NCBTMB Making Major Changes to CE Provider Approvals

Disclosure: I have agreed to pass along comments, questions and concerns to the NCBTMB on this matter, and the management there reads my blog. They are fully aware that I use this blog to express my own opinion whether it is in line with theirs or not. Your comments here will be seen by the CEO, Mike Williams, and the Board of Directors.

The NCBTMB has announced major changes in the works to their Approved Provider program for continuing education. You can read those here.They have also set up a page for Frequently Asked Questions about it, and you can read those here.

As soon as they sent out the press release I started getting emails and FB messages from people asking questions about it, some applauding it, and some complaining about it.The biggest change is that they will no longer be offering organizational approval. Every individual who teaches a continuing education class will need to obtain individual approval as a provider. That’s going to affect a LOT of entities: AMTA, the American Massage Conference, massage schools, and other organizations who have previously been able to take people in under their umbrella.

It’s affecting me, personally. I have organizational approval myself. I normally host a dozen or more teachers at my facility each year, and while 90% of them are approved providers in their own right, a couple are not. I don’t perceive it to be such a big deal for me…it’s not going to be a problem for them to get their own approval, and I have until the end of 2013 to prod them along into doing so. All who are approved as organizations have until the end of 2013 to get your act together and come into compliance under the new rules.

One of the first complaints, naturally, was about money, and people having to pay yet another expense. Organizational approval up to this point has cost $400. In reality, an organization that only has two teachers has been paying the same amount as one that has twenty, and that’s not really fair. Under the new paradigm, approvals will cost $175 and will last for three years. You must also pay a $25 fee for each class you submit to be reviewed. As a clarification to one point that has been brought up, if you have a full class and you teach portions of that, as sometimes happens at conferences and conventions, you are not having to pay $25 for each version of it…just the one fee. That’s good. I teach for a lot of AMTA chapters and I am often asked to cut an 8 hour class down to 6 hours or make a 3 hour class last for 4, so it’s good to know you’re not paying $25 for all derivatives of the same course.

People have also stated issues with them requiring a criminal background check. Some state boards require that, and some don’t. My particular state does, and if memory serves I think the fee is $30 or $35. It may be duplicating efforts for the NCBTMB to require it in some instances, but not in others.

I have personally had discussions with the powers that be at the NCBTMB over the approval of course content. They are now vetting individual courses again–to a point. The first concern I got wind of was from a colleague who was concerned that they would throw out everything that doesn’t fit in the box of Western medicine. Have no fear. My own wish is that they would get rid of some of the more questionable classes that are approved….at least they were questionable to me, and of course, I’m just one person with an opinion in a sea of many.

They have no intent of getting rid of energy work courses and other classes that don’t have any basis in science…as long as the course content shows some connection to or lineage from massage, it will still likely be approved. I say likely because during the vetting process, they are paying more attention to quality, whatever that truly means. For one thing, they are asking you to turn in your complete handouts, which has never been done before and which also has some people concerned about letting their proprietary information out of the bag. I have expressed my own concern that some of these courses people have invented that don’t have any basis in science and in fact have in some instances been proven to be totally contrary to accepted scientific principles are still going to be approved, so I’m not sure how “quality” that is. A lot of people disagree with me on that front. There is obviously a very huge demand for those types of classes, or they wouldn’t continue to exist.

What I would personally like to see happen is a national certification for science-based education. I’m going to keep after them about that; you can count on it. People can do all the unsubstantiated things they like, but there are some who would like to have a credential that is based on the actual evidence-informed practice of massage. I am one of them. Does that mean I am claiming to be better than you? No, it does not. It just means I would like for there to be something out there that differentiates those who want to be known as evidence-based practitioners as opposed to those who don’t.

Other questions I’ve been asked include exactly who is doing this, and the names of the committee members have not been released that I am aware of. They just state on their website (which is new and snappy-looking, incidentally) that it is a team of experienced practitioners and educators.

People ought to be aware that the buck doesn’t really stop with the NCBTMB. They, along with numerous other certification agencies,  are accredited by the Institute for Credentialing Excellence (formerly NCCA, National Commission for Certified Agencies).  They are the only national accreditation body for private certification organizations, in all disciplines, to demonstrate adherence to established standards. Among the certifying agencies that this organization accredits include healthcare programs in chiropractic, dentistry, EMT, nursing, medical assisting, nutrition, prosthetics and orthotics, and pharmacy. They also accredit certification programs in the arts, construction trades, and a host of other things. And ICE is accountable to the Council for Higher Education.

Bottom line: changes are coming, and you can either go with the flow or go away…while a few states have their own approval process, the vast majority still depend on the NCBTMB for approving continuing education.

I’d like to state for the record that I personally am acquainted with the majority of the people at the NCBTMB, and I have certainly written my share of criticism of the organization in the past–and patted them on the back when I thought they deserved it. The fact is that if they stand on their head and whistle Dixie, it is never going to suit all of the people all of the time. I think they are a dedicated and hard-working group of people. I certainly don’t agree with everything they do, and I take frequent advantage of my status as a certificant and an approved provider to let them know that.

Here’s your opportunity to comment, so take it. As I said, these comments will be seen by the CEO and Board members.

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