Part two: Pain-free CPD planning

Published: 27 September 2016 CPD

In 2014, I spoke to a group of radiographers at the South West Region’s study day in Longleat. Turning to the audience, I asked ‘Why is it a good idea to plan your CPD?’ One SoR member immediately responded: “Because I don’t have time not to.”

I’ve used this interaction and the member’s answer hundreds of times since that day because it really does sum up the reason that planning CPD in advance is essential for assistant practitioners and radiographers. However, I very rarely come across an SoR member who does it.

When I ask why CPD isn’t planned, after a period of silence someone usually suggests they don’t know how to start or that planning takes a long time.

This article is going to bash down both these barriers.

How do most practitioners do CPD if they don’t plan ahead? They finish their shift, think about the patients they’ve treated or imaged and record their reflections and evaluation of practice afterwards. This is sometimes termed reflection on action (Schön, 1983). This method misses out on the vital reflection opportunities before (reflection for action) (Killion and Todnem, 1991) and during actions (reflection in action) (Schön, 1983). 

Isn’t it more beneficial to think about how to engage with a patient before you ask them into the imaging or treatment room? Of course it is, and practitioners do this all the time, but, wouldn’t it be great if you knew in advance that the patient or technique was going to help you record CPD that meets your own professional goals? 

If you did, you could think more deeply about what you were doing and saying as you were doing and saying it. This is far more likely to benefit practice than beginning your reflection several hours, or even days, after the experience. In order to take advantage of CPD opportunities, it’s necessary to think ahead, to plan CPD in advance to help you meet your goals.

Planning isn’t as boring or tedious as it sounds. It’s an opportunity to let the mind wander, think about what you could achieve and, best of all, work out an innovative way to meet your career goals. It’s also really easy, as long as you’re SMART about it. CPD plans and tasks should be:

Specific – You should be able to tell at a glance what you’ve got to do.

Measurable – You should be able to measure your progress through the plan by looking at the completed and ticked off tasks.

Achievable, affordable, appropriate – You should be able to complete the tasks with the resources you have available, such as time, money and support from colleagues.  The plan and tasks should also be appropriate to your scope of practice and role.

Realistic, relevant – If you think you can achieve the plan’s goal, you probably can. You may have to learn new knowledge and skills but that’s what’s great about doing CPD. The plan and tasks should be relevant to your role.

Timescale, timely, time-frame – You should be able to complete the tasks and thus plan, relatively quickly and within a specified time.  Be realistic with the timescale, but it’s also good to be under a little pressure to complete it too.

Ideally, all tasks should be as short and quick as possible to complete. Aim for no more than ten minutes for most tasks, though reading a journal article or a chapter of a textbook will probably take longer. All plans, whatever purpose they’ve been created for, should have these elements:

Title – Give the plan a recognisable title. Recognisable to you and to those you might be completing it with.

Aim – What do you want to have achieved on completion of the plan?

Rationale – What’s the reason you want to do CPD with the title and aim you’ve chosen? What will you get out of it?

Definition of done – This is the most frequently omitted element of CPD and other plans. You should always make it clear to yourself how you will know when you have completed the plan. If you don’t keep the definition of done in your mind as you complete the tasks it can be easy to lose focus or keep adding tasks and you’ll never complete the plan.

Barriers and solutions – What stops you from doing CPD? Is it lack of time? Lack of motivation? Not understanding where it fits in with your role, your employer’s requirements, your College of Radiographers’ accreditation? For every barrier you identify you should suggest a solution.

If lack of motivation is your barrier, then could you work on CPD together with colleagues? If you’re unsure how to use CPD to meet your personal development objectives could you discuss this with your union learning rep?

Tasks – Small, SMART tasks are key to a successful CPD plan. All plans should have at least one “reflect on my learning” task and one “review this plan after X weeks/months” task.

A good way to start planning your CPD is to use the planning tab or tile in CPD Now. CPD Now will lead you through the planning process, from entering the title through to adding tasks. You can also print out the plan so you can keep it with you at work, ready to take advantage of any unexpected small bites of time.

Another way to plan is to use a mindmap or spider diagram. These are especially useful if your plan needs to have several themes. If you want your mindmap to be legible and sharable then you could use one of the many online or offline programmes and apps. My favourite is SimpleMind Pro because I can save and sync mindmaps to my cloud storage and can access them anywhere, on almost all my devices. There’s free version too.

Planning CPD needn’t take a long time. It’s possible to create a rough plan in two minutes.  Those minutes will be well spent because you’ll know what you have to do next. When you do get some free time, you’ll be able to make use of it rather than having to use it to work out what you need to do. You really don’t have time not to plan your CPD!

Next steps
• Sign up for a CPD Planning and Planned Pathways online live tutorial, I’ll prove you can plan CPD in two minutes and provide you with a SMART plan template.
• Use CPD Now to create your next CPD plan.
• Use a mindmap to create a CPD plan – make sure you scan, photograph or sync it so you can refer to it wherever you are and on whatever device you have to hand.
• Review the template Planned Pathways in CPD Now. These are template plans which can be imported into your CPD Now portfolios.  They contain a description of the plan and the outcomes which should be met if the plan is completed. They also include a range of suggested tasks and reflections that will help you to identify learning opportunities.

In her second article in a series on CPD, Louise Coleman busts the myth that CPD planning is difficult and time-consuming. 

• CPD Now:
• Online, live tutorials: Resources tab of CPD Now or
• Continuing Professional Development: Professional and Regulatory Requirements:
• Planned Pathways: (Imaging and Therapy Practice, August 2016, page 30)

• Killion, J. P. & Todnem, G. R. 1991. A Process for Personal Theory Building. Educational Leadership, 14-16
• Schön, D. 1983. The Reflective Practitioner, Aldershot, Ashgate Publishing Ltd

About Louise Coleman MSc Med Phys, PgD, PGCIPHE, BSc (Hons), Dip HE, DCR(T)
Louise is the professional officer for education and accreditation at the SCoR. She is a therapeutic radiographer and was previously a lecturer at University Campus Suffolk.

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