- by Lorraine Lighton, outgoing CPD Director at FPH
As my term as Director of Continual Professional Development (CPD) for FPH draws to a close, I’ve been reflecting on how the FPH CPD scheme has developed during the last four years and how much I’ve learned about the process of continuing professional development.
There have been substantial changes to the CPD policy and guidance in recent years to make it fit for now and the future. None of this could have happened without the amazing support of the Faculty staff, especially Krisztina, Audrey and James, and the CPD Advisers who work with me to develop policy and guidance and who act as auditors.
One of the highlights of my time in office has been the development of guidance on writing reflective notes. This was produced by a small sub-group of CPD Advisers and has been commended by the General Medical Council.
Why do we place so much emphasis on reflective notes? One of the great strengths of the FPH CPD policy is that it recognises that there are many ways of learning, not just attendance at training events where certificates are handed out. Because FPH accepts such a wide range of activities as CPD, for which formal evidence such as test results or certificates are not available, we need a different form of evidence and that is what reflective notes are partly about.
They have the added bonus of making us think about the activities we have undertaken, what we learned from them, how our practice may change as a result, and what further learning we may need, thus developing us as reflective practitioners. Members of the FPH CPD scheme will recognise that this is the basis for the ‘Four Questions’ on the CPD record.
FPH audits a selection of CPD records every year as part of its quality assurance. As Director of CPD, I am that scary person who makes the final decision if an audit submission is deemed unsatisfactory. I know how it feels to be audited and the anxiety of waiting to find out if you have ‘passed’. We have responded to members concerns by speeding up the audit process and bringing it forward, so that members have plenty of time to improve their documentation for the following year if they didn’t meet the standards.
Although auditing is a substantial workload, it is never boring and has given me an overview of where members who struggle with CPD documentation go wrong. Here are my top ten tips to getting it right:
1. Read the CPD policy and guidance. It’s not a difficult read and will help you understand exactly what is required and what to do if you are having problems.
2. Ensure that your Personal Development Plan is broad enough to cover a substantial amount of your CPD for the following year, but sufficiently focused that there is more than one line such as ‘Do CPD’. And yes, PDPs like that do exist.
3. If you are having difficulty undertaking sufficient CPD (maybe you need help recognising that some of your on-the-job learning can be claimed), seek help early!
4. If you have problems recording your CPD, seek help early! Don’t wait until the end of the CPD year to suddenly find that you don’t know how to use the online log, your written English is insufficient to write a few sentences about your experience of learning, or you haven’t had time during the year to record your CPD or develop a Personal Development Plan.
5. FPH has a fantastic team of administrators and CPD Advisers who can direct you to guidance and if necessary find solutions, but you need to seek help early as soon as you identify a difficulty, not after you receive the dreaded letter advising that you have been selected for audit.
6. You don’t have to be Proust to write a reflective note. We don’t need volumes of high literature. Have a look at the examples on the FPH website, which includes my own submission for audit (and I was always near the bottom of the English class at school). When composing a reflective note, I say it to myself as though I were talking to a colleague then write it down verbatim, but do whatever works for you.
7. On the other hand, it is not really possible to show reflection in a note comprising less than 20 words in total for answers to all four questions. If you are unsure how to write a reflective note, read the guidance on the FPH website.
8. Please don’t feel insulted by comments from the auditors. These are intended as a pat on the back (for high quality documentation) or as constructive criticism if there is room for improvement.
9. Please don’t complain to the Faculty because you have been selected for audit two (or three or more) years in a row. In order to ensure quality control there has to be a random element to the selection, so some people will hit the jackpot more than others. We have made submitting for audit as easy as possible – you just need to click on the submit button. And if you have been keeping up to date with writing reflective notes, the whole process of submission should only take a few seconds.
10. If your documentation is assessed as unsatisfactory at audit, DON’T PANIC. Follow the guidance from the auditors and you will almost certainly ‘pass’ next time.
The most important thing I’ve learned during the last four years is that CPD should not be seen as an unwelcome hurdle. The Faculty CPD scheme aims to help us become the best practitioners we can. So next time you are selected for audit, be pleased you are being given a chance to show off your reflections to your peers!