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Understanding ACGME Accreditation and the Requirements

A comprehensive guide to navigating ACGME accreditation and its requirements.

Mical DuBrow profile
By Mical DeBrow
Caitlin Snethlage
Edited by Caitlin Snethlage
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Fact-check by C8 Staff

Published March 21, 2024.

A doctor sitting at a desk working on a laptop.

You've finished medical school, aced your exams, and now you're ready to take the next step: residency training.

But with numerous residency programs available, how do you ensure you're enrolling in a program that has the highest quality education and sets you up for success? A program with ACGME accreditation is the solution.

Meet the Expert

Mical DeBrow is an accomplished healthcare leader and clinician with extensive expertise spanning pharma, healthcare payers and providers, and healthcare information technology.

What Is an ACGME Accreditation?

There are nearly 160,000 medical trainees in the US. With that many people attending, residency programs need to effectively equip them with the skills and knowledge to become physicians.

The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) is a non-profit organization that accredits residency and fellowship programs. Graduates of MD (Doctor of Medicine) and DO (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) who want to specialize in a certain field of medicine should look for it.

ACGME accreditation indicates a program has met rigorous standards, ensuring residents receive:

  • High-Quality Education: ACGME-accredited programs have a detailed curriculum and keep a standard when it comes to training. The dedication gives residents the knowledge and skills to become competent and compassionate physicians.
  • Experienced Faculty: Residents get mentorship from faculty who are experts in their fields.
  • Federal Funding: Residency programs receive national financing, which makes them more accessible to aspiring doctors.

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What Are the ACGME Program Requirements?

The ACGME outlines a detailed set of common and specialty-specific requirements that residency and fellowship programs need to follow. It makes sure aspiring physicians gain the necessary skills and knowledge to excel in their chosen fields.

Common Requirements

These are the foundational standards that ACGME applies to all residency and fellowship programs regardless of specialty. They focus on resident supervision, patient care, educational experiences, and professional development.

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Specialty-Specific Requirements

Each medical specialty has its additional requirements that build upon the common ones. They delve deeper into the specific knowledge, skills, and experiences residents need to succeed in that field. For example, an internal medicine residency program will have different guidelines than a surgery one.

How Does a Program Achieve ACGME Accreditation?

ACGME accreditation for a new residency program typically takes at least two years. It starts with an application that outlines its structure, faculty expertise, and support systems for residents.

A physician committee does an on-site evaluation to make sure the program meets ACGME standards. The process ends with a detailed review that approves or dismisses the accreditation.

To keep their accreditation, programs need to submit annual reports on their performance. ACGME also investigates any complaints from residents or government agencies. Regular re-evaluations ensure that they continue to deliver high-quality training.

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The Risks of Non-accredited Programs

There are some residency programs outside the ACGME umbrella, but choosing them comes with drawbacks such as:

  • Questionable Quality: The quality of the curriculum and training varies widely, leaving residents underprepared for their careers.
  • Limited Mobility: Graduates may not be able to get the state licensure or pursue more training in other specialties.
  • Financial Strain: Without federal funding, non-accredited programs struggle to offer competitive salaries and benefits to residents.
A male nurse using a tablet to check ACGME requirements online.

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How to Verify Whether a Program Is Accredited

The ACGME website hosts a user-friendly database where you can easily verify a residency program's accreditation status. This simple step can ensure you're on the right track to a successful medical career.

Other Accreditation Bodies

Several other organizations accredit training programs for various healthcare professions, including:

  • AOA (American Osteopathic Association): Accredits osteopathic medical schools (separate from ACGME accreditation for residency programs).
  • CCNE (Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education): Accredits baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs.
  • CoPTA (Commission on Accreditation of Physical Therapy Education): Accredits physical therapist education programs.
  • AOTA (American Occupational Therapy Association): Accredits occupational therapist and occupational therapy assistant education programs.

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Why Accreditation Matters for Everyone

The ACGME is the gold star of residency programs. Setting the bar high ensures that future doctors get the training they need to excel.

Picking an ACGME-accredited program means you're setting yourself up for success. You'll gain the skills and knowledge to become a healthcare professional, which is excellent for you and your future patients.