Understanding CPD

By Dr Kalpna Pindolia / 18 Mar 2021

Dr Kalpna Pindolia explores continuing professional development in aesthetic medicine – a responsibility of all healthcare professionals

Continuing professional development (CPD) is learning activity that all responsible medical professionals undertake to keep patients safe and deliver a high standard of care.

Aesthetics is a rapidly evolving, relatively new area of medical practice. CPD is a personally defined experience and ultimately your responsibility to direct and complete. With a plethora of training options, regulatory requirements, as well as the associated cost and time investment required, CPD in aesthetics may seem daunting. Here, we discuss CPD in more detail.

What is CPD?

CPD is defined as ‘the process of lifelong uninterrupted learning and self-improvement for individuals and teams, which enable medical professionals to expand and fulfil their potential in maintaining a high medical standard and an ever-improving quality of care that meets the need of patients’.1 Apart from new learning, it may also reinforce and maintain existing good practice. Going beyond traditional continuing medical education (CME), it incorporates knowledge and practical skills, as well as broader concepts of accountability, ethics and professionalism. In aesthetics, it may also involve aspects of managing a business.

Why is CPD important?

Well-prepared personal development plans (PDPs) that incorporate CPD help you keep up to date and allow you to meaningfully contribute to high standards of patient care. Apart from protecting patients, CPD also safeguards your colleagues, employer, your business and your professional career. Happily, it is often an inspiring process, contributing to work confidence, satisfaction and progression.

In aesthetic medicine, CPD is particularly important as aesthetic practitioners may:

  • Enter the field later on the timeline of a traditional medical career
  • Be unfamiliar with private practice and aspects of running a business
  • Be time poor and work in multiple roles alongside aesthetics
  • Struggle to keep up with a rapidly evolving evidence base and changing trends
  • Work in full-time aesthetics autonomously with isolated practice

CPD for doctors, nurses and dentists

CPD is a professional responsibility for most modern career paths. In medicine, it is additionally mandated by our professional codes of conduct. Specific groups have specific guidance which will direct your experience of CPD.

The General Medical Council (GMC) has official guidance for CPD, but does not have a required fixed number of CPD credits for doctors.2 However, there are recommended guidelines which have useful parameters. For instance, according to the Federation of the Royal Colleges of Physicians of the United Kingdom, doctors are expected to complete about 50 hours per annum.3

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) specifies that for revalidation, you undertake 35 hours of CPD relevant to your scope of practice as a nurse or midwife over the three years, prior to your revalidation date.4 For nurses, participatory learning is a key component of CPD where learning is part of personal interactions.5

Under the General Dental Council’s Enhanced CPD Scheme, dentists need to complete a minimum of 100 hours of verifiable CPD every five years.6,7 There are specific topics which must be included; for example, two hours dedicated to medical emergencies every year.8

The Joint Council for Cosmetic Practitioners (JCCP) stipulates that registered practitioners demonstrate evidence of CPD achievements that they have included in their appraisal/ revalidation as required by their respective Professional Statutory Regulatory Body. It also stipulates that a minimum of 50 hours of CPD must be demonstrated annually by all clinicians, of which a core element is aesthetic related.9

CPD hours or points?

CPD is referred to as a number of hours, units, points or credits. Ultimately CPD relates to the time (or hours) spent in ‘active learning’. Active learning is the actual time spent learning something relevant for CPD objectives.10 For example, if a course starts at 9am and ends at 1pm with a 30-minute break, the CPD hours would be 3.5 CPD hours.

CPD hours can also be estimated if there is no formal accreditation for an activity, as long as there is reasonable evidence that the activity has taken place, such as evidence of completion or register of attendance.

There are companies that will independently scrutinise a learning activity to ensure strict integrity and quality, reaching universally set, objective standards. These companies will often identify how many points/credits that learning activity is worth. The relevant learning activities, many described below, will usually display the relevant logo such as those provided by CPD Group, CPD Healthcare, The CPD Certification Service (CPD UK), and The CPD Standards Office.11-14

 The Royal College of Nursing also accredits certain courses which may be relevant to your practice.15

For doctors and nurses, the balance of accredited and non-accredited CPD hours you present will be dependent on your personal development plan. In my personal experience with doctors, some formally-accredited CPD usually appears at appraisal, as these courses are often preferred by virtue of their standardisation.

Types of CPD

Following initial training in aesthetic medicine, there are many varied opportunities for CPD in aesthetics.

Specific examples include:

  • Advanced qualifications, like the Level 7 Certificate or Postgraduate MSc, PGCert or PGDip
  • Attending conferences and industry days
  • Virtual, online training like webinars
  • In-person masterclasses, workshops and mentorship
  • Managerial responsibility, like conflict resolution or communication skills
  • Reading of articles, journals and books
  • Product-based learning
  • Team or peer-based discussion, like journal clubs and morbidity meetings
  • Relevant mandatory training, like basic life support and information governance
  • Aspects of work-life balance and resilience, for instance, stress management
  • Business-related courses, like marketing and legislative requirements

Apart from clinical knowledge and skills, CPD can embrace:

  • Softer non-clinical skills such as leadership, management, academic and business knowledge
  • Formal (structured) and more informal self-directed activity
  • External as well as internal training
  • Niche and broader training
  • Regional, national and international needs from the profession

Identifying your CPD needs

Self-evaluation is key in formulating your CPD plan. For doctors and nurses, you need to develop your own plan in accordance with your scope of practice. For doctors, your CPD activities should be shaped by personal evaluation of both your professional needs and the needs of the service and the people who use it.2

For instance, if you work in aesthetics for 25% of your professional time, your CPD may encompass approximately this proportion of your personal development plan (PDP) or more, if you are a novice just entering a new field. If aesthetics is your full-time work, your CPD would be around topics relevant to aesthetics.

To identify your needs, it is worthwhile to consider CPD topics:

  • Common to all doctors, dentists or nurses
  • For all colleagues in your broad area and then niche aesthetic practice
  • For needs unique to you, your specific scope of work and career pathway
  • In response to personal scenarios, including patient and colleague feedback
  • Varying your type, depth and breadth of learning

Documenting CPD

Medical regulatory bodies require collection of evidence of CPD as part of the appraisal and revalidation process. Supporting information is usually provided using a structured process. Doctors may use the Physicians, CPD app to log and reflect on their ongoing CPD throughout the year. Ultimately, their CPD is presented on a specially-devised electronic form called the Medical Appraisal Guide (MAG).16 There are also alternative online platforms like Clarity or Fourteen Fish which collate the same data. Nurses submit their documentation online to the NMC. Dentists submit their declaration via their eGDC online and may use services like Isopharm to develop PDPs with verified CPD.

Whichever method you choose to document your CPD, it should stimulate reflective practice by asking the following questions:

  • Why did I do the activity?
  • What were my significant learning points?
  • Have I identified areas of further learning as a result for my next PDP?
  • What is the impact on my clinical practice?
  Each month, Aesthetics publishes a CPD article worth 1 point. You can click here to view recent CPD articles and contact the team via editorial@aestheticsjournal.com to receive your CPD certificate.   

Deliver excellence through CPD

True CPD is all about your individual, lifelong journey to becoming an excellent aesthetic practitioner. As long as you view your practice from a reflective perspective, personal and professional growth always come from CPD. While our patients will benefit, so will you, as you become more experienced and confident. After all, even an ‘expert’ does not know everything, so lifelong learning is the key to success medical careers.

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