Common misconceptions about CPD

Discussions with members have highlighted a large number of misconceptions surrounding participation in the College CPD scheme and a members requirements to maintain an accurate CPD record. Below are some of the main misconceptions we receive and answers to help facilitate the process of preparation for appraisal.

Pathologists working part-time do not have to achieve the same number of credits as someone working full-time

Pathologists working part-time need to be just as up-to-date as any full-time pathologist. This also includes those who have been off sick, unemployed or on maternity leave.

“The Academy of the Medical Royal Colleges, whose purpose is to ensure commonality between all CPD schemes, recommends that all doctors achieve a minimum of 250 credits in a 5-year period. It has been decided that all doctors, regardless of the frequency of their practice, must be equally educated and updated, therefore it is essential that the requirements for CPD are the same for all doctors participating in CPD.”

Learning activities must always be on new topics

Keeping up-to-date by undertaking learning activities does not always result in learning something new. Simply reinforcing existing knowledge and skills can be a very efficient way to keep up-to-date, CPD credits can be claimed by providing a reflective note explaining that this learning resulted in no changes to practice at the current time. This can be very reassuring and the Royal College of Pathologists recommends including these activities in a learning log.

Achieving hundreds of credits a year is impressive

The GMC does not set any specific revalidation requirements in relation to CPD or particular types of training. Pathologists are only required to demonstrate that they have done sufficient relevant CPD to keep up-to-date at what they do.

However, The Royal College of Pathologists does not advocate that accruing hundreds of CPD credits in a single year where the recommendation (not requirement) is 250 credits over a 5 year period.  The emphasis is on quality CPD rather than quantity.  It is far better to accrue around the recommended 50 credits per CPD year for activities which demonstrate the quality of the activity and reflect on the pathologists’ learning and help them with their job.

Learning and reflecting stops once 50 credits have been reached

No pathologist should ever stop learning and reflecting on their practice if they want to keep up-to-date and stay safe.

Professional habits of learning should not change – but there is no requirement to enter all CPD activities once reaching at least 50 of the most relevant credits. 

MDT meetings, grand rounds and local meetings do not require supporting information

To claim CPD credits for attending multidisciplinary team meetings (MDTs), grand rounds or any type of local meeting a reflective note must be entered.

For example, for weekly MDT meetings a separate reflective note for each meeting, stating what has been learnt.  The maximum credits pathologists may claim per CPD year is 50 credits.   


Reflection is difficult and longwinded

We all reflect on what we do. Reflection – thinking critically about what we do, why and how and where and when we do it, and whether it could have been done differently – is something pathologists do all the time.

Like any habit, for some pathologists, reflection can be such a subconscious activity that it can be hard to bring it to conscious awareness in order to capture it or write it down – for appraisal or any other reason. The difficulty for many pathologists is in recording their reflection in a way that feels as natural as the fact of reflection itself.

Another difficulty for many pathologists is the feeling that they have to record all their reflections – which feels like having to record every thought about patient care and practice that they have every day. This would clearly be disproportionate.

Documented reflection should be brief and to the point as far as possible, capturing the key learning points which have influenced, or will influence, a pathologist’s practice. Thinking about any changes which can be made as a result of this reflection can be recorded in bullet points, a couple of sentences, or a short paragraph.

Fellows abroad still have to participate in the Royal College of Pathologists’ CPD Scheme

There is no requirement to continue participation in the Royal College of Pathologists’ CPD scheme as an overseas Fellow. However overseas Fellows may continue on the scheme if they so wish. The RCPath recommends joining an equivalent CPD scheme available in the country to which the pathologist is moving, for example, the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia.

If a Fellow wishes to continue to participate in the scheme an additional annual fee is charged. Overseas Associates, Diplomates and Affiliates of the College are not eligible to participate in the RCPath CPD scheme.

Supporting information must be in the form of scanned certificates

Scanning files is not the only method to provide supporting information for claiming activities.  Photographs of a certificate, an email or any individual document with a smartphone can be uploaded.  Providing a link to a website where there are details relating to the activity, providing a DOI, and/or writing a short reflection of the activity within the description field, stating what has been learnt are also acceptable forms of supporting information.

The process of pulling together the supporting information that pathologist has gathered throughout the year into their portfolio, and making the sign-offs and statements prior to the appraisal discussion, should not take long. The Royal College of Pathologists recommends that supporting information should be generated from day-to-day work and added to pathologists’ online portfolio as they go along. Producing a record of CPD portfolio can be difficult and time consuming as a retrospective exercise looking back over the previous year. It is much easier to make regular entries into the online portfolio throughout the year.