By Kurt Snyder, JD
Like many of you, at the beginning of the year I did some self-reflection and established some personal and professional goals, aka New Year’s resolutions. I am happy to report that I finally took the necessary steps toward a professional goal. It is official: I signed up and completed the training to become an ACCME site surveyor. This has been on my bucket list for about five years.
The purpose of this article is to tell you about my experience thus far and to encourage you to consider becoming a site surveyor. As it has since its inception, ACCME continues to rely on their community of dedicated volunteers. Approximately 165 volunteers serve on the national level as accreditation surveyors and as members of the Accreditation Review Committee, Joint Accreditation Review Committee, Committee for Review and Recognition, and Board of Directors. Thousands of volunteers serve at the state level as surveyors, accreditation reviewers, and committee members. In total, an estimated 20,000 people across the country support the system.
It is important to note that although this article is specifically about ACCME, there also is a need for Joint Accreditation (JA) site surveyors and state accredited site surveyors. You can find out more about the JA process online.
How do you become a site surveyor?
The process starts with submitting a simple application that you can find here. Specific questions about the process or the application should be directed to the ACCME, of course.
Are there basic eligibility requirements?
Yes, for starters you will be assessed on (1) your independence of commercial support; (2) your active participation in CME; and (3) your adherence to not being a private consult for accreditation. Finally, an individual who is employed by a commercial interest, as defined by the ACCME (i.e., any entity producing, marketing, re-selling, or distributing healthcare goods or services consumed by, or used on, patients) is not eligible to volunteer for the ACCME as a surveyor.
Are there any basic expectations?
First, you must demonstrate that you have CME knowledge and experience. Specifically, you must have prior knowledge within the profession of continuing medical education (CME) and a minimum of three years of experience to include ongoing involvement with (1) an ACCME-accredited provider; or (2) a state medical society accredited provider; or (3) an ACCME-recognized state medical society.
Second, you must demonstrate that you have experience with the accreditation
process. Specifically, you must have experience participating in a regulatory accreditation process. Examples of this experience include: (A) Participation in an ACCME accreditation or recognition review; (B) Participation in JCAHO, ACGME, or LCME review; or (C) Participation in an accreditation review for an ACCME recognized state medical society.
Third, you must demonstrate a willingness to serve as an ACCME volunteer.
This includes the following:
- Ability to comply with ACCME’s conflict of interest policies for surveyors.
- Ability to meet and maintain ACCME surveyor competencies.
- Participation in a one-day surveyor training workshop designed for new surveyors, if approved as an ACCME surveyor (expenses to be paid by ACCME).
- Participation in an ACCME “Bridge to Quality” workshop within 12 months, preceding or following, the submission of this application (at volunteer’s own expense).
Do you have to include recommendations with your application?
Yes. ACCME requires that you secure two letters of recommendation from colleagues, at least one of whom is either a) a current ACCME volunteer; b) a current volunteer or staff member of an ACCME-accredited provider; or c) a current volunteer or staff member of an ACCME-recognized state medical society.
How long does the process take?
My guess is this varies from person to person and the time of year, but the entire process for me took two months.
Does ACCME provide any training?
Yes. ACCME provides in-person training for new volunteers and ongoing web-based training (live and non-live) on an ongoing basis. ACCME covers the cost of this training. I just completed my live in-person training last week. It was a two-day workshop in Chicago that required pre-work and provided an immersive learning experience on the tools necessary to be a site surveyor. Trainees were required to bring a computer to the workshop. Overall, I thought it was very well done and I now feel better prepared for my first site survey.
How many site surveys do they expect you to do per year?
You are expected to do a minimum of two site surveys two per year.
Do you have to travel to do the site surveys?
No. The site surveys are now done via the telephone and last approximately two months.
Is there a document describing the surveyor competencies?
Yes. You can find those here.
What are the benefits of being a site surveyor, and why did you choose to do it?
The answer to this question will vary from person to person, but these are my reasons:
- I want to support ACCME in the site surveying process. The entire accreditation process itself relies on the volunteers to make it work. This has two benefits. First, it makes the system more transparent and collaborative to all those involved. Second, it reduces the cost of the accreditation process. One could imagine having full-time dedicated site surveyors. Each of those individuals would have to be paid, and that cost would have to be absorbed by CME providers.
- The training and experience will help me understand the rules and processes better, which will directly improve my ability to serve my institution.
- The experience will expose me to other institutions, processes, and models. We all get stuck in our own little bubbles, and over time we forget that there are other models of continuing education besides our own. This exposure will encourage me to reflect on my institution’s model in an effort to constantly refine and improve our processes.
In closing, I once again encourage you to consider giving back to the CE/CPD profession by volunteering to become a site surveyor for ACCME, JA, or your state accrediting body. If you do, like me, you will find the experience rewarding both personally and professionally.