Part Three: Rethinking Professional Development

How do other occupations approach professional development (PD)? This is what we’ll explore in today’s post.

Oh. Don’t forget to read part one (on the importance of PD) and part two (the pros and cons of our current PD approach). The Paint-generated images in these posts are some of my best work!

PD party

Occupational Therapy

Let’s start with a close relative of physiotherapy. What do Occupational Therapists (OT) in Australia do for PD? Here are their guidelines:

All registered occupational therapists must undertake a minimum of 30 hours of Continuing Professional Development across two of the three categories outlined in the Occupational Therapy Board of Australia Guidelines on continuing professional development.

The CPD activities must have a clear focus on developing and extending competence in occupational therapy practice.

Occupational Therapy Australia

So, what are these three categories?

Category one is formal learning activities. OT’s can spend twenty-five of their thirty hours here. It includes:

  • Tertiary courses at a post-graduate level
  • Training courses
  • Conferences, workshops and seminars
  • Research
  • In-service education programs

Next, is category two – informal learning activities (maximum of twenty-five hours):

  • Private study – reading relevant journal articles
  • Case reviews with colleagues
  • Reflective journaling

Category three is defined as engagement with the profession, which has a maximum of ten hours:

  • Supervising OT students or other OT’s
  • Presenting training to healthcare professionals
  • Completing activities that improve quality or reduce risk in practice

Like in physiotherapy, the audit process keeps OT’s accountable. OT’s keep a record of their PD for five years and must present their portfolio (including evidence) if asked.

Their punishment is like ours (and just as fuzzy): ‘conditions’ on registration and more PD hours.


Let’s examine a profession outside of the health realm. Here are the objectives of PD from Engineering Australia:

– Maintain technical competence

– Retain and enhance effectiveness in the workplace

– Be able to help, influence and lead by example

– Successfully deal with changes in your career

– Better serve the community

Engineers Australia

‘Be able to help, influence and lead by example,’ stands out. It’s not an incentive but a poke from Engineering Australia. “Let’s see what you can do to move our profession forward.’

Sources of PD are light-heartedly listed as:

  • Obvious – Conferences, seminars and training courses
  • Not so obvious – Participating in industry and volunteer committees, mentoring and writing journal articles
  • Often forgotten – In-house presentations, putting a new system into action at your workplace and non-engineering skill development

Their requirements are 150 hours of PD over three years. This includes:

  • At least fifty hours relating to their area of practice (civil, for example)
  • At least ten hours of risk management
  • At least fifteen hours addressing business and management skills

An auditing process keeps engineers accountable, like with physiotherapists and occupational therapists. The penalty is the loss of their chartered status (a chartered engineer is held in higher regard than an unchartered one).

Physiotherapy abroad

What about America? What do their physical therapists have to do for professional development?

Well, there are differences among the states. For example, in New York, therapists must accumulate thirty-six hours of approved PD over three years. However, the prerequisite is forty hours over a two-year period in Utah.

Surprisingly, Canada’s PD requirements are lax. Or, at least in Ontario anyway. Here’s what their website has to say:

The College does not have specific requirements for the amount and type of continuing education and professional development activities you do. It is up to you to identify your own learning needs.

College of Physiotherapists of Ontario

However, Ontario does have an ingenious way to hold it’s physiotherapists to account:

Each year, 5% of physiotherapists are randomly selected to participate in an assessment of their competency.

International Network of Physiotherapy Regulatory Authorities

And, what happens to those who are found to have skill gaps? They’ll have to focus their development on their weak spots. Then, they’ll be re-tested.

As for our neighbours, New Zealand’s Board calls for 100 hours of PD across three years with an audit process keeping their physio’s honest.


There is a lot of professional development variation across professions. Each has their strengths and weaknesses. The next post will explore what we can do to improve on our current PD model based on what we’ve learnt from other lines of occupation and physiotherapy boards in other countries.

What attributes of other PD models do you like? What do you think should stay the same? Comment below.

Author: Andrew Cammarano

Andy writes about anything that comes to mind. Oftentimes, he repeats himself. So, if you read a post and ask yourself, "I feel like I've read this before." Chances are you have. Apart from writing, he eats a diet high in peanut butter, he exercises (and suffers from a chafed butt from performing too many sit-ups in pursuit of a six-pack) and comes up with many fantastical ideas, like his peanut butter-based chafe cream. Reach out to him to share your opinions (or if you'd like to become his chafe cream business partner).

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