Critical Care Certification for Emergency Physicians – The “Grandfather” Pathway


Dr. Francis L. Counselman

By Francis L. Counselman, M.D., CPE, FACEP

In the August 2013 issue of ACEP News, the various pathways available to current and future emergency medicine residency graduates to achieve Critical Care Medicine (CCM) certification through fellowship training were reviewed. In this issue, the options available to ABEM diplomates who completed a Critical Care Medicine fellowship prior to the establishment of the current pathways will be discussed.

First, there is no “practice only” pathway for Critical Care Medicine. All CCM certification requires successful completion of ACGME-accredited CCM fellowship training, and practice of Critical Care Medicine. Secondly, there is no “grandfather” pathway available through the American Board of Surgery (ABS) for Surgical Critical Care. This decision by ABS was made for internal policy consistency, and there are no exceptions. Finally, like all “grandfather” pathways, there is a time-limited window during which one can apply for certification. Please make yourself aware of these dates.

American Board of Internal
Medicine (ABIM) Critical Care Medicine
For Internal Medicine-Critical Care Medicine (IM-CCM), the “grandfather” pathway requires both the completion of a 24-month CCM fellowship and the practice of Critical Care Medicine. This pathway is scheduled to close on June 30, 2016. For the 24-month CCM fellowship to count, it must meet one of the following criteria: a) an ACGME-accredited IM-CCM fellowship completed prior to September 21, 2011; b) an unaccredited IM-CCM fellowship that subsequently became ACGME-accredited on or before December 31, 1992; or c) an ACGME-accredited fellowship in another critical care specialty (i.e., Surgical CCM, Anesthesiology CCM).

The second component, the practice portion, is a little more complicated. The EM applicant must have met the practice criteria as of the date on which the application is submitted to ABEM. For at least three years, not necessarily contiguous, of the five years prior to submitting the application (including the 12 months immediately prior to submission), the applicant must have met one of the following criteria: a) 40% of post-training clinical practice time in the practice of CCM; or b) 25% of total post-training professional time in the practice of CCM.

Finally, for those ABEM diplomates who completed an ACGME-accredited IM-CCM fellowship in the recent past (i.e., between September 21, 2008, and September 20, 2011) criteria can be met if, during 60% of the time between completing fellowship training and applying for certification, the applicant completed one of the following: a) 40% of post-training clinical practice in the practice of CCM or; b) 25% of total post-training professional time in the practice of CCM.  For example, if an applicant completed fellowship training on June 30, 2011, and applied for certification on July 1, 2013, 60% of the time (i.e., 24 months) would be 14.4 months.  So, during that 14.4-month period between completion of fellowship training and application submission, the applicant must meet either the 40% or 25% criterion, as described above.

Physicians whose total practice exceeds 40 hours per week may use 40 hours as the denominator for the “40%” or “25%” calculations for either of the above scenarios.

American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA)
Critical Care Medicine (ACCM)
ABEM diplomates seeking certification through the “grandfather” pathway must have completed both an ACGME-accredited ACCM fellowship program (one or two years in length) and the CCM practice component by the time of application submission, and no later than June 30, 2018; this is the final date of the last application period within the grandfather pathway. The ACCM fellowship training must have been started prior to July 1, 2013.  In order for the fellowship program to count, it must have been ACGME-accredited at the time of the applicant’s training; it does not count if the fellowship subsequently became accredited.

For the practice component, during the two years immediately preceding the application submission, the applicant must have completed one of the following: a) 40% of post-training clinical practice time in the practice of CCM, or; b) 25% of total post-training professional time in the practice of CCM. For either calculation, if total practice time exceeds 40 hours per week, 40 hours may be used as the denominator for the “40%” or “25%” calculation.

Additional Details
For both the IM-CCM and ACCM eligibility criteria, the “practice of CCM” is strictly defined. An acceptable practice must occur in a designated critical care unit.  Caring for critically ill patients in the ED does not count toward the practice component. For more detail on what constitutes the practice of CCM, please visit the ABEM website at www.abem.org

For all CCM subspecialty pathways, the ABEM diplomate must: meet the requirements of the ABEM Maintenance of Certifications (MOC) program at the time of application and throughout the certification process; be in compliance with the ABEM Policy on Medical Licensure; and provide information about someone who can independently verify the physician’s clinical competence in CCM, successful completion of ACGME-accredited CCM fellowship training, and the physician’s practice of CCM. No opportunities for CCM certification existed just two years ago for emergency physicians, but we now have three pathways going forward, including two grandfather pathways. It is a very exciting time for emergency physicians interested in Critical Care Medicine. The opportunities that now exist are the direct result of the hard work, persistence, and energy of many of our colleagues. To all involved, “Thank you!”

Dr. Counselman is Chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical School, and President-elect of ABEM.
Here’s a link to the first article in this two-part series

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