What PBI Learned by Studying Recidivism
In a recent article published in the Journal of Medical Regulation, PBI Medical Director Catherine Caldicott, MD documents the challenges to recidivism research and recommends improvements.
To gauge how effective its courses are at preventing recidivism, PBI tracked a group of its graduates over many years. For practical reasons the study looked at participants from California who completed a PBI course between January 1, 2010, and December 31, 2014.
We were pleased to find very low rates of “primary” recidivism. Only six of the 210 people we followed through the end of 2020 (2.9%) were disciplined for a recurrence of their original violation. That compared favorably with other published studies, which found rates ranging from 9.7% to 39%. Although PBI Medical Director Catherine Caldicott, MD, cautions that differences in research methods and assumptions make it difficult to draw conclusions from such comparisons.
“As we learned from our own efforts,” says Caldicott, “researchers face a number of challenges.” To begin with, how should recidivism be defined? PBI came up with three categories: “primary recidivism” for repetitions of an original violation, “secondary recidivism” for new violations unrelated to the first, and “other” for unidentified issues that brought someone back before their regulator.
While some studies have focused solely on primary recidivism, PBI chose to include, what they defined as, “secondary recidivism” as well. “We made that decision,” explains Caldicott, “because we felt the benefits of remedial education should carry over to matters of professional conduct generally.” (PBI’s secondary recidivism rate was 6.7% ).
Caldicott documents 12 distinct obstacles to recidivism research in the current issue of the Journal of Medical Regulation. Her article, “Why Quantifying Recidivism After Remediation Is So Difficult: The Experience of an Education Provider,” discusses everything from inconsistencies across jurisdictions to the multiplicity of factors influencing recidivism rates. There are no simple answers to the questions Caldicott raises, but she does offer a number of specific recommendations that should help improve data collection and long-term follow up in future studies.
“Our hope,” she explains, “is that we all — regulators, researchers, and educators — can improve our research into recidivism and use the results to improve public safety.”
To read the full article, click here.