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Who signs off the PDP?

The PDP is based on the concept of self-assessment, and seeks to encourage graduates to have a realistic view of their professional competence. The graduate can apply for PDP completion when they have marked themselves as confident across all the PDP areas, have checked their performance against the general RCVS PDP Competences, and their record includes evidence of a broad range of experience in the species area in which they are working (either small animal, farm animal, equine practice or any combination of the three). They must then print out and sign the declaration which can be downloaded from their PDP record. Their employer or other senior MRCVS colleague will also need to countersign the form to confirm that the graduate has taken part in the process, and that they have discussed their PDP entries with them.

Employers are not asked to formally examine or assess the graduate’s PDP competence for the purposes of PDP (although, of course they will want to make a judgement about a graduate’s competence on a regular basis in order to decide the level of responsibility which they are prepared to allow them to have in the practice).

The RCVS-appointed Postgraduate Dean is available online to provide guidance to each graduate about completing their records. When the graduate claims they have achieved the PDP competences, the RCVS Postgraduate Dean will review the case records and reflective notes online, before confirming that they have completed their PDP. Once confirmed by the Postgraduate Dean, the RCVS will send a completion certificate to the graduate.

After they have completed the PDP and received their confirmation certificate from the RCVS, the graduate will not be able to add to or edit their PDP records, although they will be able to view them online if they wish. If they decide to move into a different area of practice later on, they may wish to come back to the PDP system and continue completing their records in a different species area. If they want to reactivate their PDP record, they should contact the RCVS at [email protected], explaining the background to their request. 

Related FAQs

  • PDP will count towards your CPD requirement. We view undertaking and completing the PDP as a year’s worth of CPD and it is therefore equivalent to 35 hours of CPD activity. If you undertake your PDP over more than one year, you can add 35 hours to any calendar year or split the hours across years during that time-period.

    While PDP covers your minimum CPD requirement as part of your initial development, you will also be undertaking other forms of CPD during that time (e.g. congress, practice/case discussions and meetings, reading or research), details of which should be included on your CPD record. You can count any learning or development that is relevant to you as professional person as CPD so it does not need to be formal learning or clinical CPD.

    Recording all CPD, including the PDP, serves as a useful reminder and prompt for skills and career development purposes. RCVS requirements for CPD are 35 hours per year. Your PDP will count as 35 hours of CPD in the year of your choosing. 

  • The question is often asked about how interns working in hospital clinics or in specialist referral practices can undertake the PDP. To complete the PDP, graduates will need involvement with first opinion cases, and will also need to have primary responsibility for the clinical decision, which is one of the main competences that need to be developed during the PDP. Interns may be able to complete some of the PDP Competences, but they have to accept that they may need to go into general practice for a period of time to complete the rest of their experience. Institutions and specialist practices employing interns should make it clear that interns may not be able to complete their PDP there because of limited exposure to a varied workload, or because they may not have primary responsibility for their cases. 

    Universities and other institutions may need to review their internships, and should be encouraged to distinguish in adverts between ‘PDP-conforming internships’ (ie those that would provide the intern with the range of experience and level of responsibility needed to complete PDP) and ‘PDP non-conforming internships’. This would help to provide greater transparency for new graduates.

    Similarly, PhD and other research students will probably not be able to complete their PDP until they go into clinical practice at a later date. However, they may be able to record some skills if they are undertaking some part-time clinical work. 

  • In addition to recording case numbers, it is also essential that graduates make good use of the free-text notes section under the various clinical skills headings. Making such notes is all part of the learning process and, over time, will help graduates, their employers and the RCVS evaluate their progression. They should be encouraged to make notes based on their personal reflections, for example, on how they felt they coped with a particular case or procedure, and what they might need to do to improve their performance in a particular area. 

    Notes need only be brief. For example, “problems doing IVs in dogs using the cephalic vein; probably need to make sure vein is suitably raised and blood aspirates easily before injecting”. Then perhaps later in the notes: “Much better at doing IVs, fewer haematomas”. Another example would be “feel competent with positioning, collimating, taking and processing radiographs. Would like to become more competent at interpreting radiographs, often unsure about clinical significance of findings”.  

    Once graduates feel competent with a particular procedure, they can indicate this in the notes section, and not record any more case numbers for that particular procedure. There is no need to keep counting each time they take a blood sample!

    An alternative approach is to enter more detailed reports of cases that may cover many different skills and procedures. After entering a case report, the graduate then links it to the skills list, ticking off in turn which skills or procedures have been covered by the case. The graduate can adopt either of these approaches within the PDP system – they can enter case numbers and add notes, or add a case report and link it to the appropriate sections of the skills list. 

    It is possible that a procedure they are undertaking may not ‘fit’ with the PDP template. In such cases, the graduate should use the category that offers the closest fit and add a suitable note to explain the position. 

    Many skill areas are prefaced with the phrase “clinical assessment and management of”. Some of these may sound fairly advanced, but graduates are not expected at this stage to be dealing with complicated cases completely on their own, especially if they are beyond their current competence. However, they may be dealing with cases that fit under these headings where they are making the initial clinical assessment, seeking help from a colleague with a diagnosis and treatment plan or even referring the case to a specialist. If the graduate handles the ongoing management and oversight of the case, then it can be included in their record. The graduate should remember to add notes or a case report to show what their involvement has been. 

  • The RCVS will allocate each graduate to a Postgraduate Dean when they register to use the PDP system. The Postgraduate Dean will monitor their progress online from time to time, and will be the point of contact for assistance with their PDP. The Postgraduate Dean will also review and sign off the record, once the graduate submits the PDP declaration form. The Postgraduate Dean is not there to advise on personal problems or employment matters, although, if such issues are raised, may refer the graduate on to other sources of support. 

  • The main indication that the graduate has completed the PDP is whether they are able to perform a range of common clinical procedures, or manage them successfully without supervisionThe common clinical procedures are those listed in the online PDP recording system.

    The Postgraduate Dean will look for a broad range of experience across the majority of skill areas, as well as evidence through the notes and or case reports, that the graduate has assessed their performance against the general PDP Competences. This is not black and white and there is no mathematical formula to determine the ‘correct’ number of cases. Ideally, all skills and procedures will have been covered for one or other of the species areas, although this may vary from individual to individual. 

    Sometimes, knowledge and experience is transferable from one species area to another, so there may be some cases entered across two or three species areas, even though the graduate is aiming to complete PDP in the context of one species area only. If in doubt, the graduate can email their Postgraduate Dean through the online PDR and ask for guidance. The Postgraduate Dean will review their records and advise on any areas that look ‘light’ compared to the average.

    When the graduate believes that they have gained sufficient experience in their area of practice to meet the PDP Competences, they are invited to submit a signed declaration to this effect to the RCVS. A senior colleague or other mentor in the practice is asked to countersign the graduate’s declaration to confirm that there has been a discussion about their performance, and that they have seen the record of procedures as supporting evidence. The colleague or mentor in practice is not asked to assess the graduate’s competence when countersigning the declaration. (In signing their PDP declaration, the graduate should be reminded of the hazards of false certification.) 

  • The PDP will be most successful where there is active collaboration between the new or recent graduate and senior practice colleagues. For the graduate, participation in the PDP demonstrates that they are taking their continued professional development seriously, and it will help them to identify their training needs more effectively.

    Online access to an experienced Postgraduate Dean is another source of advice and support. For a new graduate working in clinical practice, undertaking the PDP is, in effect, the first year of their CPD, and, if undertaken conscientiously with support from their employer, will usually meet their RCVS CPD obligations for this period. PDP graduates also receive a substantial discount on RCVS Library membership and services, providing them with access to a wide range of information resources, including online access to journals.

    For employers, the PDP system provides a ready-made structure for staff appraisal, and could be a useful adjunct to CVs when recruiting new staff in the future. There is also some evidence to show that new graduates tend to stay longer in jobs where employers are supportive of their development. Through promoting PDP in their practice, employers will be promoting good employment practice and therefore be in a better position to attract good applicants to any vacant posts. They will also be able to show that they take the CPD of their staff seriously, as required by the Practice Standards Scheme.  

  • RCVS Education Department

    T 020 7202 0702 or 020 7202 0791

    E [email protected]

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