There are a lot of great things in life that are free: watching a sunrise, seeing a baby smile, strolling on the beach, petting a puppy, and stargazing on a clear night—just to name a few. But, one thing you won’t ever find on this list is CEUs. That’s because free physical therapy CEUs have a reputation of being less than stellar, and that’s just not something you want in a continuing education course—especially not a course for healthcare providers who absolutely must stay at the top of their game to remain competitive in this new era of health care. Here’s why you should avoid free physical therapy CEUs (and how you can make paying for CEUs easier):
It’s most likely not going to be high-quality content.
Sure, a free continuing education course may satisfy your state’s requirements—and get you by in a pinch—but chances are good that it’s not going to help you provide better care to your patients, hone your business acumen, or enhance your operational prowess. So really, what’s the point? Attendees of subpar classes aren’t doing themselves or their profession any favors. As WebPT’s Heidi Jannenga explained here, the fact that “there is no clear consistency in…continuing education requirements from one state to another” is a big problem. That’s because PTs “in different states may learn different protocols or be held to different standards. And that, in turn, means patients in different states may have vastly different care experiences.” Well, those educational discrepancies occur within each state as well—especially when providers opt for quickie CEUs instead of higher-quality, evidence-based coursework.
The people putting it on may not be giving it their all.
Developing content, structuring a curriculum, and designing supplementary materials for continuing education courses is time- and resource-consuming. (We should know—we’ve done it.) There’s a lot of work that goes into creating well-researched, well-written, and well-developed educational materials. And it would be incredibly difficult to put together something of quality without proper funding. That’s because financially strapped developers of free CEUs may end up re-using content to conserve production resources (meaning the course material may not be as current as it should be) or cutting corners in other areas (which means attendees may end up being less engaged or not retaining enough information to make the program worth their while). Plus, it’s going to be significantly harder to get industry experts on board to teach without some kind of a budget. Their time is valuable—as is yours—and we are all about fair value exchange.
Quality courses may not be as expensive as you think.
There are plenty of ways to access high-quality CEUs without spending a small fortune. For starters, you can complete as many online courses as your state allows (online courses are usually quite a bit less expensive than in-person ones). While you may want to stick to in-person classes when you’re aiming to learn a new hands-on clinical technique, there are a plethora of online physical therapy CEU courses—all taught by industry experts from around the country—in a wide range of fascinating (and relevant) subjects. After all, you won’t have to limit your search to your specific geographic region—or cover the cost of travel. You may also be able to convince your employer to provide you with employee CEU benefits (hint: that’s a great thing to ask for during initial job offer negotiations or during your next performance review.) And finally, according to this resource, you may be able to deduct the cost of your CEUs when tax time rolls around: “The cost of education that maintains or improves skills you use on the job—or that is required to maintain your job—is deductible if you itemize.” And continuing education certainly meets the job-related education criteria. Just be sure to check with your tax advisor, because there are a few stipulations.
In the case of physical therapy CEUs, the best courses—in terms of knowledge exchange, engagement, and instructor expertise—cost a little money. While you don’t have to spend a lot for quality coursework, you really should be spending something. After all, you get what you pay for. And who wants to get nothing out of their CEUs?