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CMA seeks waiver to allow residents to obtain postgrad training license without clinical skills exam

June 05, 2020
Area(s) of Interest: Professional Development & Education 


On May 26, 2020, the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) program announced that due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the unique, human-to-human delivery mode of the Step 2 Clinical Skills examination, testing would be suspended for the next 12-18 months to protect the health of examinees

Medical students and residents are required to pass each step of the USMLE exam at different points in their training in order to advance and eventually qualify for a full medical license.

Medical schools and residency programs have expressed concerns that the delay and suspension of USMLE exams will create financial and administrative burdens and disrupt medical education and training. 

For example, trainees in California postgraduate training programs are required to obtain a postgraduate training license (PTL) no later than August 31, 2020.  This requirement applies to physicians regulated by both the Medical Board of California and the Osteopathic Medical Board of California.  PTL applicants are required to pass the USMLE Step 2 exam. 

On June 4, the California Medical Association (CMA) submitted a formal request to the California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) to waive the requirement to pass the USMLE Step 2 exams as part of the PTL application until January 2022 or until such time as the USMLE is able to safely offer exams and provide scores in a timely manner. DCA has indicated that the state is aware of the issues resulting from the suspension of the USMLE exams and is working on developing solutions and accommodations.

Other organizations have also been responding to the testing issue. The American Medical Association (AMA) has been working with USMLE to establish alternative methods for test administration. The Liaison Committee for Medical Education (LCME)—the accreditation body for medical schools—has issued guidance reminding medical schools that it does not require medical students to take/pass the Step 2 Clinical Skills exam as a condition of accreditation and that medical schools have the flexibility to assess core clinical skills and eliminate any graduation requirements related to taking/passing the Step 2 examination.

CMA will continue to monitor and provide updates on this evolving issue.

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