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Event report: SLMS continuing professional development workshop

30 April 2013

Continuing professional development (CPD) in Medicine, Dentistry and Pharmacy has never been more important. Rosalind Duhs reports on a day designed to explore the best ways in which UCL can provide for industry and practitioners. 

UCL Medical School student learning at a patient's bedside

The School of Life and Medical Sciences (SLMS) offers professional education for a range of challenging areas such as medicine, dentistry and pharmacy. The increasingly fast pace of change makes continuing professional development (CPD) essential. In many fields, including medicine and pharmacy, it is also mandatory.

The CPD day was designed to highlight the importance of CPD, look at examples of good practice, and consider how UCL can help busy practitioners to fulfil requirements and gain cutting-edge knowledge and skills. As Tim McHugh mentioned in his introduction, the participation of three UCL Vice-Provosts (Education, Enterprise and Health) showed how central work on CPD has become.

Anthony Smith, Vice-Provost (Education), opened the workshop. He emphasised the importance of online education against the background of the growth in massive online open courses (MOOCs) and the expansion of CPD requirements. Pharmacists now need to complete nine cycles of CPD every year. Anthony also recommended interactivity in online learning, pointing out that the simple uploading of lectures is not enough. He recognised that the development of distance and blended learning is time-consuming and needs to be realistically resourced.  Achievements in teaching and learning and enterprise are significant and promotion criteria in these fields are under review.

Chris O'Callaghan (Institute of Child Health) provided compelling evidence of the potential for multimedia use in medical education. He showed how a wide range of cases can be made available, broadening doctors' diagnostic ability. Videos of children with respiratory problems combined with recordings of sound from stethoscopes could enable doctors to recognise less common conditions. 

Chris has developed an algorithm for international CPD work through logical steps from needs analysis to evaluation of impact through research. He went through a careful 'proof of concept' process using new approaches to the development of healthcare in Asia. Solar-powered, handheld devices enabled healthcare workers in remote rural areas to check recently learnt procedures. Clinicians' own filming was effective and saved editing time. Clinicians could also supply accompanying patient notes.

Learning is supported by telephone mentoring which has worked well. Assessment across continents has also ensured that CPD has resulted in learning that will benefit patients. Distance assessment of practical medical and nursing skills is done through objective structured clinical examinations (OSCEs) using video.

Owen Epstein and Tim Rayne presented 'Answers in Medicine', a set of learning resources which moved beyond the traditional 'eco-structure' of lectures, seminars and written exams to an online 'digital eco-structure'. Rich multimedia design features offer learners a range of possible modes of access. Audio, video and script are all available.

Research into the limited attention span of the passive learner (for example those listening to a lecture) informed the design of Answers in Medicine. Learning is provided in short chunks and learners have frequent opportunities to test their knowledge through single best answer multiple choice questions (MCQs). Learning is available on the move via iPhone and iPad, so the vision of 'learning medicine anywhere any time' has become reality.

Susan Hopkins described her experience of 'engaging and interacting online with adult and distance learners' in the MSc in Healthcare-associated Infection Control. She emphasised the importance of taking account of the contextual factors which shape the learning of adults. Healthcare professionals bring a lot of experience to the course and have high expectations but are time-poor. Clarity of structure is essential. The expected time commitment for each virtual course session is provided to help learners to plan their studies.

Some students lack confidence in a learning situation and may initially feel insecure about web conferencing. The learning process becomes important in this type of distance course and needs to be carefully managed. It is essential to create an online community of practice. Blackboard Collaborate for web conferencing quickly becomes a popular way of creating group cohesion and question/answer and other interactive sessions can be recorded.

Students work with multimedia case studies and role-play in addition to reading. Susan finds PowerPoint with voiceover effective. Learners are provided with opportunities to self- and peer-evaluate. They give anonymous feedback to peers and mark each other's writing. This formative work creates the space for them to negotiate any learning hurdles. Marks are awarded for participation in forums, web conferences, and quizzes as well as assignments.

Performance skills, closely related to the workplace, are developed. Susan fosters on-the-job learning, inviting students to review procedures in their workplaces, such as decontamination routines and the use of antibiotics. Relevance to professional life and authenticity enrich the learning experience.

Dominic Black and Matt Jenner explained the Public E-learning Platform (PELP) project and UCL eXtend, UCL's public e-learning portal for non-credit-bearing CPD. The aim has been to create an online space for browsing courses, enrolling and paying. A pilot project, 'Better conversations with aphasia' for speech therapists and patients, has been completed.

Jane Dacre presented an overview of the impact of the system for the revalidation of doctors, introduced by the General Medical Council in December 2012. Revalidation of some 250,000 doctors is to take place every five years on a rolling cycle. Doctors are required to show that they are up to date, fit to practise and comply with the relevant professional standards.

The ultimate aim of revalidation is to protect patients. Enhanced annual appraisals will inform revalidation and electronic evidence will be provided. A multi-source, 360-degree feedback exercise involving ten colleagues confirms that doctors are 'up to date'. Documentary evidence of 50 hours of CPD per year must be provided, blueprinted to areas of practice. CPD demand from doctors is therefore set to increase fast and on an unprecedented scale.

Jane outlined her vision of good-quality CPD. She pointed out that it is “not our favourite subject”, but should nevertheless be a practical, planned-for interaction and reflection blueprinted to practice and the standards set by the Royal Colleges. Education of others also counts towards CPD hours. An online record of CPD is kept (‘My CPD’). Reflective notes can be made online.

The revalidation of so many doctors will be challenging in terms of affordability, making time in job plans, blueprinting to personal practice, recording and certification, but the uptake of CPD will increase, offering many opportunities for UCL staff interested in designing courses to enable doctors to meet these new demands.

These presentations confirmed that CPD is a field with great potential. Provided courses are well-designed they can spread good practice and help professionals in demanding roles to keep up with new developments. UCL has much to contribute.

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