The challenges of keeping up-to-date

Whatever field of healthcare you work in, the ability to cope with change has become an important aspect of your role. Yet keeping abreast of clinical, organisational and administrative changes presents a logistical challenge for even the most dedicated professional.

In years gone by staff received protected learning time to meet their continuing professional development (CPD) requirements. However, a recent report from the Royal College of Nursing, Investing in a Safe and Effective Workforce: Continuing professional development for nurses in the UK, showed that increased demands on the wards / clinical areas combined with limited staffing as well as cuts to CPD time and funding mean that lots of frontline staff are finding it harder than ever to meet their revalidation requirements. Consequently, the report states that ‘nursing staff are at risk of falling behind with the latest developments in medicine and practice, putting patient safety at risk’. The same situation is relevant to other professional groups.

Your responsibilities

Barry Quinn a senior member of the Bart’s Health NHS Trust corporate nursing team in London has said that ‘each individual nurse must take responsibility for their professional development.’ Whilst on paper this is certainly true, when you are exhausted from busy and demanding shifts even thinking about extra learning can seem like you have an insurmountable mountain to climb. So, lets break it down.

Firstly, let’s remember that CPD isn’t just a tick box exercise. Learning ensures you are safe to practice and on a personal level it can give you the confidence that, despite the pressures thrown at you, you do know what you are doing.

Next, you need to be clear about what is expected of you. What and how much CPD you must complete will be decided by your regulatory body such as the Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC) or Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

  • For example, to revalidate and remain on the NMC register, nurses must complete 35 hours of CPD training every 3 years. At least 20 of these hours must be what’s called ‘participatory learning’, i.e. a learning activity where you interact with one or more professionals.

Worryingly, in 2016, 34% of nurses told the NMC they completed ten or fewer hours of CPD training a year. Reasons for falling behind with learning included lack of:

  • Time
  • Backfill
  • Funding
  • Manager enthusiasm.

The good news is that there are ongoing campaigns to increase time and money for CPD resources, however nothing is going to change overnight. As frustrating as this is, unfortunately it will be your registration that is on the line if you fail to meet your revalidation requirements.

So, whilst you cannot change how your manager feels, or the amount of money available, lets now look at what you can do to make things feel doable.

Managing your time

If it’s likely that you need to complete some of your CPD in your own time, make sure you know how to maximise your time. Just as no two patients are the same, your needs will be different from other colleagues. Therefore, it can be helpful to look at what you need to work effectively.

Focussing on organising and managing time for CPD / studying:

  • Identify what you need to stay organised: Paper or electronic diary? Mind maps? To-do list apps?
  • Are you a morning or evening person? Notice any patterns such as when you get easily distracted and avoid studying then.
  • Name your distractions! Whether it is Facebook, Pinterest or your children you need to find a way to minimise distractions when studying. Sometimes sharing your diary with family and friends helps as they can encourage you and avoid disturbing you.
  • What motivates you? Think of the wider picture, for example, what does being a registered nurse mean to you? Can you think of everyday things you can do to keep yourself motivated?

Plan and set goals

One of the successful time management skills is breaking down tasks into ‘doable chunks’ and creating small achievable goals for each step. So, going back to the revalidation requirements for nurses, try not to focus on 35 hours all at once, instead break it down and perhaps set goals for each quarter of the year. Looking at it this way it works out at just under 3 hours CPD every 3 months - does this feel more manageable?

Remember to congratulate yourself when you have reached your goals as this helps with long term motivation and habit formation.

Think outside the box

As well as managing your time and setting realistic goals, taking a proactive approach can help you feel organised and in control. It can even make learning fun again.

For any of you, going to traditional study days or workshops may no longer be possible. However, don’t forget that learning events (even those that count towards participatory hours) don’t have to be in a classroom setting.

It’s time to get creative and ‘think outside the box’ for ways to address your CPD requirements. Things to consider include:

  • Social media: responsible use of social media can provide an efficient CPD solution, e.g. Twitter chats and Facebook discussion groups. Don’t forget to take a note of the details (date, time and relevant learning) and whether you contributed to the chats or not (this will determine if you can include in participatory hours or not). Check any relevant professional guidance on using social media.
  • Virtual opportunities: Elearning, You-tube videos, podcasts and webinars can all be useful ways to build up skills and knowledge and can be viewed at a time that suits you.
  • Spread the word: responding to consultations related to your field of practice can be used towards your CPD requirements, e.g. with RCN / NMC / NICE etc. Locally, you may be able to participate with audit or quality improvement issues. Again, make sure you keep a copy of your responses / involvement.
  • Look for the learning in the everyday: most working days involve some degree of learning so get into the habit of keeping a reflective diary of your practice and include any feedback / onsite guidance you receive.
  • Reach out: the reality is that you will all be in the same boat so are there ways for you to learn together? For example, can you pick a topic of the month or form a journal club? Remember that you could host discussions via a closed What’s app or Facebook group.

Hopefully, you can now see that there are many routes to the top of your CPD mountain and manage your ongoing learning. Just remember to break it down, manage your time as best you can and look for alternative solutions.

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