Skip to main content

The Ultimate Guide To Personal Development Plans

Published on: 12 Aug 2022

Personal Development Plans for a Medical Career

Regardless of where you are in your medical career or which specialty you work in, the importance of personal and professional development should be nothing unfamiliar to you. Completing a personal development plan (PDP) is vital in ensuring you are doing all you can to provide the best possible care to your patients.


What is personal development?

Personal development is a process, a continuous learning and development cycle, by which an individual becomes more self-aware, hence allowing them to improve performance and equip themselves with new personal skills. The vital role of this in a clinical context cannot be understated.

A PDP is crucial for helping you to identify your educational needs, set development objectives, undertake and monitor educational activities, and provide evidence of your continuing professional development (CPD). Accordingly, the General Medical Council (GMC) requires all doctors to agree on a new PDP on an annual basis; your PDP is also a key component of appraisals and revalidation. If you are in training, your PDP should be renewed for each new post


What are the benefits of personal and professional development?

A PDP is a professional record of your personal development and therefore constitutes as a self-development plan as well as a career development plan. 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 individual and professional.


How to write a personal development plan for work?

The GMC does not require its doctors to include anything specific in their annual employee development plan. Instead, your personal development goals for work should be taken from your appraisal as an individual and in accordance with your specific needs.

You are expected to discuss how to agree realistic targets and devise a personal learning plan for the coming year with your appraiser; it is advised you utilise the SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely) goals framework for your PDP. Your plan should be:

  • Personal

  • Developmental

  • A plan for the future

There are no restrictions when it comes to choosing which personal skills or goals you may wish to include in your PDP. The only PDP goals that are inappropriate are the ones that are flippant, not specific to you, or irrelevant to your work. A skill or activity that is required by all medical professionals as outlined in Good Medical Practice, such as staying up-to-date with medical literature, is not appropriate. Your goals should be reframed in more specific terms and address the following:

  • Where they have arisen

  • Why they apply to you now

  • How you will achieve them

  • How you will demonstrate that your goal has been met

  • Whether achieving your goal will make a difference

There is no set minimum or maximum number of PDP items you are required to complete. Some doctors undertake numerous learning objectives, others limit their development plan to three or four items. You may also agree on one big objective and break it down into many smaller items. Although there are no GMC requirements to include clinical goals, it would be unusual to solely focus on non-clinical development objectives.

Should you choose not to focus on any clinical goals, you should consider reflecting on why that is with your appraiser. It is also good practise to include both long-term and short-term aims, preferably two of each, in your PDP.

Lastly, you are encouraged to contemplate on your priorities and needs for the coming year prior to your appraisal discussion. Your appraiser’s job is not to tell you what you should include in your PDP, but rather guide you in your self-development and ensure your objectives are clear and sufficiently SMART. You should also review your PDP throughout the year as your needs may change or your objectives may no longer be relevant.


Personal Development Plan Example

The GMC has laid out a template PDP for your use, which is illustrated in Table 1. This plan should be updated whenever a goal is either achieved or modified, or where a new need is identified.


What developments do I need?

How will I address them?

Date by which I plan to achieve the development goal

Proposal outcome


List the learning needs and how it was identified.

Explain the type of learning you will undertake.

Set an appropriate timescale for achieving the development goal.

How will your practice change as a result of the development activity?

Evidence for completion and reflection on your learning. Were any new learning needs identified? 





3 etc.


Table 1 Template Personal Development Plan