Nursing professionals have a duty to patients to provide the best quality of care available and to guarantee their safety and well-being. CPD is a transparent and reliable way to signal to colleagues, regulators, and most importantly patients that this duty is being fulfilled.

In our last blog about the Care Certificate, we outlined how the Department of Health (DH) developed a set of standards for non-regulated social care and health workers based on recommendations by Camilla Cavendish in the aftermath of the Mid Staffordshire hospital scandal.

In this post, we look at similar changes the DH is introducing for registered nurses, in particular the continuing professional development (CPD) requirements as part of the new revalidation process.

Revalidation for nurses and midwives

In October 2015 the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) and the DH approved the new revalidation process to promote good practice among nurses and midwives. From April 2016 this process will replace the post registration education and practice standards or Prep standards. This is a big deal. Chief Nursing Officer Jane Cummings of the NHS called “The introduction of revalidation […] the most significant change to regulation in a generation”.

In short, revalidation requires registered nurses to renew their registration with the NMC every three years and demonstrate that they, as professionals, are living by the standards of practice and behaviour set out in the Code. In the new process, nurses and midwives are encouraged to seek regular feedback from colleagues and patients, to reflect on the principles of the Code, and to obtain third-party confirmation that they have met the necessary requirements. However, as with Prep, a key requirement of revalidation is continuing professional development or CPD.

The importance of continuing professional development

Why is CPD so important? Best practices in health and social care are constantly evolving, driven by innovation in medical and nursing science. Continuing professional development is crucial to nursing staff who wish to further their knowledge and skillset. Not only is CPD useful for remaining up-to-date on the latest developments in healthcare, it is part of nurses’ professional duty of care. Nursing professionals have a duty to patients to continuously provide the best quality of care available and to guarantee their safety and well-being. CPD is a transparent and reliable way to signal to colleagues, regulators, and most importantly patients that this duty is being fulfilled.

CPD requirements for revalidation

CPD requirements apply to all 684,000 registered nurses and midwifes on the NMC register. Each and every one, must complete 35 hours of continuing professional development every three years in order to be eligible for revalidation. All CPD must be relevant to the nurse or midwife’s scope of practice, and 20 of the 35 hours must be participatory training. The NMC does not specify the type of training, nor does it require that CPD take place in a classroom. Nurses are given full discretion in the choice of training that they attend and are encouraged to determine for themselves what kind of CPD will benefit them the most.

What types of activities count as CPD?

The NMC does provide a list of activities that qualify as continuing professional development. Some fall within the category of participatory training, which aims to ensure professional discourse with peers. Participatory activities include conferences, webinars, peer reviews, teaching, mentoring, in-person or virtual group meetings. It is important to note that any learning activity in which there is personal interaction with other people will fulfil the requirement of participatory training, including in a virtual environment such as online discussion groups and social media.

Other types of CPD may or may not be participatory, and include reading and reviewing publications, research, structured learning, relevant mandatory training, and accredited higher education. There is, however, no requirement that the CPD training nurses choose to attend be accredited.

Choosing CPD

There are two principles that can help in selecting CPD activities. First, CPD activities must relate to scope of practice. As part of revalidation, nurses may be asked to explain why they have chosen to attend particular activities. Since the purpose of CPD is to help nurses develop new skills that enable them to respond to changes in their field, revalidation only counts CPD that is applicable to their work. Second, nurses must reflect on every CPD activity they complete and indicate how it relates to the Code.

The Code, published by the NMC, outlines professional standards of practice for all registered nurses regardless of their area of practice. Its main objective is to ensure the safeguarding and general well-being of patients and charges. It has four sections:

  • Prioritise people,
  • Practise effectively,
  • Preserve safety, and
  • Promote professionalism and trust.

The requirement to reflect on the Code aims at ensuring an understanding and awareness of basic professional standards and of the professional role of registered nurses and midwives.

Tracking and recording CPD

In addition to completing the required number of hours and reflecting on how each activity relates to the Code, nurses must also record the dates, topics and duration of their CPD. The NMC provides a useful tool that makes this process easy. The CPD Log Template is a ready-to-use document for tracking CPD activities with easy instructions, guidelines for reflection, and an overview of the total number of hours of CPD required.

While all of this must be documented and reviewed by a confirmer, the NMC does not require evidence of CPD to be uploaded to their system upon revalidation. Nurses will simply need to tick a box on their application to declare that the CPD requirement has been met.

Improving patient care through CPD

The new revalidation requirements seek to create an environment of reflection, sharing, and continuous improvement among nurses and midwives. This will in turn provide healthcare employers and regulators with the confidence that basic standards of care are being met. But ultimately, CPD requirements are designed to translate to the recipients of care, offering them the invaluable assurance that they are being treated by competent professionals with up-to-date skills and knowledge of current best practices.

How has the new revalidation process affected your organisation’s training programme? I’d love to hear your comments below.