CPD: planning your professional development

CSP education adviser Nina Paterson presents some practical guidance to help plan and manage your CPD activity

CPD Planning your professional development (photo: Big Stock)

We’re only three months into the year and my calendar is already filling up with work for 2020. In fact, my team and I are already making plans for the next HCPC CPD audit in a year’s time. Saying that so early in 2019 may seem heretical, but those 12 months will come around quickly, and the professional development you are undertaking this year will feature within your portfolio of evidence next spring if you’re one of the selected 2.5 per cent. So, with all the planning you did at the beginning of the year, I wanted to focus on how to make the most of the actions you’ve committed yourself to in the coming nine months.

Given the variety of environments that you work in, it’s no surprise that there isn’t going to be a one-size-fits-all for professional development. Happily, HCPC recognises that within its CPD standards. 

And if we think beyond HCPC CPD audit, to patient benefit or career development, then it becomes even more important to have choice and flexibility. Your career aspirations, for example, will be unique to you. You bring to it your own interests, strengths, and life experience so it will always be personal.

HCPC actively encourages you to engage in a range of learning activities. These don’t need to tie you down to your current role: learning in preparation for future roles is just as relevant as what you’re doing to strengthen yourself within your current one. 

Let’s look at the options open to you. 

See HCPC website for more information

Formal learning

Activities such as attending (or even running) courses, undertaking formal qualifications, carrying out research, presenting at or attending conferences all count as CPD. We’ve talked a lot in Frontline over the years about how to get the most out of these activities. In fact, our last article focused on developing your research skills, but we will explore formal learning in depth later this year. 

Professional activities

It’s great that activities you’re involved with outside your organisation in local or national roles are recognised. Engaging with the profession through regional networks, country boards, professional networks, being a learning champion and mentoring others are all relevant. If you’re in education, then roles like the CSP education representative or HCPC visitor make for great development opportunities too. 

Self-directed learning

If you’re learning in your own time - reading books and journals, listening to podcasts, online learning or watching TV or videos are valid. Again, we’ll devote some time later this year to thinking about how to make the most of these types of activities, but it’s good to know that time spent on eBites within CSP’s Learning Hub, or the free courses available via platforms like NHS Scotland’s Virtual learning environment (VLE) or FutureLearn, is time well spent. 

Work-based learning

This is the area that we focus on most in terms of support. We do this because these activities can sometimes be overlooked. Attending a course is easy. Not in terms of engaging with the content, but often you’ll get a certificate of attendance as proof of your learning. And the handbook will outline the learning outcomes of the course, meaning that when it comes to being audited your evidence is neatly to hand. Demonstrating what you get out of your journal club, coaching a colleague, supporting a student on placement, or reflecting on an experience that didn’t go so well requires a couple of things that are sometimes in short supply…

Time While these activities are built into your day-to-day working life, putting time aside to write them up competes with other priorities. We recognise that, which is why CSP’s ePortfolio has a selection of templates devoted to activities such as learning by doing, learning from experience, and peer review. Given that we’re all time-poor we’ve tried to make these as easy to find and use as possible. It’s why the ePortfolio works just as well on a phone as it does on a PC so you can record your efforts with as little effort as possible. Speaking of effort.

Effort There are two things to address. Firstly, there’s finding a structure to record what are often unstructured activities. The templates I’ve just mentioned provide that structure without being too prescriptive. If you head back to the 12 days of CPD article in Frontline you’ll find a reminder of what’s available. 

CPD activity 

  • Head over to the HCPC website and choose one of the listed activities found on the work-based learning tab. Whatever your role, at least one will be relevant.
  • Set aside time before next month’s article to engage with and write up your chosen learning activity.
  • Don’t forget the templates found within the CSP’s ePortfolio (see main article). They will help you to unpack your experience and demonstrate your learning.

The second and more crucial point, is that these activities require engagement. You’ll need to question and critique your own practice. Going back to the course analogy, one benefit of a course is that the questioning is often driven by the tutor or one of your peers. To get the most out of work-based activities you’ve got to find a method to do the interrogating yourself.

While it is challenging to do, the rewards are rich. The ability to question and analyse situations, to evaluate the impact of your decisions or actions, and then communicate these complex reflections are all transferable. These are the same skills required in a clinical, managerial or teaching setting. That’s great news for your patients, your team if you’re a manager, and the students you take on placement. And finally, as these activities are naturally occurring there’s no cost implications, so the benefits keep stacking up.

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