Assistant practitioner accreditation

Published: 14 July 2017 Ezine

Author: Louise Coleman, Professional Officer for Education and Accreditation

The Society and College of Radiographers receives many assistant practitioner (AP) accreditation applications each week.

All re-accreditations are forwarded to College of Radiographers (CoR) Assessors to review. Unfortunately, there’s quite a high deferral rate.

One of the main reasons for deferral by an Assessor is that the continuing professional development (CPD) activities provided aren’t reflective or evaluative or don’t evidence an intended impact on the assistant’s practice. Frequently they’re not related to the assistant’s scope of practice – they don’t meet the CoR’s definition of CPD (https://www.sor.org/learning/cpd).

CoR Assessors are not the first people to assess the CPD. All applications are assessed by two attestors prior to the application being submitted to the College. 

Attestors are registered professionals that work with the AP regularly. The vast majority are diagnostic or therapeutic radiographers.

Radiographers should know what CPD is and how to ensure that activities are done and recorded with the intention of improving practice. So, why are they approving applications that do not meet these requirements? 

Healthcare professionals’ failure to fail learners when appropriate is a common problem in practice education at all levels and in all professions.

There is no reason to think that it isn’t an issue when assessing CPD, though of course the topic is worthy of further research. Thousands of journal articles have been written about “failure to fail” and I’ve summarised some of the common themes:

  • Difficulty – Failing the applicant is difficult.  Attestors must communicate to applicants that they don’t meet the requirements. They also have to give feedback to say why. Giving constructive feedback can be hard. The praise sandwich method is a good model to follow. Write about the strengths of the: application, then the areas that could be improved.  Finish with some more strengths.
  • Emotions – there are emotional consequences to deferring the application, for the applicant and the attestor. They both still have to work together and have a good professional relationship. Applicants and attestors could also be friends, outside work. Criticising friends is hard and can be emotionally challenging. However, part of having a professional working relationship is providing honest feedback so that colleagues can improve their practice.
  • Confidence – the attestor doesn’t have confidence in their own abilities to identify good or poor CPD, and provide appropriate feedback. If this is the case then they can gain confidence by planning and doing CPD which will help increase their knowledge of what CPD is and how their own reflection on practice can be enhanced.
  • Consequences - for the department and the individual’s SCoR provided professional indemnity insurance. If the AP does not have AP accreditation then their SCoR professional indemnity insurance will only cover them to work under direct supervision. There could be pressure to approve the application.

However, not deferring the application when appropriate is unfair on the applicant. As CoR Assessors are experienced educators and don’t know the applicant personally, they don’t have the same difficulty or emotional attachment. They do defer it. And consequently, the whole process takes longer for the assistant practitioner. They’re left wondering why their attestors didn’t tell them that their CPD could be improved. If they had, then they could have made the improvements and the whole process would have been finished much more quickly.

The Society and College of Radiographers runs online live tutorials on CPD, reflection and accreditation. If you’ve been asked to attest to the accuracy and standard of an assistant practitioner’s application and you want to make sure you’re being fair, sign up for one of these tutorials. See the resources tab of CPD Now for details.