To Test or Not to Test…

Imagine you are finishing three years of training in a pediatric subspecialty. You have been preparing for months and are ready to take your initial subspecialty certification examination with the goal of becoming certified by the American Board of Pediatrics.

Then, just days before your testing date, you receive an email saying the exam has been canceled. Testing centers are closing; hospitals are filling up; people are going into quarantine.

The world is facing a pandemic.

On March 13, 2020, the ABP regretted having to notify exam candidates and pediatric program directors across the country that it was canceling all Adolescent Medicine, Child Abuse Pediatrics, Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine, and Pediatric Nephrology exams scheduled for spring 2020. The ABP said it would try to reschedule the exams in August, depending on COVID-19 risk.

Recognizing the pressures that examinees faced, the ABP quickly rescheduled the exams with added flexibility, making them available on four different days over three separate weeks in August 2020 instead of the typical single day at testing centers around the country. In the meantime, the testing centers enhanced their disinfection procedures and reduced the number of candidates in the centers to allow for physical distancing.

But as August approached, many areas of the country were seeing increasing COVID-19 cases.

Some candidates wanted the ABP to postpone the exams again. Others implored the ABP to not postpone the exams again. Both sides were vehement.

“It has been a constantly changing environment for months, and the ABP has tried to offer as much flexibility as possible,” says Suzanne Woods, MD, ABP Executive Vice President for Credentialing and Initial Certification.

To support both sides, the ABP did not cancel the rescheduled exams, but allowed individual candidates to cancel their registration up to the day of the exam with a full refund. Those who were approved to take the exam and canceled on time also received a two-year extension of their exam eligibility — two years because subspecialty exams are given every two years. About 19% of candidates canceled their registration.

The fall exams administered by the ABP — General Pediatrics, Pediatric Cardiology, Pediatric Critical Care Medicine, and Pediatric Pulmonology — also were not canceled, but candidates were allowed to withdraw prior to their exam date for a full refund. Those who were approved to take the exam and canceled on time received a one-year extension of exam eligibility for the General Pediatrics exam or a two-year extension of exam eligibility for subspecialty exams.

Because of the uncertainty this year, the ABP also waived all late registration fees for 2020 exams to give candidates more time to decide the best plan of action for themselves.

Flexibility Added to Pediatric Hospital Medicine Practice Pathway

Due to challenges faced by many pediatricians during the COVID-19 pandemic, the ABP has added flexibility to the practice pathway for board certification in Pediatric Hospital Medicine (PHM).

The “look-back window” — the period of time prior to the examination when a hospitalist must report hours — has been expanded. Because of the widespread practice disruptions during the pandemic, PHM candidates for the practice pathway now have the flexibility to select which four years of the expanded five-year window best reflect their practice.

For more details about Pediatric Hospital Medicine requirements, see www.abp.org/content/pediatric-hospital-medicine-certification.