Pharmacist Kat Hall is a senior teaching fellow at the University of Reading. She explains how to maximise your learning from continuing professional development (CPD) activities.
How does the type of learning that pharmacy professionals do vary throughout their careers?
Undergraduate pharmacy students will do CPD guided by module learning outcomes; preregistration trainees’ CPD is driven by the General Pharmaceutical Council’s performance standards and the registration assessment syllabus; and preregistration pharmacy technicians’ CPD will be influenced by the learning outcomes of the course they are undertaking or local objectives.
After registration, pharmacists’ CPD will be driven by many different factors, including their employers, role changes, additional responsibilities and personal interests and aspirations. Early career pharmacy professionals are likely to have a wider range of topics in their CPD because the Foundation Pharmacy Framework, designed by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), encourages learning at a general baseline. They may attend events and undertake postgraduate courses to further their learning, so their entries may be more action-based. As they transition into the RPS’s advanced pharmacy framework, their CPD may be more specific to their career aspirations, including early career management and leadership learning needs. For established professionals, CPD may be related to new developments, changing jobs, independent prescribing or taking on senior or management roles.
How can pharmacists identify gaps in their knowledge and skills?
Self-reflection is an important tool for identifying gaps. You can reflect on any event or activity that you have undertaken to decide what you would have done differently and what knowledge or skills you would have needed to be more effective. Tools such as Gibbs’ reflective cycle (1988) and Rolfe’s reflective model (2001) can help you do this in a structured manner. If you start CPD by reflecting on your personal motivations and where your knowledge gaps are, your entries will often be linked to your job and the potential benefits are greater. Additionally, you could consider what you want your next role to be and what knowledge and skills on the professional development framework you will need to get there.
Your annual appraisal with your employer or results of a recent patient survey are good sources of feedback and may serve as a starting point for identifying knowledge or skill gaps. Specialist interest groups often produce literature to highlight new developments and some produce minimum expected competencies of their members.
Other ways to identify gaps in your knowledge and skills include having discussions with your colleagues or using validated tools, such as the RPS Foundation and Faculty peer feedback tools. Submitting your Foundation or Faculty portfolio will provide you with feedback on your strengths, weaknesses and areas for development.
How can pharmacy professionals stay up to date with CPD and learning?
External drivers to undertake CPD — for example, a request from your employer — frequently lead to CPD being completed at continuing education events, such as attending a conference or local practice forum. To maximise learning from the event you can use it to help with your gap analysis and turn it into a new CPD entry at reflection. It is important that any learning undertaken is relevant to your role — it is easy to read an article or attend an event but if it does not have a demonstrable impact then it will not be contributing to your professional development.
Healthcare is constantly developing and CPD on one topic will not be sufficient to last for the duration of your career — you will need to revisit the area. There do not need to be pre-set goals when you learn something so there are often many opportunities that you had not planned for that you can use for CPD. Keeping up to date with developments does not need to be time-consuming if you use resources to summarise the important information, for example, by subscribing to the e-newsletter from the British National Formulary and medicine awareness email updates from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence or reading news in professional journals.
What counts as CPD or learning?
CPD should be relevant to your role as a pharmacy professional but, apart from that, there are no rules. For example, if you work as a manager of a community pharmacy, entries do not need to be focused just on community pharmacy developments. They can be based around your own learning needs within management, leadership or finance, or how to coach and mentor staff.
To drive your learning it is important to think outside your sphere of influence, for example, if you are a prescriber you could link with other non-medical prescribers in similar roles to benchmark yourself and help highlight your learning needs. Similarly, shadowing and liaising with other healthcare professionals, or taking part in interprofessional learning activities, can lead to a multitude of learning opportunities.
How can pharmacists collaborate on CPD and learning activities?
Engaging with colleagues on shared activities, through peer discussion and by mentoring, can help improve team working and encourage individuals to reflect on their strengths and weaknesses.
Within a department you can organise lunchtime meetings to allow someone to present a recent learning activity to the team, initiate a journal club to share opinions on a recent headline or new research paper, or timetable group learning such as a Centre for Pharmacy Postgraduate Education Learning@Lunch module.
Liaising with colleagues outside the branch or department to discuss shared learning, such as reflecting on patient cases or new evidence in the literature, can help build relationships and expand your knowledge and skills.