A Focus On: The Importance of Continuing Professional Development in Medicine



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We all want our doctors to be familiar with the latest developments in medicine, and to be able to offer us as patients the very best and informed healthcare. It is important that doctors in the fields of anaesthesia, critical care, and pain are up to date and familiar with the latest developments in these rapidly developing areas of medicine, with new techniques and drugs emerging which improve outcomes for patients. As professionals, we cannot stand still and we must always strive to improve outcomes for our patients.


Anaesthesia is a relatively young speciality, which emerged around 1850. Operations as we know them today would be impossible without anaesthesia. In the early years, drugs such as ether and chloroform provided unconsciousness; however with modern developments we are now able to support all body functions during the perioperative period, and, importantly, pain relief. Patients, who would have been denied lifesaving surgery due to excessive risks 25 years ago, are now able to undergo surgery safely with developments in the perioperative care of patients. Modern anaesthesia allows operations to be performed today as day cases, which in the past would have required a week in hospital.


With the worldwide expansion in medical information, new technology, and constant research, it is increasingly difficult for doctors to keep up with new developments in practice, with new articles, recommendations, and guidance appearing almost weekly.


The General Medical Council (GMC) in the UK launched Revalidation in December 2012, and defines it as the process by which all licensed doctors are required to demonstrate, on a regular basis, that they are up to date, fit to practise, and are able to provide a good level of care in their chosen field. In order to be revalidated, and so continue to hold a licence to practice, doctors must collect a portfolio of supporting information for discussion at their appraisals which demonstrates how they are meeting the professional values in Good Medical Practice, the GMC’s core guidance which describes what is expected of all registered doctors.


One of the key supporting information requirements is evidence that doctors have participated in Continuing Professional Development (CPD), which the GMC defines as any learning outside of undergraduate education or postgraduate training that helps doctors maintain and improve their performance. CPD includes both formal and informal learning activities, covering all areas of the doctor’s professional practice. It can also support specific changes in practice that will benefit patients. Doctors must evidence their participation in CPD on an annual basis. A variety of activities can count towards completion of CPD including e-learning and private reading from relevant books and journals, medical and academic writing, working with another consultant to learn or refresh specific techniques or skills, and attending course and meetings, both within the doctor’s hospital and meetings organised by regional, national or international providers, where there are opportunities for participants to share ideas and good practice with other doctors.


Journals, such as BJA Education (formerly Continuing Education in Anaesthesia, Critical Care & Pain), provide succinct reviews in areas of clinical practice, key for practicing doctors to be aware of. With the introduction of revalidation the importance of publications such as this have increased, assisting both trainees preparing for examinations, and trained practitioners wishing to keep up to date in areas of practice. Developments in e-learning have also helped in delivery of educational material, using both online MCQs, and additional video material designed to assist learning. Users can complete online tests and produce certificates which can then be used to support their revalidation.


Most Medical Royal Colleges and Faculties in the UK have developed CPD guidance and, as a general rule, achievement of at least 50 hours of CPD per year is recommended as the minimum likely to be required in order to remain up to date. Participation in a broad range of activities is also strongly encouraged.


As new innovations and developing practices happen it is vital doctors and other professionals working in the fields of anaesthesia, critical care and pain keep up to date. This will lead to improved perioperative outcomes for all of us as patients in the future; as it is likely that all of us will at some point in our lives require surgery and anaesthesia.


Dr Jeremy Langton is the Editor-in-Chief of BJA Education, Consultant Anaesthetist and Associate Professor in Anaesthesia, Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, and sits on the board of the BJA.



Further reading:


1. Hauser SC, ed. Mayo Clinic Gastroenterology and Hepatology Board Review. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press; 2014. 

2. Matthes K, Urman R, Ehrenfeld J, eds. Anesthesiology: A Comprehensive Review for the Written Boards and Recertification. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press; 2013. 

3. Walsh K, ed. Oxford Textbook of Medical Education. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press; 2013.

4. Mahajan, Ravi P. Editor-in-Chief, British Journal of Anaesthesia

5. Langton, Jeremy, Editor-in-Chief, BJA Education


Oxford Medicine Online publishes a wealth of content relevant to professional development in medicine. Oxford University Press also has relevant information in other web services such as Oxford e-learning, and in our journals. Our coverage takes in many perspectives, from the student to the specialist.


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