Continuing Your Professional Development As A Doctor

Published on: 11 Aug 2022

Professional development for a doctor

A career in medicine requires commitment to life-long learning in order to remain fit to practise and provide the best possible care to your patients. As such, the importance of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) cannot be understated; in fact, all professional bodies and associations within healthcare and medical sectors have CPD policies in place.

This article aims to provide you with insight into aspects of CPD and help you with your own personal and professional development.


What is CPD?

CPD encompasses any formal or informal learning activities outside of undergraduate or postgraduate training that aid in maintaining and improving performance. It spans the development of knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviours across all areas of professional practice. The aim is to continuously strive to improve the quality of the care you provide to your patients and the public, as well as the standards of the teams and services in which you work, thus also promoting staff development. 


Benefits of CPD

CPD is an invaluable framework that enables professionals to focus on structured, short-term quality improvements, which in turn will positively impact their long-term goals. It allows you to identify what you do well and what may require improvement, encouraging you to explore new knowledge, skills, and behaviours. Overall, you become a more competent, efficient, adaptable, and confident professional as well as individual.


CPD Accreditation

“Which CPD courses do I have to complete?” is a common query as many believe there are specific, prescribed professional development courses or conferences that are part of the CPD programme. In fact, professional bodies do not require completion of specific CPD accredited courses, nor are courses and conferences the only professional development examples that qualify for CPD accreditation. CPD training is a very broad term for any activity which is in line with global CPD principles, and include:

  • Workshops and seminars

  • Conferences and events

  • Training courses

  • Online and E-learning

  • Other structured forms of learning

You can apply for any of these activities to become accredited via the CPD Certification Service. They work with organisations ranging from small consultancy firms to large training providers, multinational corporations, conference and event organisers, universities, further education colleges, local authorities, as well as councils and government departments.

The Career Development Institute (CDI) may also provide more guidance on CPD training, events and opportunities. 

A key thing to note is that a CPD activity does not necessarily need to be something new that you learn. In fact, it may simply help you consolidate your existing knowledge, skills, or behaviours. As long as it is concerned with at least maintaining the standards of your medical care, it can count towards your CPD. What matters is that you reflect on it and explain that you are already up-to-date, hence requiring no further changes in your practice.


CPD Examples and Types

CPD activities healthcare professionals may undertake are usually categorised into three types: 

  1. Structured CPD (active learning) is interactive, proactive, and participation-based. It can include attending a training course, conference, workshop, seminar, lecture, e-learning course, or CPD-certified event. CPD active learning also applies to when professionals take career-orientated exams and assessments.

  2. Reflective learning (passive learning) involves no participant-based interaction and is much more one-directional. Examples of this include reading relevant news articles, podcasts, case studies, and industry updates. Some informal meetings can be documented as reflective learning, but the learning objectives must be made clear in your overall professional development plan.

  3. Self-directed learning (unstructured learning) involves all unaccompanied CPD activities. It covers the reading of documents, articles and publications, either in print or online. Reading relevant publications, books by leading experts, industry journals and trade magazines, as well as industry-specific news feeds or research are all types of self-directed CPD. Study and revision for career-relevant exams would also be considered self-directed learning.


The CPD Essentials

You are responsible for completing your own CPD; that is identifying CPD needs for your practice, planning how you will address those needs, and undertaking relevant CPD activities. Reflecting on your standards of medical practice is necessitated by the Good Medical Practice framework; this also extends to reflecting on your CPD activities you carry out to determine whether your learning is adding value to the care you provide to your patients. Reflecting on your needs in terms of the domains of Good Medical Practice may aid in carrying out your CPD. These are as follows:

  1. Knowledge, skills, and behaviours

  2. Safety and quality

  3. Communication, partnership, and teamwork

  4. Maintain trust

You must consider all areas of your practice, including clinical and non-clinical aspects, such as management, research, teaching or training responsibilities. When considering your learning needs, you should also take into account the needs of your patients and your team and be receptive to their advice; this includes asking for feedback from patients and colleagues.


How many CPD points do I need?

As a licensed doctor, you are expected to carry out CPD on an annual basis. Good Medical Practice requires you to discuss your CPD during appraisal for revalidation every 5 years, over which you should have completed a minimum of 250 hours of CPD. However, this does not mean you must complete a fixed 50 hours per annum; this, nevertheless, tends to be the average. 

CPD criteria may vary across specific professions and are outlined by the appropriate Royal Colleges which you should consult. Different professional bodies and associations may use different terminology, such as ‘CPD points’, ‘CPD units’, or ‘CPD credits’, but they all simply refer to CPD hours, which is the actual time spent on a CPD activity. For example, attending a CPD conference taking place from 9am to 5pm with a 1-hour break gains you 7 CPD hours. Where the terms CPD points, units, or credits are used, a ratio may be provided; this is typically 1:1, i.e. 1 CPD point equals 1 CPD hour.

Lastly, do not be tempted to overdo your CPD hours to impress the appraiser as they may deem that time better spent on your patients, family, or relaxation. Nor should you cease reflecting and learning once you hit your target if you wish to keep your practice safe and up-to-date; you do not need to document every single learning activity. Do not expect your appraiser to review huge amounts of supporting information over and above what is required. Try to create sensible habits that make your documentation simple, using the knowledge and skills of your appraiser to help you.