Online Board Certification Exam Pilot Becomes Program Change

Instead of sitting for an exam once every 10 years, diplomates now answer questions at their convenience each quarter.


Brian Nussenbaum, MD, MHCM
Brian Nussenbaum, MD, MHCM

CertLink®, the American Board of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery (ABOHNS) online Continuing Certification Exam, has replaced the familiar every 10-year in-person Certification Exam. The change follows a two-year pilot program that was so successful that only 30 –35 diplomates opted for the traditional exam each year.

“Everyone else was electing to go into the pilot program doing quarterly online questions,” said Brian Nussenbaum, MD, MHCM, executive director of ABOHNS.

“CertLink® doesn’t involve intensive preparation, and you get immediate feedback and explanations. And realistically, it’s not feasible to continue conducting an every 10-year exam for just 30 or 35 people across the whole country.”

Dr. Nussenbaum will discuss the practicalities of the new ABOHNS certification program during this on-demand presentation, “Continuing Certification in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery: Need-to-Know Updates.” He will share the program with Jeffrey P. Simons, MD, MMM, AAO-HNSF Coordinator for Education and otolaryngologist at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania. Their program is available on demand to registered AAO-HNSF 2021 Annual Meeting & OTO Experience attendees.

CertLink® has transformed the ABOHNS certification process. Instead of sitting for an exam once every 10 years in an exam center, ABOHNS diplomates now answer questions at their convenience each quarter. Each diplomate must answer a total of 160 questions over five years. After each question is answered, the diplomate gets a detailed explanation of why that answer is correct, why all the incorrect answer choices are not correct, and a list of current literature references.

For every wrong answer, diplomates can expect a similar question to appear sometime over the next six to 12 months to determine if the correct information has been learned and integrated in the clinician’s working knowledge.

“In 1924 when ABOHNS was founded, the knowledge you had out of residency was the knowledge for a career because medical advances did not occur quickly,” Dr. Nussenbaum said. “Nowadays, medical knowledge changes so quickly that for someone who was initially certified in the past, the ABOHNS Continuing Certification Program confirms that diplomates have maintained their knowledge base and stayed up to date with the new advances in our specialty. Formative assessments every quarter with a summative decision over a period of time with diplomates being able to track performance satisfies that need better than the traditional exam.”  

During this session, Dr. Nussenbaum and Dr. Simons will discuss the purpose and value of continuing certification along with how the revised Continuing Certification Program supports professional self-regulation. They will detail all the program changes for 2021 as well as the reasons for these changes. They will also highlight the many ways in which collaborations between the ABOHNS and AAO-HNSF provide extra value to the program for diplomates.

“The Board and the Academy are working together to bring otolaryngologist-head and neck surgeons the highest value program possible,” Dr. Nussenbaum said. “Continuing certification is an important part of our professional self-regulation.”

This session is available on-demand. 

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