Skip to navigation Skip to content

How doctors in different specialties tackle their CPD

Ask any doctor, continuing professional development is high on the priority list. Whether they are getting ready for appraisals, organising portfolios or preparing for revalidation, clinicians are required keep up to date with their skills and knowledge throughout their medical career.

Each College has different CPD requirements so we spoke to four clinicians from a diverse range of specialties about their approach to education and asked them to share their top tips on how to get the most out of time spent on postgraduate learning opportunities.

Dr Ruth Law, consultant geriatrician at Whittington Health, London

What does your clinical practice entail?

I work as an integrated geriatrician delivering comprehensive geriatric assessment in hospital, the community and in local care homes. I also contribute to the acute medical take as part of a rota to provide 7-day consultant cover to the medical wards. As well as my community geriatrics role I have a special interest in ethics and palliative care. I supervise two or three trainees at any one time and support the education department in both under and postgraduate training. I particularly enjoy facilitating simulation training and am a certified trainer.

What are the CPD requirements for a geriatrician?

My basic CPD requirements follow the Royal College of Physicians guidelines of 50 hours per year. Although my other roles do not require me to undertake specific CPD I feel a professional responsibility to keep up-to-date in both policy and practice. This is a huge difference to CPD prior to becoming a consultant where my hours were focused on improving my clinical knowledge.

Which methods do you use to acquire your CPD credits?

I try hard to keep CPD high on my priority list. As a start I make sure I attend in-house opportunities for learning at my trust. This has meant making the effort to liaise with our postgraduate education centre to get on the right email circulation lists.

Keeping up to date with CPD is also easier if you remove yourself from your usual job so I book onto at least three or four externally delivered one/two day courses a year using my study budget. I choose areas I have identified at appraisal as needing more development and use specialty-specific societies, making sure I’m on the mailing lists for these (RSM, RCP, British Geriatric Society and British Association on Stroke Physicians to name a few).

As a parent I now struggle to attend the evening events that I found so useful as a trainee (RCP ‘teach ins’ for example) so catching up on these online has proved a good alternative and can be done for an hour at work. Signing up for webinars and timetabling them into my diary has also proved effective.

Finally I make sure I volunteer to teach - locally and at external meetings. Telling people about my service development experience or enthusing students about geriatric medicine is a great motivator for staying up to date.

Give an example of how you have put learning into practice in the last 12 months

I have used some of my CPD time to be trained as a simulation training (SIM) facilitator. This year I have helped deliver geriatrics SIM scenarios. We receive the scenarios in advance (for example feeding at the end of life, management of a neck of femur fracture). This allows me to target my geriatrics CPD to these areas through a combination of e-learning and reading current guidelines before the simulation sessions.

What useful tip can you share on how to manage CPD?

A wise colleague once gave me advice on how to prioritise my time; ‘patients first, CPD second, everything else can wait’.

Dr Kieran O'Malley, child and adolescent psychiatrist based in Dublin

What does your clinical practice entail?

I am a child and adolescent psychiatrist working in an urban community practice. I have worked in Canada, the United States, the UK and, for the last 10 years, in Ireland. This has involved a mixture of consultation to the state/government as well as private consultation. I have a particular expertise in developmental psychiatric disorders, especially foetal alcohol spectrum disorders and run the only FASD consultation clinic in Ireland (north and south).

I am also involved in academic work, publishing articles, book chapters and books and lecturing and teaching both nationally and internationally. I also continue to be involved in original psychiatric research.

What are the CPD requirements for a child psychiatrist?

I am enrolled in the CPD programme of the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland and each year need to acquire 20 hours of external CPD credits and 20 hours of internal credits. My CPD needs to be geared to clinical upgrading with new knowledge on diagnostic techniques and treatments relevant to the specialty.

It also needs to include a medical audit, membership of a peer group that meets monthly, personal academic journal reading, academic and clinical teaching and research time.

How do you acquire your CPD credits?

I prefer a blend of CPD through didactic lectures, focused modules with a required reading list and standardised patient vignettes for specific diagnoses, which are rated by experts and then tested after training in the condition. Psychiatry lectures with face-to-face contact with the lecturer and opportunities for questions work well.

How have you applied your own experience of medical education, both here and in the USA?

I have been involved in the organisation of CPD conferences for many years, both in Ireland and the US, including co-organising a US national child psychiatry Systems of Care conference in Seattle over 13 years ago. Most recently I was involved in organising an intellectual disability conference at the RSM which focused on the pros and cons of medication in children and adolescents with developmental disabilities. This included international medical and psychiatric speakers, as well as a lecture on ethics and a case presentation featuring a teenage patient with her foster mother. This was a quick update format on the use of complex medication from experts with a wealth of practical knowledge.

What useful tip can you share on how to manage CPD?

With both patient and clinician present for questioning, clinical case presentations in clinical rounds still provide the most worthwhile interactive learning opportunity.

James Collins, sport and exercise nutritionist based in London

What does your clinical practice entail?

I work as nutritionist within elite sport and am a nutritionist at Arsenal Football Club. I was consultant nutritionist for the England Football Team to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil and worked with Team GB athletes at London 2012 and will be doing the same for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Within my private practice at The Centre for Health and Human Performance I work with clients on exercise performance and body composition, as part of a multi-disciplinary team.

What are the CPD requirements for a sports and exercise nutritionist?

My professional registration is with Sport & Exercise Nutrition Register (SENr) and I am expected to maintain CPD through official SENr endorsed activities, such as conferences and events, training days, single modules or a series of related CPD activities, both ‘live’ and online.

Which methods do you use to acquire your CPD credits?

I mainly use conferences to obtain CPD credits due to the technical information and networking opportunities. I combine these with meetings with academics and peers to discuss innovations. While I don’t receive official credits for these, they have a large influence on my technical delivery.

Increasingly I’m finding that online webinars and lectures are particularly well suited to my requirements. They’re good for sharing technical data and also make the leading conferences in the US and Australia more accessible.

How have you put this learning into practice in the last 12 months?

In a recent project, I undertook technical meetings with researchers at Loughborough University as part of my applied practice to understand temperature regulation and fluid balance during exercise in the heat. Following this I put together a testing protocol for assessing hydration and electrolyte status for elite athletes training in hot environments. An understanding of the physiology and testing protocol allowed me to carry out applied testing with an elite football squad at a foreign training camp. This resulted in the data being used to individualise hydration practices and minimise performance detriment in the heat.

What useful tip can you share on how to manage CPD?

Target CPD events that will really enhance practice. Many practitioners are time-poor, so impact is key. Often many events are good for networking – but the lesser-known conferences and meetings can contain the most innovative content.

Surgeon Commander Catherine Doran, consultant emergency and colorectal surgeon at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham

What does your clinical practice entail?

Despite the title, being a surgeon in the Military actually forms only a small part of my job, and I by no means just deal with gunshot victims and patients from bomb blasts. The majority of my time is spent working as a consultant general surgeon in the NHS. Since it is a trauma centre I do have my fair share of emergency and trauma patients though. My latest armed services deployment was spending five months in Africa as part of the UK response to the Ebola outbreak.

What are the CPD requirements for a general surgeon?

Keeping up to date in a wide range of subjects is essential. The Royal College of Surgeons and Federation of Surgical Speciality Associations provide guidance to ensure that a balance of clinical, academic and professional activities is addressed by surgeons. A minimum of 50 CPD points is required each year (or 250 per revalidation cycle). It is essential that a balance is found between requirements for my NHS practice and the requirements of the military.

How do you keep up with your CPD credits?

Becoming a consultant and being aware of maintaining my currency (and feeding my curiosity of medicine in general) has focused my attention on the media outlets that are available including academic journals and the wider Internet. While I might often wish to attend an all-day conference, it is not always possible so online videos of lectures and access to slides of speakers can help enormously.

I am starting to use podcasts since these can prove ideal when I am away and have no direct Internet access. During my long deployment to Sierra Leone this year, having email access to a library that could send me papers as PDFs was essential.

Give an example of how you have put learning into practice in the last 12 months

My last year of work was dominated by a four month deployment to Sierra Leone as part of the UK input into the Ebola Outbreak. Access to the Internet and journals became essential during my preparation and time there to update myself on a subject and disease of which I had minimum knowledge. Practising medicine, especially in the military is always challenging and stimulating.

What useful tip can you share on how to manage CPD?

Having just processed my paperwork for my annual appraisal, I’d emphasise how important it is to write a report on every aspect of learning (even a few lines) and upload it to your portfolio. It makes the annual appraisal process so much easier.

Skip to top