is the process by which a physician
A physician is a health care provider who practices the profession of medicine, which is concerned with promoting, maintaining or restoring human health through the study, diagnosis, and treatment of disease, injury and other physical and mental impairments...
(MD or DO), dentist
Dentistry is the branch of medicine that is involved in the study, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of diseases, disorders and conditions of the oral cavity, maxillofacial area and the adjacent and associated structures and their impact on the human body. Dentistry is widely considered...
(DDS or DMD
D.D.S. refers to the academic degree of Doctor of Dental Surgery.DDS may refer to:-Computer and information science:*Data Design System, DDS-CAD software vendor*Data Description Specifications, AS400 programming...
), or podiatrist (DPM
-Science and technology:* Damp-proof membrane, see damp proofing* Data Position Measurement* Diesel particulate matter, see diesel exhaust* Digital processing module, see digital signal processing...
) in the United States demonstrates through either written, practical, and/or simulator based testing, a mastery of the basic knowledge and skills that define an area of medical specialization. The commonly used acronym BE/BC (board eligible/board certified) refers to a doctor who is certified or is eligible to be certified to practice medicine in a particular field. The term board certified
is also used in the nursing
Nursing is a healthcare profession focused on the care of individuals, families, and communities so they may attain, maintain, or recover optimal health and quality of life from conception to death....
field, where a candidate with advanced mastery of a nursing specialty
can also become eligible to be Board Certified. Board certification is also used in the field of pharmacy, where a pharmacist can be recognized in specialized areas of advanced pharmacy practice after fulfilling eligibility requirements and passing a certification examination. Doctoral level psychologists (Ph.D., or Psy.D.) may also be board certified by the American Board of Professional Psychology.
Defining a medical specialty
The core body of knowledge that defines an area of medical specialization is referred to as the core competencies for that specialty. Core competencies are developed through detailed review of the medical literature combined with review by recognized experts from established medical specialties, experts within the new area of specialization and experts from outside the medical profession. This list of core knowledge and skills is then compiled into a draft core competency document.
Once the core competency document is drafted, the certifying organization and its associated professional academy, college or society review the document against the existing literature and again solicit expert opinion regarding the domains of competence and areas of competency contained in the document. The core competencies are next formatted using a psychometric taxonomy such as Bloom's Taxonomy based on the core competencies required by physicians practicing in the area of specialization as non-specialists and as specialists or sub-specialists. Development of the first core competency document takes five to ten years and is a prerequisite to creating the certification examination.
Physicians seeking board certification in a given area of specialty must successfully complete and pass an examination process designed to test their mastery of the minimum knowledge and skills contained in the core competency document. Prior to taking the examination, a physician must graduate with a degree, either MD or DO, and meet all other prerequisites to certification as set out by the certifying agency or "board."
The examination itself may consist of one or more parts. Traditionally, an exhaustive written examination is required of all candidates for board certifications in any specialty. While written examinations are adequate measures of basic knowledge, they do not test the mastery of skills or the application of knowledge as well. Many specialties have over the decades attempted to evaluate skills through "practical" examinations using "model" patients (actors) or by observing the physician candidate in a clinical environment. The practical examination has been criticized for being subjective and irreproducible even in the hands of an experienced examiner. As a result, computerized animatronic human patient simulator
The term virtual patient is used to describe interactive computer simulations used in health care education. The special focus is targeted on the simulation of clinical processes with virtual patients. Virtual patients combine scientific excellence, modern technologies and the innovative concept of...
based examinations are now being adopted. The traditional written examination is also rapidly being replaced by computer-based testing
A Computer-Based Assessment , also known as Computer-Based Testing , e-assessment, computerized testing and computer-administered testing, is a method of administering tests in which the responses are electronically recorded, assessed, or both. As the name implies, Computer-Based Assessment makes...
Board certification is overseen by different agencies and organizations throughout the world. In most cases, these organizations are not only specific to a particular type of physician training (MD vs. DO), but a specific country or group of countries. There are three agencies or organizations in the United States which collectively oversee the certification of M.D.s
Doctor of Medicine is a doctoral degree for physicians. The degree is granted by medical schools...
Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine is a professional doctoral degree for physicians in the United States. Holders of the MD degree, Doctor of Medicine, have the same rights, privileges and responsibilities as osteopathic physicians in the United States.The American Osteopathic Association’s Commission...
in the 26 recognized medical specialties. These organizations are the American Board of Medical Specialties
The American Board of Medical Specialties is a non-profit physician-led umbrella organization for 24 of the 26 approved medical specialty boards in the United States...
(ABMS) and the American Medical Association
The American Medical Association , founded in 1847 and incorporated in 1897, is the largest association of medical doctors and medical students in the United States.-Scope and operations:...
; the American Osteopathic Association Bureau of Osteopathic Specialists
The American Osteopathic Association Bureau of Osteopathic Specialists is a non-profit umbrella organization for 18 medical specialty boards in the United States. It is one of three leading entities overseeing physician certification in the United States...
(AOABOS) and the American Osteopathic Association
The American Osteopathic Association is the representative member organization for the over 78,000 osteopathic medical physicians in the United States...
; the American Board of Physician Specialties
The American Board of Physician Specialties , the official certifying body for the American Association of Physician Specialists is a non-profit umbrella organization for sixteen medical specialty boards that certifies and re-certifies physicians in fourteen medical specialties in the United...
(ABPS) and the American Association of Physician Specialists
The American Association of Physician Specialists, Inc. founded 1950, incorporated 1952 is a 501 not-for-profit organization whose executive offices are located in Tampa, Florida...
. AOABS and ABPS each have associated with associated national medical organization functions as an umbrella for its various specialty academies, colleges and societies (see table). The American Board of Medical Specialties represents the largest of these organizations, with over 750,000 US physicians having received certification from one or more of its 24 member Boards. The ABMS is not affiliated with any medical society. ABPS is generally not recognized, however, except in the state of Florida, and has recently lost a lawsuit in New York, where physicians are not, by law, allowed to call themselves "board certified" if the specialty designation is from their boards.
| Certifying Board
|| National Organization
|| Physician Type
|| M.D. and D.O.
|| D.O. Only
|| M.D. and D.O.
All boards of certification now require that physicians demonstrate, by examination, continuing mastery of the core knowledge and skills for their chosen specialty. Recertification varies by specialty between every 7 and every 10 years.
Medical specialty colleges are societies that represent specialist physicians. Any physician may join these organizations, though most require board certification in order to become a fellow of the college and use the respective post-nominal letters
Post-nominal letters, also called post-nominal initials, post-nominal titles or designatory letters, are letters placed after the name of a person to indicate that the individual holds a position, educational degree, accreditation, office, or honour. An individual may use several different sets of...