Continuing professional development (CPD) is important for maintaining any health professional’s registration. By constantly updating their knowledge and skills throughout their career professionals can ensure they provide the best care possible to patients; it also provides the public with some assurance that when they are assessed and receive treatment it is from competent practitioners. In the past it has been sufficient for health professionals to simply declare when re-registering that they are meeting the CPD requirements of their regulatory body. However, this is no longer sufficient.
The Health and Care Professions Council, which regulates 15 allied health professions and social workers in the UK, now selects a random sample of 2.5% of each profession on re-registration to audit whether CPD standards are being met. Meanwhile the General Medical Council, which regulates doctors in the UK, has already started the process of revalidating those registered with them to check they are up to date with the latest clinical guidelines within their area of medicine and are fit to practice; they hope to have revalidated all UK doctors for the first time by March 2018 and will repeat this every five years. The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) are the latest regulatory body to announce the development of a revalidation programme for its registrants.
Revalidation for nurses and midwives
The system for revalidation of nurses and midwives is not expected to be in place until at least 2018, as considerable background work is required to ensure that the chosen method is robust, evidence based and will seek to address issues in relation to conduct and competence. It is also vital that the process of revalidation improves standards of care and encourages nurses and midwives to strive for continuous improvement. Doing so is hoped to inspire public confidence within the nursing profession, after numerous news items in recent years have placed a question over the standards of care provided by some nurses.
Nurses are required to re-register with the NMC every three years, declaring that during that time they have completed 450 hours of practice and 35 hours of CPD; these requirements are known as the postgraduate and education practice standards (PREP). In March of this year an audit of 100 NMC registrants was conducted in relation to the PREP standards, but it was found that these are not sufficient assurance that someone is safe to practice. Research has therefore been conducted to determine a better method through which competence can be assessed. As well as reviewing the PREP standards, those relating to pre-registration and the code of conduct have also been examined. The NMC will present how it plans to further develop and then implement the revalidation within the first six months of 2013.
Whatever form that revalidation takes, undertaking CPD and demonstrating evidence of this, will no doubt be a key element. There are a wide range of activities that can contribute to CPD and it is up to individual nurses and midwives to select examples of learning they have undertaken which are relevant to their current or future work and document how this has benefited their practice. While attending training courses is a good example of a learning activity, it is still possible to demonstrate the development of knowledge and skills without any monetary outlay or certificates for your portfolio. For example, reflecting on a critical incident during a shift and what you have learnt from it is a perfectly valid learning activity. Another might be receiving clinical supervision from a colleague where you have discussed difficult cases or presented a case study and have then kept a record of these. Alternatively you may have read a journal article specific to the area of work you undertake and as a result have been able to further your knowledge of this; equally you may have been involved in a committee developing a new guideline based on the current evidence available. Opportunities to shadow colleagues, take a secondment and be involved in clinical audit also contribute towards CPD, as does your annual appraisal and development of a personal development plan. Further guidance is provided online by the NMC, Royal College of Nursing and professional magazines regarding appropriate CPD activities and developing your portfolio. A wealth of other resources are also available online to provide assistance with CPD, such as training modules, clinical guidelines, journals and case studies.
Ideally registrants will use a variety of different learning activities for their CPD and it is vital that evidence is kept to document all of these. It will also be essential that registrants can demonstrate what they have gained from these experiences and how their practice has benefited as a result. It is no longer enough just to have undertaken CPD, the focus is now on identifying what this has let you achieve with regards to improved patient care.