The life of a runner, mother, radiopharmacist and vicar's wife – that's me!
I got that letter, the one we all hope not to get but you know will inevitably arrive on your doorstep one day. “Your CPD record has been called for review.” These few words are enough to send panic into the heart of even the most devoted pharmacist. The problem with continuing professional development is not that it is difficult to do. Every article you read, every research paper that you consult, those conversations with colleagues in the corridor, looking up some information to answer a particular question – all these things are CPD. The problem is finding the time to record the CPD because that can often take as up much time as the activity itself took.
To make matters worse, my particular letter went to my old address. Well actually it went to the address before last – which is a good job because I don’t think that I would ever have received it if it had gone to my last address. Luckily our friends from our church in London forwarded the mail to us. However, it still meant that I had a month less than I should have had to make sure that my records were up to date – which of course they weren’t. If you fail to submit your CPD records you can get removed from the register, which effectively means that you will lose your job, so it kind of matters.
I realised that I didn’t have much time to make sure that I was up to date and to submit my records and I am really busy over the next couple of weeks so I knew that I had to do them today or they might not get done and that would be a disaster. What I hadn’t considered is just how much time it would take to fill in the gaps in my record. I had all the information but I still needed to fill in each of the sections on the website – Evaluation, Planning, Action and Evaluation. It takes forever. I’d done about 6 records per year for the past 5 years and I needed to have 9 per year so filling in 15 records didn’t seem like too onerous a task but, have you ever tried to write about what you learnt from a particular lecture or about a particular paper you read a couple of years after you read it? It was really difficult – I wish I’d done it at the time but the real problem is that it simply isn’t possible to do it at the time. When are you meant to do it? At work – when you are meant to be working? Or at home, when you are meant to be looking after the kids? So today I set about getting my CPD record up to date. Meanwhile the rest of the family went out to enjoy the sunshine!
I’m not against CPD, in fact I think it is excellent and necessary and you can’t continue to work in a rapidly moving professional environment without keeping up to date with what is happening in your field. However, the problem I have is that it simply takes too long to justify yourself, to prove that you have done what you say you have done. I thought that being a professional meant that people trusted you to do a particular job, which includes keeping up to date with what is going on. Even the definition of a professional on Wikipedia says “Most professionals are subject to strict codes of conduct enshrining rigorous ethical and moral obligations.” Doesn’t that mean that we should be honest and trustworthy and that the governing body should trust you to do your job properly?
All too often it seems that we have to justify everything that we do. We have to have procedures to say what we will do and how we will do it. We have capacity plans and risk assessments and trend analysis and, to be honest, most of it is never read and is simply meaningless. My colleague was filling in “Error Deviation” reports the other day. I asked her what sort of things she was recording and she said “Oh, things like why I didn’t do my internal audit on time.” I suggested that she wrote that the reason why she was late doing the audit was because she had to spend too much time filling in Error Deviation forms! The whole of the NHS is like this. It’s the same in childcare. In the nursery that Daniel attends, the key workers have to fill in details about what he has done, how many wet nappies he’s had and when, what he has eaten, every detail of his day. All I want them to do is to look after him! I wouldn’t be surprised if, at some stage, the government start making parents record this level of detail for their own children.
It takes so long to do the paperwork that there isn’t really time to do the job properly anymore. When I first started in radiopharmacy, I was the only member of staff. I did everything, the dispensing, the cleaning, writing protocols, developing new products, blood cell labelling, preparing therapies, clinical trials. The only thing that I didn’t do was the quality control, which rightly needed to be done by somebody impartial. It would be simply impossible to do that nowadays and it would take at least 3 people to do the job that I did single-handedly. Just think, how much money extra money it costs and how many drugs could be bought with that money. I’m not convinced we have got the balance right. It’s the same in teaching. When I was at school we just had one teacher in the class with about 25 kids. Now you can’t get into the classroom for classroom assistants and support teachers and the poor teacher themselves don’t have time to teach because they have to fill in details about what they are going to teach and what they have taught and about each pupil and it is all enormously time consuming.
I understand that there needs to be a level of accountability. I understand that there have been some catastrophes because people have failed to do things correctly and we need to learn from these mistakes but I’m far from convinced that the way to do it is to add another layer of regulation. I’m not convinced that it is any safer. I would love it if they just trusted us to do our jobs properly and that they employed people with that level of integrity where they could do that.
So, back to my CPD. I did manage to fill in the gaps in my record without too much trouble but it did take a long time. The sun was shining outside and I was stuck at the computer. I should have been playing with my kids but I was filling in my CPD record. I feel slightly aggrieved because I think I do a good job. I could probably have had 90 entries per year if I had truly recorded everything that I had done but I can’t remember all those CPD articles in the Pharmaceutical Journal that I read when I was on maternity leave or all the research papers that I read when I wanted to know how to label things with zirconium-89.
After I’d finished there was still time to enjoy the sunshine so we walked down to the ferry port and ate ice-creams. It was nice but I’m exhausted and slightly annoyed. I just hope that the records that I’ve done are OK and I must remember to try to keep them up to date in the future so that I don’t have to go back and remember what I did several years ago another time.