The RCVS Code of Professional Conduct for Veterinary Surgeons makes it very clear that veterinary surgeons have a responsibility to ensure that they maintain and develop the knowledge and skills relevant to their professional practice and competence. The Code also requires veterinary surgeons to provide the RCVS with their CPD records when requested to do so. CPD is the personal obligation of all responsible veterinary surgeons and should be seen as the continuous progression of capability and competence.
The recommended minimum CPD is 105 hours over a rolling three year period with an average of 35 hours per year. It is appreciated that most veterinary surgeons will do considerably more than this.
The Professional Development Record for recording CPD
RCVS has an online system for veterinary surgeons to record their CPD activities. The Professional Development Record (PDR) provides more facilities than are available on the printed card, and allows vets to record and reflect on their professional development plans and objectives.
For those who would prefer to record CPD using the more traditional CPD card, the RCVS CPD Record Card is available to download from the 'Related documents' box.
What is Continuing Professional Development and why is it necessary?
The RCVS has adopted the definition of 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 the member's working life." As members of a self-regulating profession, veterinary surgeons must 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 its members to engage in CPD to ensure the maintenance of the highest professional standards in line with the promise each made on admission to membership, namely, " I PROMISE AND SOLEMNLY DECLARE that I will pursue the work of my profession with integrity and accept my responsibilities to the public, my clients, the profession and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and that ABOVE ALL my constant endeavour will be to ensure the health and welfare of animals committed to my care."
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 35 hours of face to face learning delivered by an external CPD provider.
Although this is not an exhaustive list, appropriate activities may include:
- Clinical audit activity
- Discussion group - informal learning set
- Distance learning - on-line/ formal (assessed and/or moderated by a third party)
- Distance learning - on-line/informal (not assessed)
- Distance learning - webinars
- Lecture by external provider
- Mentoring or being mentored
- Practical training - clinical skills lab
- Practical training - wet lab
- Preparing a new lecture/presentation
- Project - working on a new project/in a new area of work
- Reading - planned and documented private study/reading
- Research - clinical
- Research - scientific
- Research - veterinary business
- Secondment to another work place
- ‘Seeing practice’ - work-based observation
- Seminar/workshop - external
- Studying for an external qualification
- Training - in house
- Training as examiner/assessor
Workplace activities such as case conferences could also count as CPD activity if you systematically reflect on what you have learnt. Similarly, research and clinical audit activities can be recognised as adding to your professional development if you can account for how they have contributed to your own personal learning.
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, perhaps in the form of a learning diary. You can use the online PDR to keep such notes. 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 count towards your CPD. You should keep notes of all such activities so you can account for what you have learnt.
You may choose to work towards a qualification, such as the RCVS or European Diploma, modules of the RCVS Certificate in Advanced Veterinary Practice, or other university postgraduate certificates and degrees. Achieving such a qualification will provide ample evidence of engagement in CPD activities. Use your CPD Record Card to make a summarised note of any courses you attend, secondment experience, and time spent putting together your case logs/reports. If you’re using the paper-based Record Card, keep a separate file for your more detailed notes of your learning. If you are using the online Professional Development Record, you can enter more information about your studies, including your observations and reflections on what you have learnt; you can upload notes, reading plans or other documents; you can set yourself objectives in the development plan, and keep a note of planned CPD activities or goals in your personal CPD diary and check them off when you’ve achieved them.
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 activities.
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. 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. If you are using the online Professional Development Record, you can use the “My Development Plan” section to set your objectives, define your criteria for measuring success, make notes on the actions you propose to take to meet your goals, and describe how you intend to implement your plans.
What should be recorded on the PDR or CPD Record Card?
If you are using the printed version of the CPD Record Card, follow the headings on the table to give brief descriptions of the CPD you have undertaken. Under the heading "Where undertaken/Provider name" indicate not only the location, but also the name of the CPD provider or institution involved. For the subject area, it may be helpful to group different activities together under subheadings, e.g. clinical, non-clinical, practice or other management development activities.
If you are using the online Professional Development Record, you can enter your CPD activities in any order, and it will guide you to pick the types of activity from a pick list. You can then sort the columns however you wish, by activity type, by date, subject area, location, or hours spent. You can also see at a glance from your summary record if you have uploaded further files, or entered notes against each activity.
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. Attendance at a whole day conference or course would normally constitute seven claimable hours; an evening meeting would normally count for one to two hours – but it is up to you to be able to justify the number of hours you are claiming.
What other records should I keep?
If you are only using the printed version of the CPD Record Card, you should keep a separate personal file with 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. If you are using the online Professional Development Record, there are sections for you to keep a more detailed reflective account of your development activities, as well as a structure for recording your plans. If you wish, you can upload electronic records of attendance, certificates, photos, and other notes.
When do I need to submit my CPD Record Card?
You don’t need to send in your CPD Record Card to the RCVS every year. Completed Record Cards may need to be submitted with applications for the RCVS Certificate in Advanced Veterinary Practice, Diplomas and for Advanced Practitioner and Specialist status, and will be viewed during inspections for approval under the RCVS Practice Standards Scheme. The RCVS also inspects CPD records for all veterinary staff when it undertakes its statutory visits to the veterinary schools. The RCVS may at times undertake random sampling of CPD Record Cards in order to monitor CPD participation so you could therefore be invited to submit your Record Card at any time. Records may also be requested from members who are subject to investigation and disciplinary proceedings.
If you are using the online Professional Development Record, the RCVS will be able to view the “My CPD Record Summary” page which lists your CPD activities. The RCVS may use this in the future to monitor members’ CPD. However, the RCVS will not routinely be able to view the more detailed records and plans underlying this summary screen unless you have given permission through the system. You may occasionally be asked to give that permission, either as part of a random sampling exercise, or if you are subject to an investigation and disciplinary proceedings.
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 CPD Events Calendar published in In Practice. The various BVA specialist and regional divisions organise CPD events, as do 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 the Library's range of electronic resources from their own computer. This includes being able to download full-text articles from a wide range of journals and carry out your own literature searches with access to millions of abstracts. Library membership also provides substantial discounts on services such as photocopies of journal articles, postal loans, literature searches and quarterly updates. Quarterly updates are lists of bibliographic references of recently published articles on a particular subject.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is CPD mandatory?
Yes. The Code of Professional Conduct states that veterinary surgeons must maintain and develop their knowledge and skills relevant to their professional practice and competence and comply with RCVS requirements on the Professional Development Phase and Continuing Professional Development. Veterinary surgeons must also provide the RCVS with their PDP and CPD records when requested to do so.
When do I need to submit my CPD card?
If you are keeping a paper record of your CPD, rather than using the online PDR, you should retain your CPD records and accompanying documentation (e.g. attendance certificates) unless requested by the RCVS to produce it as evidence of your CPD history. This may happen as part of a random check by the RCVS, or as an application/review under the Practice Standards scheme, or when enrolling on a Certificate of Advanced Veterinary Practice. You should not send your CPD record unless specifically requested by the RCVS.
I’m a new graduate and I’m doing PDP. Do I still have to complete a separate CPD record?
While the PDP covers your minimum CPD requirement if it is undertaken conscientiously as part of your initial development during your first year in practice, you may also be undertaking other forms of CPD during that time (e.g. BVA Congress, SPVS Congress, veterinary-based webinars, formal/informal study), details of which should be included on your CPD record. Recording all CPD, including the PDP, serves as a useful reminder and prompt for skills and career development purposes.
I only work part time – do I have to do the same amount of CPD as someone working full time?
Yes. All veterinary surgeons listed on the RCVS Register as practising members must complete the minimum CPD requirement of 105 hours over three years, regardless of whether they are working full-time or part-time. This applies equally to vets approaching retirement who may carry out only a small number of veterinary duties and procedures each year. If you are on the Register as a practising veterinary surgeon, you must fulfil your CPD obligations, regardless of how many hours you work so that you remain up to date.
I’m retired/non-practising/on parental leave – do I need to do any CPD?
If you are listed on the RCVS Register of Members as inactive and non-practising, then you are not expected to comply with the RCVS requirement of 105 hours of CPD over three years. However, if you plan to return to practise at some point in the future, you are strongly advised to keep up-to-date with the profession and your area of practice, as far as possible. Keeping a record of CPD activities during any period away from practice will help you to plan and prepare for your return to work as a veterinary surgeon. If you return to work after a few years out of practice, you can if you wish use the PDP section of the online Professional Development Record in order to benchmark and track your ‘Year One competences’.
I’m an overseas practising member – do I need to do CPD?
Yes. If you are listed on the RCVS Register as a practising member, regardless of whether you are practising overseas or in the UK, you are expected to comply with the minimum CPD requirement of 105 hours over three years.
I haven’t been working in practice for a few years – what CPD should I do?
If you are planning to return to work after a break from veterinary practice, you may wish to use the PDP section of the online Professional Development Record in order to benchmark and track your ‘Year One competences’. Once you return to practice, you should not undertake any procedures for which you are not competent. You may find it useful to undertake a ‘return to practice’ refresher course before you start back at work and/or arrange for some supervision when you start back until you feel confident to work unsupervised.
How many credits is this course worth?
You are asked to record your CPD by hours, not by credit points. The RCVS does not allocate credit points to courses as such. It only allocates credit points to the achievement of modules in the Certificate of Advanced Veterinary Practice. Although some CPD courses and activities may accrue ‘points’ values, you are asked to record details of your CPD in terms of hours completed.
I’m a training provider - how do I get a course accredited by the RCVS to count as CPD?
The RCVS does not accredit or otherwise ‘kitemark’ activities designed and marketed by training providers as CPD, as it considers that members should identify and plan their CPD to meet their own individual skills and knowledge developmental needs as practising vets. It is the responsibility of each vet to record the number of hours spent on their CPD activities. CPD providers may find it useful to benchmark their courses against the modules in the Certificate in Advanced Veterinary Practice and make it clear to those who attend whether the course is intended to cover some or all of the learning objectives of the CertAVP modules.
I am an overseas vet working in the UK – do I need to do CPD? Can I include CPD completed abroad in the last three years?
All vets practising in the UK, whether they graduated overseas or in the UK, must comply with the RCVS requirement of 105 hours of CPD over three years. You may include CPD undertaken abroad, but you should ensure that your description of this, and the hours involved, are clearly recorded in English so that the details of what you have done are transparent to, and understood by, the RCVS and others with an interest in your CPD record, such as prospective and current employers.