CPD Reflection – what is it and why do it?


Jane Davidson RVN veterinary-nurses, career zone

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the bestest vet nurse of all?


If this were Snow White then we know the mirror never lies – it always tells the truth.


If we asked this question of the magic mirror then would we like the answer? Would it inspire us to do better? Or would we simply see, as the Evil Queen does, someone that bears no resemblance to the life we lead?


This might all sound like I’m building up to the start of a Frozen singalong of “Let it Go” but it’s not, I promise. I just wanted to get to the bottom of what reflection is, and what it isn’t for vet nurses.


Unlike the magic mirror reflection for CPD for vet nurses is not getting someone else’s’ opinion on you or your work, nor is it about giving yourself an unrealistic image to live up to. Don’t make reflection a magic mirror image to live up to. Despite the name, that’s not what reflection is about.


What is the CPD reflection about?


Reflection for CPD is the process of reviewing events with a view to improving your skills and knowledge for the future. It’s not a labourious process and it is individual to you.


To reflect for professional purposes, you need to consider both the actions you took as a professional and the feelings that invoked for you as a person. It can be the emotional side of reflection that can feel hard. As we may reflect more on negative situations we need to ensure we acknowledge our feelings and that feeling emotional about our roles is normal.


CPD reflection - How to do it?


That all sounds like it’s a lot to do and perhaps the magic mirror option is easier. Remember that reflecting successfully is a skill to learn so don’t be hard on yourself when you start. Make small steps and keep the process positive.


Everyone reflects differently and gets different things out of the process. While group reflection happens at work and can be a great start – think of M&M rounds, ward rounds and staff meetings as the start of the reflective process – you can then continue the journey on your own, to suit you.


You can reflect by:


  • Writing down scenarios and making notes
  • Talking to family and friends
  • Thinking about your actions and making a plan to find out more


These are all simple ways to reflect. To continue the process try to have an outcome for each situation you consider. Should you review the notes you made in a few weeks? Book some CPD? Or talk to a colleague? All are helping the process.


It’s important to note reflection is not about getting stuck in a rut and focusing on the negative. The process is to move from the place you are into a positive place and find out new knowledge on the way. Make it personal to you and it will be enjoyable.


Using your PDR


The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Personal Development Record (PDR) is the software provided for recording your CPD. While you don’t have to use this system it has some nice advantages.


If you prefer not to use it you do still need to record your CPD and have a copy you can send to the RCVS if requested. You can keep hand written notes, a Word document or use a spreadsheet such as Excel. The choice is yours, but the PDR provides a pretty good system ready made for you. There are some changes needed to it and the RCVS are looking at this as part of their current CPD pilot.


What I like is the notes sections. You can put here what you like. Reflective comments fit well. You can go in and add to them over time too. These notes are for you and are not part of your CPD record for others to see.


I have been using the notes section to make myself answer some questions about CPD. This is another way of structuring your reflection. I ask myself;


  • What new things did I learn?
  • What will they change about what I do?
  • Do I need to find out more?


This is an example of my reflective notes on a recent CPD lecture. They are short, but useful for me for the future and I can add more detail later if I need to.


The answers to these can be anything from a few words to a plan for future CPD, meetings at work or writing a new SOP. It’s your reflection so make it for what you need.


The PDR allows you to share your CPD record with the RCVS with the click of a button – saving you keeping your own record and sending it to them if you are audited. It’s also handy if you are a clinical coach or need to provide evidence of CPD to an employer – you can email your record easily.


The most important thing about reflecting for your CPD is to start your own journey. I hope there are some ideas here that help you break it down into a manageable process that works for you.


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