Back in December we had our first national teleconference on 12/11/13 on the National Registry Toolkit. The National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners (NRCME), is a new safety program from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), that requires all medical examiners to undergo training and pass a test on FMCSA medical standards, guidance and regulations in order to evaluate commercial drivers for DOT physicals. Starting 5/21/2014 only medical examiners listed in the NRCME will be able to perform DOT physicals. The National Registry toolkit is designed to increase awareness amongst practitioners who currently or plan to do DOT physicals. The toolkit hopes to help grow the number of practitioners available to do these DOT exams when compliance goes into effect in May. Somewhere around 40,000 certified medical examiners are estimated to be needed to meet the needs of commercial drivers. Drivers in rural areas, which are generally underserved medically anyway, may have to drive long distances just to see a certified medical examiner.
We have approximately 14 weeks left before compliance goes into effect on May 21, 2014 and the FMCSA seems confident of reaching their goal of 40,000 CMEs . At the second of such teleconference between FMCSA representatives and various Certified Medical Examiners (CMEs) across the country no time was wasted in addressing the concerns of motor carriers, drivers and practitioners alike as to whether or not the goal of reaching 40,000 CMEs will be met by May 21. As it stands today there is approximately 6,358 CMEs that are registered and listed in the National Registry. That number is growing as we speak as an estimated 300 to 500 new practitioners pass the exam per week and are added into the database as registered CMEs. These examiners that have passed, their certification will be good for the next 10 years. However, approximately 27,000 MEs are enrolled in the registry but are not certified or registered yet. The FMCSA allows practitioners to enroll, and obtain a National Registry number . I guess it gets the ball moving for one thing and also allows the FMCSA to better forecast their goals. Those 27,000 practitioners enrolled, either have not taken the required training course, are currently taking the training course, have not taken the certification examination, or if they took the examination they did not yet pass. So we have a lot of practitioners on the assembly line waiting to become certified but there appears to be somewhat of a holdup. Well, for one thing, as it turns out human beings are big procrastinators. Really? People will sign up and not actually schedule themselves to sit in for the test till a day or two before compliance goes into effect. Also there has been issues especially in rural areas where there are no testing facilities nearby requiring some to drive several hundred miles to sit for the examination. In other cases, what ever facilities exist to administer this computerized test in some areas, it turns out they have very limited time slots available. Hopefully that will improve as more testing facilities are credentialed and readied to administer the certification exam.
According to FMCSA’s projections, based on the number of practitioners currently enrolled (at 27,000), the number of new people signing up per week, the approximate number of enrollees actually passing per week, and a relatively low exam failure rate of approximately 8.4%, we should meet the goal of 40,000 CMEs in the 14 weeks left before May 21. Some of the problems encountered by some of the NRCME enrollees as described above are not enough testing sites, and limited hours available for taking the test at some facilities making it difficult to take time off from work. Furthermore, since this is a new examination many of the proctors at these sites may have trouble with the testing software and may not be able to successfully execute the protocols necessary to allow entry into the secured testing portal to allow an enrollee to start the examination. They often have to consult their manual or seek assistance from whatever IT specialist is assigned to the testing facility. When I took my exam in Manhattan a little more than a year ago, there were many faux pas and I was sure I would be sent home without taking my test. The proctors tried for about half an hour and were not able to log me in. They told me that they had to turn away one other doctor couple days ago because they had the same problem . I guess what saved me was my own persistence (I did not want to take more time off from work again). As it turned out the stumbling block was that they were having difficulty entering certain information regarding my demographics in certain fields. I was happy that they allowed me to make some suggestions (At this point I don’t recall what the exact issue is any more), and once we made those changes Voila! I was cued in by the software and was allowed to start my examination. Needless to say that was the most stressful part of the examination for me, and it was great to finally sit down take the test and not have to worry about coming back another day. At the end they were congratulating me. I think not so much because I passed but probably because I was the first individual that they were successfully able to administer the test to. The End.
So it’s 6,358 Certified Medical Examiners and counting and growing! Even if we don’t reach the 40,000 CMEs by May 21, 2014, we probably will be fine with the total that we will have at that point. It would mean more work for some but that’s ok. I don’t think there will be much complaints in that regard and I don’t foresee a postponement of the official date of compliance. Hopefully not everyone will decide to take the certification examination on the very last day before compliance on May 20, 2014. We have been told that the capacity to handle such numbers all at once may not be there with the current testing facilities in place. So, if you haven’t taken your exam yet, get going. It may be more difficult to take it down the road.
Oh, yeah. Happy Valentines everybody!