Western Australian vet Dr Phil Tucak investigates continuing professional development options.
Updating your knowledge through continuing professional development (CPD) makes sense if you want to stay on top of your game. Making time to participate in CPD will provide a myriad of rewards, allowing you to keep up with the constant advances in veterinary science, learn new skills and techniques, diversify your knowledge base, network with colleagues and share tips and ideas.
Canberra veterinarian Dr Ashley Jordan works for the RSPCA and is also studying for his Masters in Veterinary Public Health. Dr Jordan says CPD is crucial to keeping up with the latest information in his field of interest. “I’m fascinated by the interactions between animals and societies in terms of disease, food production, culture and companionship. Veterinarians are generally curious creatures, and with veterinary knowledge constantly evolving and changing, I undertake relevant CPD courses as my interests change and develop.” Maintaining ongoing CPD throughout your career also has the benefit of allowing veterinarians to show their clients that they’re keeping abreast of changes in treatments and techniques.Clients are often impressed to hear that their vet has recently attended a course or conference and is aware of the latest developments in the treatments for their pet. Vets who don’t update their training may find it affects their level of competency, or future employment prospects.
Registered veterinarians in all states and territories across Australia are expected to complete ongoing CPD to maintain and enhance their professional skills and knowledge. The Australasian Veterinary Boards Council (AVBC) and the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) have agreed that vets must complete a minimum of 60 points worth of CPD over a consecutive three-year cycle. In most states of Australia, veterinarians have to maintain a log-book recording their CPD activities and complete this mandatory minimum 60 points worth of CPD as part of their annual registration. However, for veterinarians registered in Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland, the minimum requirement for CPD is less specific. In WA, while CPD is expected of vets and keeping a log-book is recommended, the Veterinary Surgeons Board of WA states that the level of participation in continuing veterinary education programs needs to be sufficient to maintain the individual’s competency in their area of work. In Queensland, vets must keep a record of the CPD they undertake, but there is no prerequisite to undertake CPD as part of annual registration as a vet. In NT, while CPD is recommended, currently veterinarians do not have to keep a log-book as part of their registration.
CPD is divided into structured and unstructured activities. CPD points are usually awarded per hour of activity, with structured activities typically receiving one point per hour, and unstructured activities typically receiving one point per two hours. Structured activities include conferences and courses run by universities, professional veterinary associations and recognised private CPD providers. It can also include the preparation and publication of scientific papers, and participation in online courses. At least 15 points of structured activities should be undertaken over each three-year period. Unstructured activities include training provided in-house by professional colleagues and specialists, and reading of books and journals related to your chosen field of work. At least 45 points of unstructured activities should be undertaken over each three-year period. Whether you attend a conference, seminar or workshop, or take part in an online course or webinar, finding the right CPD for you will depend on the cost, location, topics offered and number of CPD points you will accrue.
Several universities offering the veterinary degree course also provide some form of CPD. Examples include the University of Sydney’s Centre for Veterinary Education in New South Wales which offers workshops, events, distance education and online resources, and in Western Australia, the Murdoch University’s Office of Continuing Veterinary Education organises seminars, events, workshops and webinars.
The AVA and its various special interest groups organise conferences and seminars. A valuable plus side to conferences and workshops is they often involve social activities that can be a fantastic opportunity to catch up with colleagues and share experiences. There are several private providers of CPD in Australia including VetPrac, Vet Education and Improve International Australia. VetPrac offers a range of hands-on workshops designed with the practising clinician in mind. “Our small-group practical workshops cover content that’s relevant to your needs as a professional, teaching you to think in new ways to enhance your level of understanding, whilst helping you make better choices and your patients will be healthier because of it,” says director Dr Ilana Mendels. With the aim of CPD being to learn new skills and refine established ones, Dr Mendels shares VetPrac’s philosophy. “Participants appreciate the method we have of building skills within a workshop, so you can advance to the point you want to, mastering the skills you know, practising the ones you are familiar with and playing with the ones that are new.” CPD provider Vet Education has been a pioneer in the development of online courses and resources for vets and vet nurses.
Vet Education’s Dr Philip Judge says, “By creating highly immersive and interactive online courses, webinars and special events such as our online conferences, our participants are able to interact with colleagues and experts in the online environment whilst being in their own homes without needing to travel.” While it can be difficult to determine the best value one can get from CPD offerings due to the different variables involved, Dr Judge says Vet Education’s approach provides good value for money. “People see value differently—however, a 12-month webinar membership with Vet Education for $125 per year offers 40 webinars per year, which equates to 80 structured points. This would well exceed a veterinarian’s minimum CPD requirements each year.” CPD provider Improve International Australia offers small group training and face-to-face seminars. “We have trained more than 20,000 vets in 15 different countries. We mainly offer modular programs that last one to two years, but also provide vets with short courses and webinars,” explains managing director Dr Flo Herold.
Keeping up our professional development can have a range of benefits as Dr Flo Herold explains. “It’s not possible to provide good veterinary care to our patients without continuously updating oneself. Discussing cases with colleagues, getting expert tips in various fields, learning new skills and brushing up on forgotten ones not only benefits the patient but it makes work more enjoyable as well.”
Dr Jim Darmody owns a veterinary practice in Albany on WA’s south coast. As the owner of an independent veterinary hospital, Dr Darmody thinks that keeping up with advances in veterinary care and business management are especially important. “Hands on workshops with small numbers of participants are most beneficial allowing regular communication with the education provider during the training,” says Dr Darmody. The challenge for rural vets like Dr Darmody who need to maintain their own professional development as well as providing training for their staff include difficulties in providing back-fill for staff who are away on study leave, and the time and cost involved in travelling to training courses. Dr Darmody says his practice is trying a new approach to overcome these challenges. “In September, we’re holding an in-house diagnostic imaging workshop with a specialist we’re flying down for the weekend. This is something new for us. We’re hoping for a great ‘bang for our buck’, having all our vets receive training with our equipment all at once.”