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A cause for celebration

Maintaining a professional portfolio shouldn’t be seen as a chore.

Rather, it offers an unrivalled opportunity to monitor your development and celebrate your successes, says Gwyn Owen

The need for healthcare professionals to maintain a portfolio is a relatively new development.

In the late 1990s, a new method of regulating professional practice was introduced (see Frontline, pages 35-37, 18 January 2012).

But maintaining a portfolio isn’t just about regulation – it’s also about planning, recording and celebrating your personal and professional development.

This article begins by describing what a portfolio is. Next it explains how to put together a portfolio of evidence, using the Health Professions Council’s standards for continuing professional development (CPD).

Going through the steps set out in the article can also be helpful if you are preparing a portfolio of evidence for other purposes – to apply for a new job or an award, to market your service or to support a bid for funding, for example.

What is a portfolio?

A portfolio is a tool you can use to celebrate and share your practice, and your personal and professional development, with others.

The information in the portfolio highlights key aspects of you as a person and as a professional – such as your behaviours, knowledge and skills.

Portfolios can include a range of materials: feedback from peers or service users, personal reflections on your practice, or academic assignments and certificates.

They can be paper-based or presented electronically, depending on what it contains and what suits the person who receives it. The CSP offers a web-based portfolio for members’ use (see box over).

Portfolios have two parts. The larger part contains a record of your entire personal and professional development: activities, achievements that make you feel proud, reflections on practice, feedback on your performance and so on.

This part of your portfolio is private to you – some call it their ‘box of evidence’.

The second, smaller, part contains items from your box of evidence that you want to share with another person.

This is the public face of a portfolio. This portfolio is portable – it can be a folder containing papers, files on a memory stick or an ePortfolio for viewing online.

Its content and format will depend on what you are being asked to demonstrate and who it’s for.

Organising your box of evidence

Before creating a portfolio, you must be clear about what your box of evidence contains. Each item should be labelled with some basic information – it should be dated and described, for example.

  • Is it, for example, an appraisal, an assignment, a certificate, or an evaluation of feedback from a patient, peer reflection, or research abstract?

 

  • What particular behaviour, knowledge or skill does it demonstrate?

As you work through your box of evidence, you might do some ‘spring cleaning’ – remove any duplicates and attend to damaged or incomplete items.

Think critically about what you keep, and, as you label each item, make a separate list of the information you have recorded.

When you have finished, this will become your index, enabling you to see at a glance what the box contains. This process is important, whether you’re working with paper items or digitally-recorded evidence.

Choosing which pieces of evidence to share

If you are invited to submit a portfolio of evidence, whether as part of the HPC’s audit, a job application, written assignment or for another reason, the priority is to check the rules of the game.

What is the audience expecting to find in your portfolio, and how will they make a judgement about the quality of your work?

For a job application, the main focus would be on ensuring you meet the list of attributes set out in the person specification.

For a written assignment or application for an award, there should be some guidance available to help you.

Let’s imagine that I have been called to submit a portfolio of evidence as part of the HPC’s CPD audit.

My first task would be to check the HPC’s (2011) ‘Your guide to our standards for CPD’ (available at www.hpc-uk.org/registrants/CPD).

This document presents the five CPD standards. Standard 2 states the need for CPD activities to be a mixture of learning activities. The guide explains the criteria used to judge whether someone is meeting the standards.

It also offers useful hints and tips on what I could include, tells me where I can find some examples, and explains how the audit process works.

Knowing that information would help me think critically about which pieces from my ‘box of evidence’ I could use to meet the criteria.

This is where the labelling or index list is so helpful – it makes my search much more efficient. As the HPC is only interested in seeing evidence of my development over the last two years, I would  look for items dated from April 2010 onwards.

As the HPC criteria for Standard 2 state that my CPD should include a variety of learning activities, I will bear that in mind as I search.

I would ensure that I draw on both formal and informal learning opportunities, and that every item relates to my current or future practice.

The criteria for Standard 4 remind me that I should show how my CPD has improved my work and benefited service users.

This gives me a great opportunity to celebrate my practice. I will look for pieces of work that make me feel proud. Relevant documents include audit and evaluation reports, business plans, appraisal forms and action plans.

I will include any snippets of feedback from service users and colleagues showing how my practice has evolved over the past two years.

Even items that refer to errors in practice can be included – so long as I can show how I responded and changed my practice as a result.

I would include any observations, notes and case study materials I’ve gathered from taking part in in-service training.

Making critical choices

Having created a list of items that meet the criteria, the next stage is to analyse each one carefully.

  • In what way does each item relate to evaluation criteria?  Keep a note of your answer, as it will help you write the personal statement that accompanies the portfolio of evidence.

 

  • Do some pieces fulfil the criteria better than others?
  • Are the items skewed towards one aspect of your practice and are other areas excluded as a result? 

If you are using evidence from your clinical practice, is patient confidentiality compromised? Can you remove the risk?

If not, you will need to obtain his or her consent. The final stage is to write a section explaining how the items relate to the relevant criteria. We will discuss how to write a personal statement in the next issue of Frontline. fl



How to use this article for your CPD

When creating an indexed box of evidence, you should:

  • Collect all the evidence you have that demonstrates your practice and development and place in a single location
  • Look at each piece of evidence critically. Label each piece with a note that states when it was first created, what it is, and what behaviours, knowledge or skills it demonstrates

 

  • Create an index of your evidence from the information on each label

 

  • Store your evidence, labels and index list safely – in a box file (paper), on a USB stick or in an ePortfolio.
  • For more details on portfolios, visit the ‘my learning space’ in the CSP’s CPD webfolio.

 

  • If you haven’t already subscribed to the CPD webfolio, visit www.csp.org.uk/webfolio for instructions on finding the CPD webfolio in your CSP ePortfolio.  

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Article Information

Author(s)

Gwyn Owen

Issue date

15 February 2012

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