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Challenges and changes in continuing professional development F. Barr Continuing professional development (CPD) is an obligation which is accepted by a broad spectrum of professions. Precise definitions of CPD vary, but all encompass an expectation of maintaining and developing knowledge and skills throughout the course of a working life. Society clearly benefits from knowledgeable, skilled and up-to-date groups, including the veterinary profession. More specific benefits to human and animal welfare and safety are also implicit in effective CPD across the healthcare professions. The question which has exercised many over the past decade relates to the effectiveness (or otherwise) of CPD. It is important for participants to use their time and other resources wisely if they wish to maintain and develop their knowledge and skills. It is critical to CPD providers that opportunities meet the needs of participants.

F. Barr, VetMB, MA, PhD, DVR, MRCVS, Head of Education, BSAVA, Woodrow House, 1 Telford Way, Waterwells Business Park, Quedgeley, Gloucester GL2 2AB e-mail: [email protected]

Finally, it is pertinent for regulatory bodies to consider how the effectiveness of CPD may be measured and, in particular, the impact or otherwise of CPD on the attitudes and behaviours of participants. Dearing’s report on higher education (1997) emphasised the need for individuals to take responsibility for their own development and learning. In contrast to children, adults have an existing base of knowledge and experience on which to build. Furthermore, adults are likely to wish to obtain knowledge or acquire skills which can be immediately applied to relevant problems (Knowles 1980). As each adult has a unique combination of knowledge, skills, experience and working environment, the CPD needs for each adult will vary. There are likely to be additional factors which influence the motivation to learn, including career stage and home life. A recently published study of CPD among a group of nurses concluded that ‘gaining experience and building a career’ was a strong motive for younger nurses. ‘Worklife balance’ and ‘keeping work interesting and varied’ were considered more important in middle-aged nurses, while

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Research ‘consistency at work’ was a driver among older nurses (Pool and others 2015). Even among highly motivated learners, there are barriers to participation in CPD, which include availability of study leave, cost and work-life balance (Schostak and others 2010). It is therefore entirely logical to support Dearing’s premise that each individual should take responsibility for identifying what they need and desire to learn, and how this can most effectively be achieved. There is a bewildering range of CPD currently available to veterinary professionals. The traditional lecture-based format remains within both undergraduate and postgraduate education, but has been supplemented by diverse opportunities, including online learning, webinars and podcasts, and practical teaching. Many CPD events (including the lecture-based format) now encourage interaction through question-and-answer sessions, discussion or self-assessment tasks. There is also now a recognition that CPD can and should be integrated into the workplace, so that activities such as clinical audit, discussion of articles or structured clinical meetings may form part of an effective CPD plan. The study by May and Kinnison (2015), summarised on page 13 of this issue of Veterinary Record, undertakes a preliminary evaluation of a particular model of CPD, which has an individual outcomes-focused approach through reflective accounts of participant experiences. It is true that, in the past, attention has tended to focus on the content of CPD (input), while the impact on behaviour and attitudes (outcome) has not received the same consideration. It is consequently refreshing to evaluate a CPD model which is outcomes-focused. The study concludes that, for the 12 individuals studied, this model of CPD resulted in changes beyond knowledge acquisition, with changed practitioner behaviour and recognisable patient, owner and business benefits. The authors themselves acknowledge that the study group is small and follow-up studies are required, but the report is a valuable contribution to the debate regarding the effectiveness of CPD. Is there one ideal format for effective CPD? This has been the subject of much debate, both among educational theorists and the wider healthcare professions. A report commissioned by the General Medical Council and the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges into the effectiveness of CPD concluded that there is ‘no single, singular or correct way of doing CPD’ (Schostak and others 2010). There is indeed evidence that integration of knowledge with everyday practice is an important factor in contributing to the effectiveness of CPD. Irrespective of the initial format, follow-up activities, 12 | Veterinary Record | July 4, 2015

such as discussion with peers or personal reflection, help to ensure reinforcement and development of critical skills. Nonetheless, flexibility and diversity are vital when considering the availability of CPD for busy professionals (Schostak and others 2010). For a regulatory body, monitoring of CPD is a challenge. As is well recognised, attendance at a CPD event (online or in person) can be recorded and the hours counted – but this is no guarantee of learning. Schostak and others (2010) further found that most individuals use CPD cautiously, preferring not to venture beyond familiar and comfortable areas. Restricting CPD participation in this way can require less effort and encourages a feeling of competency, but limits opportunities for development. How can the depth, range and relevance of CPD be audited for each individual? In the ideal world each individual would identify his or her own learning needs, would construct a plan to meet these, and would then appraise the effectiveness of what had been achieved before beginning the cycle again. This leads to its own challenges. We are all busy professionals, accustomed to working independently and balancing priorities. Surely, we might say, we can be trusted to do enough of the right things each year to keep up to date without learning plans and appraisals? In fact, ensuring our own CPD is effective can be relatively straightforward. In order to identify our own learning needs, we need to recognise our own limitations – or we have to be willing to listen to and accept the advice of our peers. Only then can we decide where we need to focus our CPD efforts, and we can choose the format that suits us best. Once each element of CPD has been completed, a conscious effort to consider what has been learned

and how that might be applied encourages those useful facts and ideas to stay with us rather than being lost. It need not take very long, and is an integral part of the CPD; 45 minutes spent listening to a webinar or reading an article followed by 15 minutes of evaluation can result in 60 minutes of effective (and documented) CPD. CPD is changing in many ways. The flexibility and diversity of opportunities can only be welcomed, along with the recognition that individual preferences and circumstances can and should influence choices from the range available. The slightly uncomfortable aspect for many is the change in culture to expect each individual to take an active part in their own learning, and CPD providers need to support and encourage this as a gradual and positive process.

Declaration of interest

Frances Barr is head of education at BSAVA.


Dearing, R. (1997) Higher education in the learning society. National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education. Her Majesty’s Stationery Office Knowles, M. S. (1980) The Modern Practice of Adult Education: From Pedagogy to Andragogy. 2nd edn. Cambridge Book Co May, S. A. & Kinnison, T. (2015) Continuing professional development: learning that leads to change in individual and collective clinical practice. Veterinary Record doi: 10.1136/vr.103109 Pool, I. A., Poell, R. F., Berings, M. G. & Cate, O. (2015) Strategies for continuing professional development among younger, middle-aged, and older nurses: a biographical approach. International Journal of Nursing Studies 52, 939-950 Schostak, J., Davis, M., Hanson, J., Brown, T., Driscoll, P., Starke, I. & Jenkins, N. (2010) The effectiveness of continuing professional development. Report commissioned by the General Medical Council/Academy of Medical Royal Colleges. www. pdf_34306281.pdf. Accessed June 26, 2015

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Challenges and changes in continuing professional development F. Barr Veterinary Record 2015 177: 11-12

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