continuing professional development CPD

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) for Healthcare Professionals

What is CPD? 

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is familiar to any experienced healthcare professional. It is required for revalidation with the RCN, RCGP and RCS. Making the most of CPD allows you to improve your practice and maintain high standards.  


The activities and topics that you engage in for your continuing professional development are up to you. At the beginning of each revalidation cycle, it is beneficial to set out a CPD plan. Firstly, make a few separate lists.  

  • What topics interest you? 
  • How do you learn best? 
  • Are there any particular skills that you would like to develop?  
  • What would you like to have achieved by the time you go to your next appraisal?  


You can then begin mixing and matching this information to choose your activities and goals. Some people like to be extremely organised and plan the next year of their continuing professional development, but it may also be beneficial to do it a few months at a time so that you can look out for interesting courses, meet new people and keep an eye on any good workshops or events that might spring up. Allowing for a bit of spontaneity will make CPD more exciting and mean that you are more attentive to opportunities for learning in your everyday life.   


CPD example activities for healthcare professionals 

  • Workshops and learning groups 
  • Peer review activities 
  • Reading and reviewing publications 
  • Submit work to clinical journals 
  • Coaching/mentoring in a specific skill (delivery or recipient)  
  • Participation in clinical audits 
  • Online modules 
  • Online discussions 
  • Community projects for improving patient care 


Requirements for GPs, Nurses and Surgeons



For GPs, the revalidation cycle is a five-year period. During this time, you must demonstrate up-to-date continuing professional development, and how it has improved your practice and maintained high standards of clinical expertise. According to RCGP, “the aim is to demonstrate a balance of learning across the curriculum relevant to your scope of work.” This means tackling a wide range of activities and topics which both reinforce existing knowledge and provide the opportunity to learn 


The CPD requirements for GPs are more flexible than those for nurses. There are no specific hours or types of activities required. Everyday learning from your own practice and others during work is accepted as long as you can reflect on exactly how this has improved your practice. It should also be accompanied by external activities which broaden your range of learning. 


However, the RCGP recommends 50 credits of CPD over each 12-month period. If you go significantly above this, they may be concerned that you are neglecting your primary responsibilities, whereas if you are below this, you will need to prove that you are fit to practice with the credits that you have attained. In the end, your appraiser will value quality over quantity. The RCGP also recommends that part-time GPs complete the same amount of CPD as full-time GPs. That includes any locums who work fewer hours than they would in a salaried role.  



CPD Nursing  

Nurses revalidate with the NMC every three years. Over this period, they must complete 35 hours of continuing professional development (CPD) which contributes to maintaining and improving your standards of nursing practice. 20 hours of these must be participatory learning, meaning it involves interaction with at least one other professional. You can read our article on NMC revalidation for examples of participatory and non-participatory activities.  


Keeping accurate records of your CPD activities is essential, including dates, number of hours, topic and method. Nurses should also describe how it relates to their practice and the NMC code.  


With digital communication now a central part of our lives, the RCN has confirmed that social media can also support your continuing professional development. For example, participating in Twitter chats can count as participatory learning. Join in with clinical discussions by replying to tweets about certain subjects and asking questions. Remember, when using Twitter in this capacity it is best to keep your entire account professional, perhaps mentioning your job title and responsibilities on your profile.  



CPD Surgeons  

According to the RCS, surgeons must complete 250 hours of CPD spread out over the five-year revalidation cycle, or 50 hours each year. These activities should contribute to developing skills and knowledge which support the surgeon’s practice. RCS England says that “surgeons should aim to achieve a balance of activities between clinical, academic and professional. No more than 20 hours of CPD should be from a single type of activity.” 


Engaging with online educational resources, masterclasses, and collections are a great way to undertake continuing professional development  



CPD reflection  

Reflection is an essential part of continuing professional development. If done well, you can gain as much from reflecting as the learning itself. Think about the activities you have completed and then write down what you learned, how it has improved or reinforced your knowledge and skills, what changes you will or will not be making to your practice as a result, and what you would do differently if you were to complete this activity again.  


Return to the objectives you set before you completed these activities. Have you met your objectives? If not, how can you make sure they are better integrated into your CPD plan?  


For any healthcare professional, CPD is an opportunity to continue learning and better understanding your practice and any areas for improvement.  


AppLocum believes in the importance of supporting the continuing professional development of the healthcare professionals who work through us. We provide opportunities for training and learning. Register with us here.

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