Continuous Professional Development: The Whys and the How’s

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Continuous Professional Development: The Whys and the How’s


Why do we complete CPD?

Continuous professional development (CPD) is the process through which we as clinicians demonstrate how we are keeping our practice current and are developing our knowledge and skills. The aim of this article is to explore why CPD forms an important part of our work and explores some of the ways that CPD can be completed. It will conclude by providing recommendations on how pre-hospital clinicians can complete and maintain a CPD portfolio. 

CPD is defined by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) as:

“A range of learning activities through which professionals maintain and develop throughout their career to ensure they continue to be able to practice safely, effectively, and legally, within their changing scope of practice.” (HCPC, 2011)

For those of us who register with a regulating body such as the HCPC or the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), CPD is a standard we are required to meet as part of our professional registration. Tables 1 and 2 show these standards in more detail.

The HCPC standards for continuing professional development

  1. Maintain a continuous, up-to-date and accurate record of CPD activities
  2. Demonstrate that CPD activities are a mixture of learning activities relevant to current and future practice
  3. Seek to ensure that CPD activities have contributed to the quality of practice and service delivery
  4. Seek to ensure CPD benefits the service user
  5. Upon request, present a written portfolio (which must be the registrant’s own work and supported by evidence) explaining how it meets the standards of CPD

List 1: The HCPC standards for continuing professional development (HCPC, 2011)

The NMC standards for revalidation

  1. Undertake 35 hours of CPD relevant to the scope of practice as a nurse or midwife in the three-year period since when the registration was renewed, or when you joined the register
  2. Of those 35 hours, at least 20 must have included participatory learning
  3. An accurate record must be maintained of the CPD undertaken. The record must contain;
    3.1 The CPD method
    3.2 A description of the topic and how it relates to the practice
    3.3 The date on which the activity was undertaken
    3.4 The number of hours (including the number of participatory hours)
    3.5 The identification of the part of the code most relevant to the activity
    3.6 Evidence the CPD was undertaken

List 2: The NMC standards for revalidation (NMC, 2017)

For clinicians who are non-registrants, CPD is still an essential part of our clinical practice. It allows us to identify areas of our practice requiring further development in our journey to become and maintain our status as exceptional clinicians. It provides a means to show current and future employers your commitment to providing the highest standard of clinical care. If you were ever unfortunate enough to become the subject of an investigation, it is a way that you can provide evidence supporting your clinical practice.

It is important to understand that undertaking CPD, such as courses, does not automatically provide the right to extend your scope of practice. You should always work to the guidelines set by your employer. If you have completed an education package which you feel has made you competent in an area not currently included in your scope of practice, you should speak to your employer to agree an amendment in writing.

What constitutes CPD?

CPD can be divided into four main categories:

  • Work-based learning
  • Professional activities
  • Formal education
  • Self-directed learning (HCPC, 2017)

The list below provides some examples of activities you could undertake:

Work-based learning

  • Case studies
  • Discussions with colleagues
  • Learning by doing
  • Reflective practice
  • Peer review
  • Involvement in the wider, professional work of your employer
  • Coaching from others
  • In-service training
  • Work shadowing

List 3: Examples of work-based learning activities (HCPC, 2017)

Professional activities

  • Involvement in professional bodies, specialist-interest groups or other groups
  • Maintaining or developing professional skills
  • Supervising research or students
  • Lecturing or teaching
  • Being a tutor
  • Organising accredited courses
  • Mentoring
  • Being an examiner
  • Organising journal clubs or other specialist groups

List 4: Examples of professional activities (HCPC, 2017)

Formal and educational activities

  • Courses
  • Attending conferences
  • Seminars
  • Further education
  • Writing articles or papers
  • Going on accredited courses
  • Research
  • Distance or E-learning
  • Delivering training

List 5: Formal and educational activities (HCPC, 2017)

Self-directed learning

  • Reading journals or articles
  • Keeping a file of your progress
  • Reviewing books for articles
  • Relevant public service
  • Updating your knowledge through the internet or TV
  • Relevent voluntary work

List 6: Self-directed learning activities (HCPC, 2017)

These tables demonstrate the wide variety of activities that can be completed as part of your CPD. It is worth taking the time to plan what activities you are going to complete; try and use a variety of activities rather than the same one or two. This will assist you in demonstrating your skills and knowledge.

Recording your CPD

The subject of how to record your CPD can be on the most contentious areas surrounding this topic. There are numerous articles and guidance published by professional organisations such as the HCPC, NMC and the College of Paramedics.

The College of Paramedics recommends your portfolio consists of:

  • Personal details
  • Contents page
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Professional profile
  • Job description
  • Personal development plan
  • Reflections and articles relevant to the reflections
  • Consent forms
  • Certificates 
  • Records of clinical experience
  • Essential and supplemental evidence (Spence, n.d.)

Clearly, there may be elements of the portfolio you do not wish to include or are not able to include. It is advisable to keep as much evidence as possible to support your record of CPD activities.

You may wish to store this portfolio in either a paper or electronic format. There are advantages and disadvantages of both forms of media, such as paper documents becoming lost or damaged or a hard drive becoming corrupted. It is the responsibility of the individual clinician to ensure their records remain safe and accessible, but it is strongly recommended back-up copies are kept.

Another option is the use of inline databases to keep your record in. There are numerous companies offering CPD services either free of charge or at a cost. Often, these companies provide CPD activities alongside the service or for an additional charge. It is worth exploring the different options available before purchasing a service.

There are also smart device apps available to record activities and keep a log of clinical skills used.


CPD is a subject that can on face value appear to be confusing and time demanding. However, with pre-planning and a system for recording information, CPD can be an enjoyable and beneficial experience requiring a few hours of time each month.

Remember, all courses undertaken with the Medics Lodge contribute to your CPD, and we supply a certificate for every course attended. If you require any help with your CPD, or want some advice on the activities you are planning to take, please do not hesitate to get in touch.



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