Article Text

Download PDFPDF

National programmes for validating physician competence and fitness for practice: a scoping review
  1. Tanya Horsley1,
  2. Jocelyn Lockyer2,
  3. Elise Cogo3,
  4. Jeanie Zeiter1,
  5. Ford Bursey4,
  6. Craig Campbell5
  1. 1Research Unit, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  2. 2Department of Community Health Sciences, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  3. 3Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  4. 4Department of Medicine, Memorial University, St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada
  5. 5Continuing Professional Development, Office of Specialty Education Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Tanya Horsley; thorsley{at}


Objective To explore and categorise the state of existing literature for national programmes designed to affirm or establish the continuing competence of physicians.

Design Scoping review.

Data sources MEDLINE, ERIC, Sociological Abstracts, web/grey literature (2000–2014).

Selection Included when a record described a (1) national-level physician validation system, (2) recognised as a system for affirming competence and (3) reported relevant data.

Data extraction Using bibliographic software, title and abstracts were reviewed using an assessment matrix to ensure duplicate, paired screening. Dyads included both a methodologist and content expert on each assessment, reflective of evidence-informed best practices to decrease errors.

Results 45 reports were included. Publication dates ranged from 2002 to 2014 with the majority of publications occurring in the previous six years (n=35). Country of origin—defined as that of the primary author—included the USA (N=32), the UK (N=8), Canada (N=3), Kuwait (N=1) and Australia (N=1). Three broad themes emerged from this heterogeneous data set: contemporary national programmes, contextual factors and terminological consistency. Four national physician validation systems emerged from the data: the American Board of Medical Specialties Maintenance of Certification Program, the Federation of State Medical Boards Maintenance of Licensure Program, the Canadian Revalidation Program and the UK Revalidation Program. Three contextual factors emerged as stimuli for the implementation of national validation systems: medical regulation, quality of care and professional competence. Finally, great variation among the definitions of key terms was identified.

Conclusions There is an emerging literature focusing on national physician validation systems. Four major systems have been implemented in recent years and it is anticipated that more will follow. Much of this work is descriptive, and gaps exist for the extent to which systems build on current evidence or theory. Terminology is highly variable across programmes for validating physician competence and fitness for practice.

  • EDUCATION & TRAINING (see Medical Education & Training)

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See:

View Full Text

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.