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Continuing Professional Development (CPD) for VNs

The RCVS Code of Professional Conduct for Veterinary Nurses makes it very clear that all veterinary nurses are obliged to maintain and continue to develop their professional knowledge and skills. Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is therefore mandatory for all registered veterinary nurses and should be seen as the continuous progression of capability and competence.

The required minimum CPD is 45 hours in any three-year period with an average of 15 hours per year. It is appreciated that most veterinary nurses will do considerably more than this.

The Professional Development Record for recording CPD (PDR)

CPD can be recorded online using the RCVS VN Professional Development Record. This is recommended as the most convenient way of recording learning throughout your career. The PDR provides more facilities than are available on the printed card, and allows veterinary nurses to record and reflect on their professional development plans and objectives. For more information about the PDR please click on the link in the left hand menu.

For those who prefer to keep paper records, the CPD Record Card for Veterinary Nurses is available to download (see 'Related documents' box). 

What is Continuing Professional Development and why is it necessary?

The RCVS defines CPD as “the systematic maintenance, improvement and broadening of knowledge and skills and the development of personal qualities necessary for the execution of professional and technical duties throughout a veterinary nurse’s working life”. As members of a self-regulating profession, veterinary nurses are under a professional obligation to maintain their competence and should be seeking to make continuous improvements to the standard of service they provide to their patients and clients.

The RCVS expects all veterinary nurses to engage in CPD to ensure the maintenance of the highest professional standards, whether you work in clinical practice or use your qualification in other areas, such as education or the pharmaceutical industry.

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What counts as CPD?

Broadly speaking, any activities you undertake in order to further your professional competence as part of a planned development programme can be counted towards your CPD. You do not have to participate in 15 hours of face to face learning.

Although this is not an exhaustive list, appropriate activities may include:

  • Attending organised courses, lectures or seminars
  • Shadowing someone or being mentored in your own practice or in another practice
  • Participating in ‘learning sets’ - informal networks of colleagues who learn together, for example, by comparing and discussing case reports
  • In-house training
  • Secondments to other practices
  • Critical reading of veterinary journals and other relevant publications - keeping a reading diary/notes
  • Research, including research in preparation for giving lectures/seminars/presentations

Working on new projects or other workplace activities, such as case conferences or clinical audit, could also count as CPD activity if you systematically reflect on what you have learnt. Private, documented, self-directed learning, such as keeping up to date with relevant veterinary journals, can be incorporated into your CPD plans and it is good practice to keep your own personal record of such activities, in the form of a detailed learning diary. When documenting your private study, you should record:

  • The subject matter
  • The type of learning you have undertaken to improve your knowledge and/or skills
  • The resulting outcomes of your learning – for instance, a change to the way you undertake a procedure or approach a problem

There are increasing opportunities to take part in online assessment, and other ‘mediated’ distance learning involving online tutors and learning groups. There is no restriction on the number of hours of online assessment or mediated distance learning that can be counted towards your CPD.

You may choose to work towards a recognised qualification, such as the RCVS Diploma in Advanced Veterinary Nursing or a university degree or postgraduate qualification. Working towards such a qualification will provide ample evidence of engagement in CPD activities. Use the online Professional Development Record (PDR) or CPD Card to make a summarised note of any courses you attend, secondment experience, and time spent putting together your assignments, and keep a separate file of further details, plans, learning diaries, attendance certificates and notes.

Ultimately, the judgement of what should count as CPD will vary for each individual, and it is therefore up to you to decide how best to fulfil your own learning needs. It is your responsibility to keep a record of your learning plans and activities, and to keep documented evidence of participation in courses and other events.

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Planning your CPD

You should review your CPD needs regularly and plan ahead so that you can make the most of development opportunities as they arise. Planning ahead will also enable you to take part in more cost-effective and focused activities, rather than attending seminars or other events ad hoc, and then finding that they perhaps did not meet your needs.

If you take part in an appraisal process at work, this will help you to identify areas you need to concentrate on, and should also provide you with an auditable record of your agreed development plans and activities. If you do not participate in a formal appraisal system, you should set aside some time each year to reflect on your need for CPD, taking into account the knowledge and skills you need to develop in order to support your current work as a veterinary nurse. This will help you identify the activities you intend to undertake over the coming year.

Remember that undertaking CPD is not just about attending courses - it’s about continuing your professional learning in whatever way best helps you to maintain your competence and helps you to improve the professional service you provide.

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What should be recorded on the PDR or the CPD Record Card?

Both the CPD Card and the PDR provide a list of the types of activity that can count towards your CPD commitment. Follow the headings on the table to give brief descriptions of the CPD you have undertaken. Under the heading ‘Where undertaken’ indicate not only the location, but also the name of the CPD provider or institution involved.

Time is considered to be the simplest way to record CPD activities. It is not always easy to measure the time spent on development activities, but an estimate of time (in whole hours) should be shown in the ‘Hours’ column. If you are working towards an external qualification, or taking part in a nationally accredited distance learning programme that includes interaction with tutors and others, include the name of the qualification towards which you are working, and the name of any courses you attend in support of it.

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What other records should I keep?

You should use the online log, or keep a separate personal file, to file copies of any certificates of attendance, learning diaries, CPD plans, assessment results, or other documents that serve as evidence of your involvement in CPD. You may find it useful as part of planning your professional development to have a detailed account of your learning experiences for your own reference.

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When do I need to submit my CPD Records?

The RCVS randomly samples veterinary nurses’ CPD records annually. We may therefore ask to see your CPD record at any time. The College can view your online CPD summary at any time; however, the RCVS cannot access your private learning diary or uploaded documents without your specific authorisation.

We will also monitor CPD records during audit of veterinary nursing course providers and during inspection visits to practices under the RCVS Practice Standards Scheme.

In the event that a complaint is made to the RCVS about a registered veterinary nurse’s professional conduct, records of CPD will be taken into account as part of the disciplinary process.

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Where can I find information about courses and other CPD activities?

The RCVS does not itself accredit any CPD courses but there are various sources of information, such as the British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA) CPD Events Calendar. The various British Veterinary Association (BVA) specialist and regional divisions organise CPD events, as do VN colleges, universities and many commercial CPD providers.

The RCVS Knowledge Library can help you meet your continuing professional development targets. The Library holds over 30,000 books, reports and conference proceedings, all available for postal loan upon request. In addition, for a small annual membership fee, Library members can enjoy access to a range of electronic resources from home and work PCs. Please contact the Library for more information about how it can help you with home CPD study.

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