It plays in your favour to continually advance your knowledge and stay up to date with latest developments in any profession. In the veterinary sector, however, the need for continuing professional development (CPD) is essential.
As outlined by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), it is the responsibility of all veterinary surgeons and registered veterinary nurses to maintain and develop their knowledge of veterinary science and medicine. The industry moves fast, with changes in best practice, groundbreaking research and new technology always opening new doors.
So, with CPD a requirement of the RCVS Code of Professional Conduct for Veterinary Surgeons, all vets must complete 105 hours of professional development across a three-year period. The required minimum for VNs is 45 hours.
So, how can you get the most out of your CPD hours? Putting them into projects that really benefit your career, as opposed to just clocking up hours on your CPD record?
We’ve put together six ways to help you make the most of your CPD allocation:
1. Balance online and offline activities
- With webinars, distance learning and online courses, it’s easy to complete CPD hours online. When there’s no need for practical and hands-on teaching – away from a lab or surgery – online sessions are ideal, with reduced overheads and a more flexible approach for both vets and vet nurses.
- However, it’s important to recognise the benefits of both online and offline CPD options. Opt for in-person, on-site taught sessions when the topic requires hands-on experience. For example, diagnostic imaging will often require you to be on-site seeing techniques and technology in action.
- When sessions are more based on theory – for example, updates in specialist fields – then a webinar may be a more cost-effective solution.
Tip: Leverage social media to your advantage. Twitter can be a hugely useful platform for professionals from all walks of life, including the veterinary sector. Set up a professional Twitter account and start to follow relevant industry leaders, including those hosting webinars. Follow a hashtag for the webinar if there is one and engage with other people taking part on the course. All of this will give you the chance to benefit from networking, which is, of course, a positive for many vets and RVNs completing their CPD.
2. Research and plan
- Make the most of online tools to research and plan your CPD hours as far in advance as possible.
- Make a list of topics under the three categories:
- Topics that interest me regarding my career development
- Topics I could benefit from a refresher in
- Topics I think will move quickly and that I will need an update on in the future
- By listing topics in the style above, you’ll begin to see a clear set of topics you’ll want to feature in your CPD plan. The third point, in particular, adds a sense of longevity to your plans, allowing you to feel at the cutting edge of industry changes. It may take a little extra time, talking to colleagues and industry professionals, to understand where things will be moving the fastest, but it will mean you’ll have an eye out for courses in that area when they arise.
Tip: Book courses as soon as you can – popular practical courses fill up quickly and it may be a while until another one is organised.
3. Tailor your CPD to your career plan
- Many veterinary surgeons find it beneficial to have a career plan in place, especially if they see themselves venturing away from a surgery-based role.
- For more information on changing jobs in the veterinary profession, read our article "Making the Move: How to Transition from a Practice to a Commercial Veterinary Job".
- Planning your career – a big move into a commercial or academic role, for example – will provide you with objectives to work towards and allow you to tailor your CPD to support your goals. Then, when it comes to applying for new roles in a slightly different area of veterinary medicine, you’ll be able to highlight relevant CPD experience on your CV and in interview.
4. Develop your learning techniques
- As students, a lot of time is dedicated to developing learning techniques, from improving revision tactics through to learning how to write an essay. After graduation it can be easy to neglect such learning techniques as professional life takes priority.
- However, as CPD is so important to veterinary life, it’s a good idea to also continually invest in your learning techniques. Understand how you learn best: whether you’re a visual, kinesthetic or auditory learner. Then look for CPD sessions that make the most of your preferred learning style.
- Once you know how you learn best you’ll be able to maximise every minute of your CPD, without actually spending any more time on it.
5. Practice what you learn
- It’s easy to tick a box on your CPD record and leave it at that. However, there’s no better way to solidify your newly founded knowledge than to put it into action.
- When you learn new best practice, techniques, diagnostics and more, bring them to the surgery with you and also let your colleagues know about them.
Tip: If it’s right for your style of learning and development, consider establishing a mentor relationship with another veterinary professional who can provide added guidance when you look to implementing new approaches.
6. Don’t neglect self-directed learning
- Even if something isn't listed as valid for CPD hours, don’t immediately strike it off the list. Self-directed learning is important for many reasons that both complement and go beyond CPD.
- Self-directed learning can help you develop skills beyond the standard remit of veterinary science and medicine into fields that can, commercially, benefit surgeries and other businesses in the veterinary sector.
- Also, every veterinary professional will need to invest a little extra time in some topics and less time in others. Perhaps one subject requires additional research and resources to allow you to fully master it.
- Invest time into tackling more difficult subjects now, even if they stretch beyond what they’re worth for your CPD, and you’ll see the benefits when it comes to making a career move or in feeling confident putting theory into practice.
Although these six points cover a broad range of possibilities for veterinary professionals and the uses of CPD, they will hopefully help you direct your hours to useful, practical and actionable topics that will help you advance your career and keep you at the cutting-edge of veterinary medicine and science.
If you’re looking to start your veterinary career or to put your CPD hours into action in a new role, why not browse through the range of veterinary surgeon jobs or veterinary nurse jobs available at Vet Times Jobs?