Editorial: The Importance of Continuing Professional Development

Author(s): Eluzai A Hakim, FRCP, Consultant Physician St Mary’s Hospital, Newport, Isle of Wight, United Kingdom

Continuing Professional Development is the process by which individual healthcare professionals maintain and improve standards of healthcare practice through development of knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviour1. Multi professional learning is increasingly becoming the norm 2 and it is hoped that professionals in the Southern Sudan will find the time to meet together in order to discuss issues which cut across different Specialty boundaries.

The aim of Continuing Professional Development is to support changes in practice and should be embraced by all healthcare professionals (nurses, doctors, laboratory technicians, pharmacists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, nutritionists) in the Southern Sudan, and indeed, in all developing countries.

CPD has been shown to improve job performance, quality of care, organisational performance and service delivery across employment sectors with consequential reduction in costs 3.

In the United Kingdom CPD is mandatory for all registered Medical Practitioners and is becoming increasingly so for other healthcare professionals. In Uganda the achievement of a minimum number of CPD credits has been a requirement for the annual renewal of registration by the Medical Council (Board) since 1996. A CPD credit is taken to be an hour of CPD activity. There are European initiatives to develop common practices of delivery of CPD in the European Union. These initiatives include reciprocal approval of CPD events between different countries and adoption of a common international system of CPD currency (credits). The East African countries of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania agreed at the Third East African CPD Consultation4 held in Dar-es-Salaam on the 29 October 2004 to do the following :

  • Make CPD mandatory for re-certification in Kenya and Tanzania as is already the case in Uganda
  • Appoint an East African community health coordinator (Dr Stanley Sanoiya) to monitor implementation of CPD in the East African region
  • Harmonisation of the delivery of CPD in the East African region
  • Develop resource policies in the East African region through the respective Ministries of Health
  • Disseminate evidence based information such as peer reviewed publications to healthcare professionals
  • Initiate and sustain the development of libraries or learning resource centres for various professional groups to strengthen CPD

CPD is a vehicle for self development and improvement and should be supported by the Government of Southern Sudan. In the Southern Sudan the healthcare professionals can engage in CPD at the Health Centres, county, state and tertiary hospitals. This needs material and equipment such as computers and connection to the Internet to help link in those who work in the rural areas. Health Centres and Hospitals must allow time for healthcare professionals to attend weekly CPD activities. The suggested CPD activities would include the following :

  • Weekly meetings to discuss challenging clinical issues and agree ways of dealing with similar problems in the future if encountered
  • Mortality meetings – discussion of all avoidable deaths, focusing on where mistakes were made and how these could be avoided in the future
  • Distance learning
  • Electronic learning using CD ROMS
  • Review of Journal articles and answering self assessment questions
  • Carrying out information searches in the medical, nursing, pharmacy, therapy and nutrition databases
  • Participation in committee or working parties
  • Undertaking research projects
  • Writing articles for publications

It is easy to organise CPD activities, if CPD is understood as being very important in the delivery of healthcare services in the Southern Sudan. The provision of CPD must not be influenced by financial interest by pharmaceutical firms that volunteer to support CPD activities. All healthcare professionals must register for CPD with their Hospital Director or Head of Department or whoever is appointed to implement this programme. All CPD activities such as clinical meetings or grand rounds must be clearly advertised, giving the time, date and venue, so that those who can attend may make themselves available for the activities. Those attending the activity must be registered and issued certificates at the end of the session, stipulating the number of credits earned through the specified activity.

Each CPD participant needs to keep a diary of the activities, the credits earned and the personal comment on how such an activity might influence their future practice. At the end of the calendar year the Head of Department or the Hospital Director may need to collate the data and issue a certificate of satisfactory completion of CPD activities for a particular year.

In conclusion, CPD is the process of updating all skills and knowledge and gaining new ones. It extends to non clinical areas like computing and management and is relevant to all healthcare professionals. It has been shown to improve healthcare quality and delivery. It is therefore recommended that all healthcare professionals in the Southern Sudan must organise themselves at all levels from health centres to major hospitals to undertake CPD with immediate effect. Support with resources such as computers, print copies of journals, CD ROMS or distance learning material by the Government of Southern Sudan, non Governmental organisations such as the United Nations Development Programme, the United States Agency for International Development, the African Medical Research and Educational Foundation (AMREF) and the World Health Organisation are crucial in the success of this programme.