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How do I reflect?

A key element in outcomes-focused CPD for vets and vet nurses includes reflecting on your CPD. 

Research across a range of professions has demonstrated that reflecting on your CPD including what you have learned, how you will apply your learning and how it will impact your practice has a positive impact on professionalism and patient-health outcomes.

You may find it useful to watch the recording of our 'Reflecting on your CPD' workshop. Reflection is an important part of outcomes-focused CPD but it doesn't have to be onerous. Whether you've yet to start reflecting on your CPD and would like some direction on what it is (and isn't) or you have some experience and would appreciate some hints and tips on how to approach it, watching the workshop will help. 

View the FAQs

VN talking to a colleague


The videos below explain what reflection is and how it can benefit your learning and development.

Veterinary surgeon Lucy discusses her approach to reflection

Lucy Collins, equine vet

What is reflection and how do I do it?

Linda Prescott-Clements, RCVS Director of Education

Scenarios – Reflection

The RCVS constantly talks about the importance of reflecting on your CPD – but I already spend a lot of precious personal and professional time on learning and development. I just don’t understand what reflection is and why I should do it.

There have been concerns voiced by some in the profession that reflection is onerous and adds extra work to a schedule in which some practitioners already struggle to find the time to carry out CPD in addition to other professional and personal responsibilities. For example, a common misconception is that reflection involves writing reflective and critical essays about every CPD activity they engage in. This is not the case. Adding some short notes recording your thoughts about some recent CPD to an existing record as and when it is relevant (something that is facilitated by the 1CPD platform) is an example of how veterinary professionals can meaningfully engage in reflection without it taking up lots of time.

The key to reflection is that you analyse the learning and development you have undertaken and think about if and how you will make changes to your work as a result. Useful questions to ask yourself when reflecting on your CPD are:

  • How did this CPD relate to my learning needs and plan?
  • What are the key things I learned?
  • What impact has the CPD had on you as a professional or in your practice?

There is also no set time to undertake reflection on a particular piece of CPD – you can do so a day, a week, a month or even a year after doing it – as long as it’s impact is still relevant.

In my practice we have a very strong emphasis on clinical governance so, for example, we undertake clinical audits on our caseload to see where improvements can be made and hold reflective meetings about particularly difficult cases. Does this count as CPD?

Very much so – learning and development doesn’t just happen when you go on a course or spend a couple of days attending lectures at a congress – it is an everyday occurrence. Clinical governance is a continual process of reflection, analysis and improvement of practice and so fits in very well with our shift towards an outcomes-based CPD policy and the time spent engaging in it can count towards your annual CPD requirement.

For more information about what constitutes clinical governance and how to best undertake it please consult Chapter 6 (‘Clinical Governance’) of the supporting guidance to our Code of Professional Conduct.

Our charity partner RCVS Knowledge also has many resources and tools available about clinical audit and quality improvement.

I like to plan my CPD for the year well in advance. However, with the increasing focus on reflection and outcomes how will I know that what I have planned will improve my practice? Am I just wasting my time?

Not at all – all learning and development can be valuable even if, upon reflection, you come to the conclusion that a particular piece of CPD wasn’t of much use and didn’t really impact your practice in any significant way.

This is why reflection is key to planning your CPD – it allows you to identify areas of your practice that may need improvement, areas of particular interest to you that you want to develop further, and perhaps even areas that you are fully au fait with that you don’t need to further develop at present.

The 1CPD platform facilitates both reflection, by allowing you to append written-and-voice notes to your CPD records, and planning by allowing you to set learning objectives (with dates for completion) and set up a calendar for your future CPD events.

Frequently Asked Questions

Filter FAQs

Outcomes-focused CPD and reflection

  • Unlike vets and VNs, other professions such as midwives and doctors have re-validation/re-certification requirements and CPD compliance is assessed during that process. Non-compliance can lead to removal from their professional register.

    Many regulators, including the General Medical Council and the General Dental Council, include a requirement for reflection within their CPD. 

  • Reflection involves a systematic and critical analysis of the learning and development you have undertaken, thinking about if and how you will make changes to how you work as a result. 

  • Reflection helps you get the most out of your CPD, and it doesn't have to be time consuming. If you use the 1CPD recording platform you can reflect on your learning by recording a voice memo or short note. Some useful prompts for your reflection are:

    • How did this CPD relate to your learning needs and plan?
    • What are the key things you learned?
    • What impact has the CPD had on you as a professional or in your practice?

    If you reflect on your CPD and conclude you didn't learn anything, this can still be helpful as it can help you plan what you will do differently in the future. 

  • Yes. If you have an immediate learning need then reflection on a case in practice, particularly if this is undertaken with colleagues or peers, can be useful and would be applicable to record as CPD. 

  • Reflection is central to outcomes-based CPD and we expect veterinary surgeons and nurses to reflect as part of their CPD commitments.

    If there is evidence that vets or VNs are not routinely reflecting on their CPD they have completed, the Education team may follow this up in the first instance.