Part Four: Rethinking Professional Development

Professional development (PD) is a critical part of our practice. It keeps our skills relevant and helps to move our profession forward (part one). But while our current PD system has its strengths, it has its weaknesses too (part two). Other professions and physiotherapy abroad approach PD in a different manner (part three).

In this post, we’ll look at ways we can improve our current model based on what we’ve learnt so far.

Structure

Our current format is simple. There are two divisions of PD – formal and informal. And while simple is often best, perhaps our method needs a little more rigidity.

It’s difficult to know how we should spend our PD time. The guideline – maintaining and furthering our skills – is far too vague. Especially for new graduates who would thrive on more guidance.

Our current PD model is as structured as this blob

Here, we can learn from Engineering Australia’s approach. Recall that:

  • At least fifty hours must relate to their area of practice
  • At least ten hours should focus on risk management
  • At least fifteen hours must address business and management skills

It could look like this in physiotherapy:

  • At least fifteen hours must relate to their area of practice – like musculoskeletal, cardiorespiratory or orthopaedic physiotherapy
  • At least ten hours should be non-clinical. Things like communication, business and management skills
  • At least five hours must address a specific area of interest

Then, we can combine this with Occupational Therapy’s category model. Remember that they have a maximum amount of hours they can spend on formal, informal and engagement activities. With this in mind, we could make sure that half of our PD hours come from formal activities while the other half can be informal.

Quantity

Our benchmark of twenty hours of PD per year is at the lower end of the range when compared to other professions:

Our total hours equate to twenty-three minutes each week. Or, if we factor in four weeks of annual leave, our weekly rate is twenty-five minutes.

If we complete our twenty hours of PD each year we’ll spend 1.11% of our working week maintaining and improving our skills*

*For the full-time worker

This is surely not enough.

A moderate increase to thirty hours of yearly PD, to match occupational therapists, seems like a fair adjustment. And easily manageable too. It looks like this (when controlling for annual leave):

  • About thirty-eight minutes of weekly PD
  • Spending 1.67% of the working week on self-development

Accountability

The research revealed that the audit process was a common method to make sure professionals did their PD. But this approach is a little lenient. Not because we’re looking for ways to get out of improving ourselves. It’s just that PD can take a backseat. We forget about it or fail to give it the importance it deserves.

What if we used an online tracking tool or app to hold us to account? It would be a digital log where we input:

  • Our goals
    • To maintain my current skill set by…
    • To improve my communication by…
    • To start to specialise in _______ by…
  • Our types of professional development
    • Thirty minutes of case reviews with a senior physiotherapist
    • Twenty minutes reading a journal article on communication
    • Nothing this week for specialisation – but I booked myself into a two-hour seminar on managing acute hip injuries

Then, this online record sends us regular reminders:

Well done! You completed forty minutes of PD this week. You’re on track to meet your yearly target

You missed out on hitting your PD target this week. Or, if you forgot to record it, click here. You need to complete forty-three minutes of PD per week for the rest of the year to reach your goal

We can combine this with what’s done in Ontario:

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

The potential to be tested – especially for fundamental skills serves as a PD guide. It ensures that we make good decisions when deciding how to spend our development time.

Adjust

In summary:

  • Make professional development more structured by providing guidelines on areas where we should be spending PD. Also, set ‘maximum’ time frames so we get our PD from a mixture of formal and informal activities
  • Increase the amount of PD to thirty hours a year. Even this is less than 2% of our working week
  • Improve PD accountability by incorporating an app that allows us to record what we’ve done. Also, it sends us reminders to keep us on track

What do you think about these changes? What do you agree or disagree with? Leave your opinions 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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