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CPD – why we do it

The door closes behind the client and you breathe a sigh of relief. The last three appointments are booked off, and even with this extra unexpected cat bite abscess, you’re going to finish in time; you might be there 10 minutes late, but you’ll make it.

That’s when your receptionist pops his or her head through the door and says: “Sorry to bother you. Mrs Munchausen has just popped in. She hasn’t got her dog, but she was hoping for a quick chat, she says it will only take five minutes.”

Twenty-five minutes later, you’re halfway up the road from the practice when you remember you’ve left the sheet with the address of the meeting in your consult room.

You “Lewis Hamilton” it back to the surgery, grab the sheet, fend off the two telephone calls that have somehow arrived for you in the 37 seconds you’ve been out of the building, and allow your phone’s satnav app to continue its familiar game of finding the narrowest lanes, sharpest turns and most disruptive roadworks it can while it directs you to your meeting.

Making an entrance

You arrive as the lights start to dim, and any hopes you had of slinking in quietly to a back seat are dashed; the back row is full of people like you, except they managed to arrive five minutes earlier.

You do the walk of shame to the front row, where the only remaining free seats are, mumbling your apologies as you sink into the seat.

As the lecturer launches into the traditional 10-minute attempt to get PowerPoint/the projector/the laser pointer working, you start to think wistfully about a glass of wine and wonder if it was all worth giving up one of your precious free evenings for.

You leave the lecture energised and excited; finally, a new way of looking at “Malpurgison’s Syndrome”. All those tips were incredibly useful, and you resolve to put them into practice the next day.

Eight months later, you finally see a suspected case of Malpurgison’s and realise you’ve forgotten every single word of the lecture – cue 20 minutes of frantic and fruitless searching in the small practice library (a shelf) for the notes you were given on the evening.

You haven’t got time for this.

You’re supposed to be going to a CPD meeting this evening.

For the sake of learning

No plan survives contact with the enemy, and it’s rare lessons learned in CPD survive contact with general practice; I’ve previously talked about the compromises we make to get through the day.

It can be hard to connect CPD talks with your day-to-day work, but we go, and learn as much and as often as we can anyway.

Occasionally, we manage to escape the practice for a whole day of talks – none of the stresses of practice – just learning, pure and wonderful.

For myself, I start these days brimming with enthusiasm, but by around three o’clock I’m pretty sure something has melted inside my brain and I’m wondering how on earth I managed to do this every day as a student.

It can be hard, but we persevere anyway; we listen and take notes and learn, and when we return to practice we battle against reluctant clients, patients, bosses and equipment to try to apply what we have learned.

I think I speak for many of us when I say we do it not only because it’s (rightly) a requirement of our membership in the RCVS, not only because of the joy in understanding something previously unknown, but because we want to be better vets.

Knowledge is power

In my first few weeks in practice, a puppy died because I lacked a simple piece of knowledge about its condition.

I’ve often thought about it since – how unfair it was the puppy happened, through no fault of its own, to find its life placed in my hands, rather than someone who happened to know the simple fact that probably would have saved its life.

Knowledge is power, and in our job, I don’t think it’s overly dramatic to say knowledge can be the power over life and death.

That’s why we constantly want to improve – partly professional pride, and partly because of that oath we took – that it would be our constant endeavour to ensure the welfare of animals committed to our care.

That’s why we battle against appointments, satnavs, postprandial narcolepsy and PowerPoint – because we want to be the best vets we can be.

That’s all I have to say.

I had a much better ending planned for this blog post, but I’ve got a meeting to get to.