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Be strategic and make your CPD work for you

Jackie Belle - Veterinary nurse

Jackie Belle (pictured) has been a veterinary nurse for thirty years and has enjoyed a great variety of clinical roles in that time. She has an MSc in Conservation Biology that, when combined with a passion for teaching, knowledge and information, led her to work as a veterinary information scientist and an academic researcher. 

Jackie Belle

I confess I am a bit of a CPD–aholic! At the beginning of my career I considered lots of different CPD activities, and saw how attending congresses (such as BSAVA or BVNA) created lots of opportunities to network and explore a range of different subjects. I also found the exhibition stands fascinating, presenting a great opportunity to view new products, equipment, instrumentation and sources of information I may not have previously encountered.

I also studied several certificate courses to gain further qualifications and enrich my nursing skills (they also racked up a bundle of CPD points along the way!).

To assist with running nurse clinics I undertook a nursing course at the International Society of Feline Medicine and a Diploma in Companion Animal Behaviour Therapy at The Centre of Applied Pet Ethology, which helped with client advice and education.

I then worked as a zoo wildlife veterinary nurse for a number of years and studied the Certificate in Veterinary Nursing of Exotic Species (Cert VNES), which provided a valuable insight into everyday exotic and wildlife veterinary knowledge and techniques.

Thinking strategically about study choices really increased my experience and qualifications, as well as benefiting the clinic where I worked. I would definitely recommend discussing all opportunities with your practice manager as they may be able to help you identify funding and support if the qualification contributes to the practice.

When I calculated the cost of studying a certificate and the number of CPD points allocated to the course, it cost less than attending a couple of day courses with accommodation and travel. The only downside is that you will need to find time to study and motivate yourself through the course.

By being reflective about CPD you can combine and improve your knowledge and enhance your nursing skills. If you create a personal/professional development plan with your practice manager or head nurse you can even include CPD in your staff appraisal of future objectives.

Example for setting objectives for finding CPD to develop nurse clinics:

What I need/want to learn?

How will I do it?

What support do I need?

How to run a weight clinic

  • Study a certificate: small animal nutrition
  • Attend a nutrition seminar or conference/roadshow
  • Invite a speaker to your clinic to run a lunch and learn
  • Purchase reading material
  • View a webinar
  • Shadow a colleague at a clinic that runs an established weight clinic
  • Finance
  • Time to study/attend meetings
  • Support from practice manager to implement clinic
  • Support from clinicians and nurse manager to develop clinic guidelines for staff to follow

Of all the continuing professional development tools available I find the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis to be the simplest and most practical to use, though I prefer to think of barriers rather than threats, as obstacles to overcome rather than things to avoid.

SWOT thinking is an excellent way to identify your interests and passions within veterinary nursing and helps you to plot them on paper – you can think of them as your mission to develop!

Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats (or SWOT) analysis used for deciding on which CPD to undertake.

  • Strengths (skills and knowledge you have)
  • Weaknesses (things that you want to/need to improve)
  • Opportunities (opportunities available to support your development)
  • Threats (threats or barriers that may prevent your development, eg no money for training, unable to travel to CPD event, time away)

Your SWOT analysis is individual to your needs and helps you focus and reflect on your study decisions. You can also use it to gauge support at a practice level as it clearly illustrates how you hope to progress in your role and what future benefits the CPD can offer the clinic. Think of your work situation and how your CPD knowledge sharing can help work colleagues.

In terms of knowledge sharing I find that journal clubs are great for developing nurse protocols, and are very useful in helping clinical coaches focus their topics when training students nurses. At RCVS Knowledge we have highlighted some evidence-based veterinary nursing resources and have included an article on setting up and running a journal club in practice

If you haven’t been involved in a journal club before, then why not develop one yourself? The process of organising a journal club helps to develop organisational skills and group team building, you can choose a subject you are passionate about, and this process can all be reflected in your CPD learning.

It’s really a great way to develop non-clinical CPD - if you are taking on a leadership or mentoring role you could look for a course to support the management of your new challenge.

Or if you have a specific interest in veterinary nursing you can think about joining a veterinary association: you can attend meetings, contribute to Facebook posts and create regional activities for nurses with common interests.

Many special interest groups have their own webinars that you can view in the odd hour you might find free in your busy day/evening. I often watch half a webinar and then catch up on the other half on another day, and I find that I don’t watch the clock as much and I take many more notes with the reduced time pressure.

Career development is an evolving process and your needs and aspirations as a veterinary professional will change as your career progresses.

Think of CPD as a tool to meet new challenges, and finding the format, delivery and content that best suits your needs just takes research and planning. So step back, make a cup of tea and digest what is available...then make your CPD count for you, rather than just for your registration requirements.

Published on 1 April 2018

Tags: CPD