When we think of professional development, one thing that often comes to mind is continuing education (CE) courses.
Taking courses is often seen as the go-to solution when looking at growth and quality improvement. We can come to believe that it is a lack of information and knowledge that is holding us back from improved service delivery and professional growth.
We’ve heard over the years how the College should incorporate a mandatory continuing education requirement for professional development of BC physical therapists.
There is absolutely a time and place for ongoing coursework to support deepening one’s skills or expanding into a new area of practice. The problem is that taking more courses doesn’t necessarily translate into improved practice.
Think of courses you have taken in the past. How often have you experienced a lack of practice improvement after a course? It’s not uncommon to have gleaned new information but consistently improved practice does not always follow. Additionally, recent research has shown that mandatory continuing activities have little to no impact on professional behavioral change. (Austin et al., 2017).
In addition to having limited impact on practice, mandating courses may create barriers for physical therapists in terms of cost and accessibility and may have limited relevance to practice.
While mandatory CE programs may seem like the answer, it’s helpful to remember that formal learning activities are only one slice of a physical therapist’s quality improvement efforts. Learning and growth encompass so much more. This includes just-in-time and informal learning activities and engaging with peers.
From a regulatory standpoint with the goal of supporting professional physical therapists to provide quality services to the BC public, we believe that a professional development program needs to have a broader scope.
An important question we’ve been wrestling with during the build out of the professional development component of the Quality Practice Framework is this:
What influences the ability to improve one’s knowledge, skills and abilities within specific clinical and service delivery environments and populations?
What’s the answer then?
To support growth and ongoing improvement, it is important that physical therapists understand the triggers that influence learning decisions, as well as look at the processes we engage in to address learning needs and goals.
In our next QP newsletter, we’ll share more details about the approach we’re taking with the pilot test of the professional development component this spring to help give you clarity on the areas that would have biggest impact on your physical therapy practice and career.
The Quality Practice Team at CPTBC