Date

A tutorial on the relationship between learners’ professional practice gaps and the educational needs that underlie those gaps, with Steve Singer, PhD, ACCME Vice President for Education & Outreach. This video was produced to be used in conjunction with participation in the Accreditation Workshop.


Accredited CME is focused on addressing practice-based problems; using education to close the gap between current practice and best practice.

It’s this approach that defines one of ACCME’s key expectations for planning CME activities: Begin with the professional practice gaps of your learners and address the educational needs that will help close those gaps. Professional practice gaps can be associated with individuals, teams, or even an entire system. “Professional practice” is not limited to clinical practice; it includes each of the domains of your learner’s professional lives—teaching, conducting research, being a leader or member of a team. And, of course there are reasons why gaps exist. Understanding those reasons—defining the educational needs of your learners—is an essential starting point for your CME activities. Let’s use some examples to understand the relationship between gaps and educational needs:

  • First example, knowledge need: My approach for the management of chronic pain hasn’t changed even though there are new research-based guidelines about safer prescribing. Therefore, I have an educational need for knowledge—understanding the guidelines—to help close this gap.
  • Second example, competence need: Our interprofessional team is struggling with care coordination at shift changes. Each of us understands the principles of collaborative practice, but we lack practical strategies for how to manage these transitions. We have to address our competence-based need with a better approach—a plan or strategy—to help close our gap.
  • Third example, performance need: I’ve learned all the steps involved in a new procedure, but I haven’t yet been able to do it as effectively as I should be. Addressing my educational need with guidance, feedback, and training on my performance will help close this gap.

I’m sure you’ll find that some gaps are easily addressed, while others are comprised of a complex web of educational needs. Accredited providers have a special role to help uncover and address educational needs. It’s the fuel that drives CME.