Continuing Professional Development

For me it is the time of the year when I am asked to complete my appraisal and the appraisals of my staff.  Which, is interesting as this week I have also attended my wife’s graduation ceremony in social work.  In the back of my mind as I watched her shake hands with the Dean and collect her certificate, I wondered about my own development and social work development in general.  Or as I should call it ‘continuing professional development’.

So in 2007 when the social work degree was introduced it was aimed to ensure that more credibility was given to the professionalism and training of social workers.  Which, once completed included an element of continuing professional development requirements of 90 hours from the General Social Care Council and a framework for a post qualifying award.

As a practitioner I recognise that there is a need to continue with your learning, developing your experience and being able to stand up and argue that you are an ‘Expert’ in the field of social work that you practise in.  It made me chuckle and the statement is true that I heard in the guest speech at the Graduation ceremony  “You usually find experience 20 minutes after you needed it!”.

As we approach an era with a new professional body with the Health Professional Council ‘social work’ continues to look for an association that will raise its profile and provide regulation that demands some respect through its regulation.

So the Health Professional Council define continuing professional development as:

‘a range of learning activities through which health professionals maintain and develop throughout their career to ensure that they retain their capacity to practice safely, effectively and legally within their evolving scope of practice’ HPC

As professional workers it is important to maintain a record of our development, it is not necessary to submit every year with the HPC but may be required if audited.

What strikes me first with the definition of continuous professional development is the statement ‘retain their capacity to practise safely’.  An essential line that covers ultimately everything about social work, especially for those who are the public that we work with.  When faced with a decision that requires a complex risk assessment, can you make the right decision to safeguard and protect the person you work with?

With the specialist award for children and young people being phased out with the General Social Care Council the current assessed work based programme has gone.  Whilst more academic courses remain available in some interesting social science subjects these remain the personal responsibility of the worker to fund and complete in their own time.

It is important then that perhaps I reflect upon the past couple of years and the sacrifice required to complete the degree in social work and whether after this time, will social workers want to continue with a formal learning environment? Or should other methods be explored?

E-Learning is a popular method and for subjects such as using the systems and legislation changes this is a great method of learning.  I have found its drawbacks however, make it less appealing to me, and with the priority of the work will always be pushed to the bottom of the pile of work that is needed.

Reading is another great way of continuing your development and would further be helpful if social workers were to be provided with a generic system that could enable books to be stored electronically and accessed quickly including the volumes of guidance for the Children Act.

But learning only happens through real practise and understanding, reading a book may prepare you for understanding challenging behaviour.  But, until you have experienced first hand crisis, fear and aggressive behaviour or your first disclosure the look of shock can prevent the then essential engagement.

However, it is not right to always throw someone into this situation without some experience being shared.  Certainly I have mentioned before the need for better training and understanding around the area of assessments.  Therefore if you have sufficiently experienced social workers who can motivate and encourage good practise then their experience can be shared to enable others to learn and be recorded for their continuing professional development.

How would you like your continuing professional development to look? and how would you like to continue with your learning? maybe worth a thought and checking with your employer as to how it will be delivered where you work!

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