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How online CPD offers healthcare professionals a rich learning experience

How online CPD offers healthcare professionals a rich learning experience

Healthcare is constantly changing. New science emerges, techniques are updated, and up-to-date skills are a necessity. Continuing Professional Development (CPD) helps healthcare professionals ensure they are offering patients the best medical care while deepening their own expertise.

Before the pandemic, the standard in healthcare CPD was live conferences. Healthcare professionals will recognize the scene: a hotel conference room, speaker presentations, line ups for coffee, a buffet lunch.

When the pandemic hit, the need for CPD resources was high. Not only did healthcare professionals need to continue meeting their registration requirements, but it was also critical that they learn how to respond to COVID-19.

Traditional in-person CPD was no longer an option, so the Queen’s Faculty of Health Sciences Professional Development and Educational Scholarship Office had to design a new way of delivering programs.

Eleftherios Soleas, Accreditation Lead and Education Researcher, explains that the shift required some “soul searching.” “We’ve been doing live programs for so long it became our reflex,” Soleas says. While the CPD team had been delivering high-quality in-person programs, any innovation was incremental and took place within that context.

In response to the pandemic, the CPD team worked to move programs online. Rather than directly replicate the structure of live CPD, the team knew they needed to do more, and worked to transform their offerings to better suit remote learning. 

The first innovation was the introduction of “CPD O’Clock,” a weekly one-hour series. The consistent timing and shorter sessions made it easy for healthcare professionals to attend. The CPD team used these sessions to host two widely-attended COVID-19 seminars (with 420 registrants), which included information on the latest medical knowledge on the virus, discussion of potential vaccines, transmission dynamics, and public health guidance.

Next, the team repackaged existing programs for an online format. Before COVID-19, programs were run as one-day or half-day sessions. Now they are being broken down into shorter, spaced-out sessions. For example, the popular Allergy Symposium will be running throughout the fall, with seminars each month. The CPD team has also started offering self-directed active learning modules like our Lyme Clinical Considerations program (436 completions and counting), including videos, activities, and quizzes.

With a new format, the team saw opportunities to improve learning outcomes for program attendees. For example, a pre-survey was sent out asking participants how comfortable they were with learning objectives and why they signed up for a specific session. This allowed the speaker to refine the learning objectives and make sure they were meeting the needs of participants.

Healthcare professionals can tailor the experience to their own learning needs. As one participant described: “[I] love the online modules and being able to access the recording at a later date. You can pause, skip over an area… [it] also gives ample time to take notes.” The CPD team has also changed how it administers post-event surveys to track how confident people feel in the material after a session—which can be compared to the results of the pre-survey.

As Soleas puts it, “Feedback is learning.”

Soleas notes that engaging attendees before and after sessions has broadened the audience for CPD programs because they saw themselves represented in the objectives. “We've noticed that we're getting more types of people attending our programs…We always had physicians, nurses, and nurse practitioners, but now we're seeing social workers, even concerned parents. We're seeing pharmacists and physician's assistants.” Geographic reach has also widened as healthcare professionals can attend remotely from across the country without the need for travel and accommodation.

The fall line up of programs has been designed for and with healthcare professionals. The CPD team has listened closely to what people attending sessions want and need, and have built programs alongside experts to provide useful tools, skills, and knowledge. The guiding questions are always: will someone be glad to have attended a session? Will they be able to use what they have learned to improve the lives of their patients?

For Ally Forsyth, NP-PHC, the sessions she attended this spring were invaluable. From getting accurate information on COVID-19 to share with her patients to transferring her own learning about genetics to nursing students, she says the programs offer “clinical pearls.” While she loves in-person sessions, she sometimes struggled to get the time off work to attend. With online learning, it was easy to fit CPD in between work and dinner, from the comfort of home. “I found I could really engage when I was comfortable...it made it easier to retain information,” she explains.

For anyone not sure about attending an online CPD session, Forsyth says, “I would strongly encourage people just to give it one try…pick something you’re interested in. It will spark your learning.”

The CPD team are looking forward to seeing healthcare professionals again in person, but in the meantime, they encourage everyone to enjoy a cup of coffee at home and the flexibility of the online offerings.

The CPD team is offering a subscription for all of Queen’s Fall CPD schedule which will give healthcare professionals access to all scheduled programming, as well as on-demand recordings. Registration for the subscription closes on August 24 or healthcare professionals can choose to register for individual programs only.