CPD and its purpose in life.

CPD and its purpose in life.      

By David Tagg of www.backtowork.co.uk

Re-produced from an article first published in the 'In Essence' Journal of the International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists (IFPA).

Undoubtedly, a requirement for Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is essential in any profession. CPD is intended to prevent anyone from qualifying in their chosen subject and then 'stagnating', not updating their knowledge, or failing to advance their skills in a safe and legal way.

With many therapists now practicing a variety of modalities and belonging to several professional bodies, CPD has become an increasing problem for many over the past few years.  Those who have known me in the course of my past committee duties, with several aromatherapy organisations, will be aware that I have long believed that CPD was losing its way. 

My view has always been that CPD should only ever need to be evidence of a member being able to demonstrate that they have undertaken activities which have led to benefits for their clients, their practice and their clinical knowledge.  With so many professional bodies and Special Interest Groups (SIGs) now issuing CPD requirements for renewals of membership, the situation is bound to become unreasonable, if not impossible, for some members to comply with all the various requirements, particularly if these are made too prescriptive.  There have been numerous examples of people undertaking hours of training and study in subjects that would benefit the above, but because either the subject matter, or the number of hours did not fit the specific requirement of their professional organisation, their membership renewal could be questioned. 

Being involved in Post Graduate therapist training, it is apparent that therapists often ask "Is the course recognized as CPD by x or y organization?"  The answer can only be Â? Any professional organization should recognize any CPD undertaken that is relevant to your profession and benefits the users of your service.  However, requests to include a specific area of knowledge indicates that therapists are concerned that although they are updating their knowledge and advancing their professional skills, there is an increasing fear that their organization will not recognize this, if the content is not as prescribed for that organization's CPD requirement.

One common complaint is that a therapist has to go on a course that contains subject matter required by one of their organizations.  Often these courses go over information they already know and they gain little from it.  This frustratingly results in their inability to fund attendance on a course that would actually advance their knowledge and benefit their specific client group.  Many formal courses can benefit therapists in a variety of ways and, increasingly, I have observed a cross section of therapists, from different modalities and backgrounds, successfully integrating a variety of course subjects into their practice, complementing their current treatment approaches and enhancing the treatment service they provide. 

At last I believe we see a light of realism, demonstrated by the Health Professions Council (HPC).  The HPC is a regulator, their job being to protect the health and well being of people who use the services of the health professionals registered with them.  Currently, the HPC register members of 13 professions, including Arts therapists, Dieticians, Physiotherapists and Paramedics.

In addressing CPD, the HPC define it as 'a range of learning activities through which health professionals maintain and develop throughout their career to ensure that they retain their capacity to practice safely, effectively and legally within their evolving scope of practice'.  They further simplify this definition as 'the way health professionals continue to learn and develop throughout their careers so they keep their skills and knowledge up to date and are able to work safely, legally and effectively.'

The objectives of the HPC are similar to those of any complementary therapy organisation and their approach to CPD could benefit those whose responsibility it is to give guidance within their particular organization.  Maintaining an accurate record of all CPD activities is required, as is being able to demonstrate the relevance and benefit to their practice and the 'service user'.

An important aspect is to record a plan of your CPD and decide on the activities you will do, involving a mixture of learning activities, ensuring that they comply with the required standards.  The actual mixture may be limited for various reasons and this should be recognized.  The relevance of any CPD is dependant on the individual's particular activity and responsibilities within their profession and can differ greatly from their colleagues.  What is relevant to an essential oil supplier will be different to that of a clinical aromatherapist in palliative care for example.  Whatever form it takes it should improve the service you provide, or improve your confidence in providing your current service.  Either way, the aim is to improve the benefits to the service user.  By keeping an up to date record of all CPD activity, a profile of this activity can then be provided to the registering organization on request.

A considerable amount of CPD is often not easily recognized, such as acting on feedback from users, mentoring, giving presentations, doing research, planning courses, reviewing books or articles, or activities such as reflective practice.  The HPC believe that CPD should be based on the outcome of the learning, rather than the number of hours spent. The hours spent on an activity may not reflect the learning gained.  They hold the view that it is more important that CPD is useful and relevant to the individual in their development, or preparation for a change of role within their profession. 

Some examples of CPD activity suggested by the HPC are:

Courses             :        Reflective practice        :        Clinical audit

Peer review                :        Work shadowing         :        Job rotation

Project work  :        Lecturing or teaching        :        Branch meetings

Case studies        :        Attending conferences      :        Updating knowledge

Self-assessment questionnaires   :        Representative on a committee.

Formal training and attendance at courses remains a favoured method of CPD for many therapists, providing demonstrations, hands on experience and guidance, with the sharing of focussed knowledge and clinical experience that comes only from such opportunities.  However, there are times when useful relevant courses are either unavailable or unattainable, for whatever reason.  It would then be unreasonable to punish a keen therapist who has been unable to comply with too prescriptive a system, when they can demonstrate, in other ways, their Continuing Professional Development activity to the benefit of their service users.

There also seems to be an increasing amount of bureaucratic (detail) loading on the requirements of some organizations, who seem to have lost the purpose of CPD and possibly their common sense, particularly with very experienced therapists with a proven record of CPD over many years.

I hope this article is helpful to all therapists debating the problems of CPD and to committee members of all complementary therapies, particularly those charged with developing CPD criteria.  Hopefully this may help them avoid re-inventing the wheel and making it square.

Further information and a downloadable guide on the Health Professions Council approach to Continuing Professional Development can be found on their website at http://www.hpc-uk.org.

About the author:

David Tagg is a past committee member of the ISPA and the IFPA and, in partnership with his wife Linda, tutors in Acupressure, non-invasive acupuncture, First Aid for Therapists and Back Care. Contact David and Linda at: Back To Work P.O. Box 67, Basingstoke RG24 8YG Telephone: 01256 351080 or through their website at http://backtowork.co.uk

Website: http://www.backtowork.co.uk

Author: Linda & David Tagg
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