What is CPD?

Last Updated: 16 April 2023

Welcome to the CPD Guide! This article is the first installation of a series of articles that explain every element of CPD including the CPD period, general CPD requirements, and audits.

What does CPD stand for?

CPD stands for Continuing Professional Development. This refers to the learning that professionals complete in addition to completing their regular tasks at work. In Australia’s healthcare system, CPD is intended to enhance the practice of healthcare practitioners, so the learning must be relevant to the individual’s context of practice.

Ahpra defines CPD as:

Continuing professional development (CPD) is how health practitioners maintain, improve and broaden their knowledge, expertise and competence, and develop the personal and professional qualities required throughout their professional lives.

CPD includes any action that facilitates learning or development relevant to an individual’s practice. To learn more about types of CPD, read ‘What counts as CPD?

Context of practice refers to the conditions that define an individual’s practice. These include the setting, population, primary focus and complexity of care provided. Scope of practice is ‘the professional role and services that an individual health practitioner is trained, qualified and competent to perform’. It can be thought of as acting within laws and regulations and providing care depending on your certification and competency.

Your scope of practice will depend on the context of your practice, which will change based on population, setting and complexity levels. CPD must be relevant to a practitioner’s identified context of practice.

Why does CPD exist, and why is it important?

Working in healthcare puts you in a unique position because of how directly your work impacts the lives of other people. This responsibility can equally be a source of immense satisfaction and of anxiety about what is at stake. The formal requirements around CPD are there to ensure that patients' care experience is consistent and optimised for the best outcomes.

The formal requirements are also there to give you a sense of security and peace of mind, knowing that there is a system in place to help you provide the best care you can. In this way, both practitioners and patients benefit from CPD.

Who governs CPD, and what does this mean for you?

CPD requirements for each registered health professional are set out in the relevant board’s registration standard for continuing professional development, such as the Nursing and Midwifery Board setting CPD requirements for enrolled nurses, registered nurses and midwives. Another example is CPD requirements for pharmacists are set by the Pharmacy Board of Australia.

Each registered practitioner has their own requirements for the amount of CPD required to stay up-to-date and maintain safe practice, which can be found on the Ahpra website under the board that is relevant to you.

“Health practitioners who are engaged in any form of practice are required to participate regularly in CPD that is relevant to their scope of practice in order to maintain, develop, update and enhance their knowledge, skills and performance to help them deliver appropriate and safe care.” - Ahpra

The other core attribute of CPD is that it is structured according to best-outcome learning. In Australia, it’s built on robust research about the ideal way to transfer new learning into applied improvements to practice. Part of this structure involves planning, documenting and reflecting on your learning. At Ausmed, we call this the CPD cycle, and you can read about it here: 'What is the CPD cycle?'

How should you record your CPD?

In order to manage your CPD, maintain a current and up-to-date portfolio of your activities. You must have a separate portfolio for each CPD period (ie. each yearly registration period). While there are many ways to manage your portfolio, it is advised to do so through online services. Online CPD portfolios give you:

  • the flexibility to access the portfolio anywhere and anytime you need

  • the removal of unnecessary paperwork

  • the reduced risk of losing your proof of documentation

For a more in-depth explanation of what a CPD portfolio is and why you need one, read ‘What is a CPD portfolio?

What next?

Once you’ve read this article on the basics of CPD, return to the CPD Guide to find out more about the required professional development. We recommend reading ‘What is the CPD cycle?’ next!

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