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Are you getting enough CPD? Myths and tips from the RCVS

In all walks of life, the importance of making sure professional skills and experience are maintained, improved and broadened cannot be understated – and veterinary nurses are no exception.

The RCVS is dedicated to setting, upholding and advancing the educational, ethical and clinical standards of veterinary nurses – ensuring the profession is engaging in continuing professional development (CPD) is a vital part of this. This is enshrined in the RCVS Code of Professional Conduct for Veterinary Nurses, which states registered veterinary nurses need to undertake a mandatory minimum of 45 hours of CPD over a three-year period to retain their status.


However, despite being obligatory, the RCVS has found a large number of RVNs are still not meeting the minimum requirements for CPD as set out in the code. In 2013, a random sample of 562 veterinary nurses found almost a quarter (22.4 per cent) had not completed the mandatory number of hours.

The most commonly cited reasons for not achieving the mandatory amount were maternity leave and family commitments, as well as part-time working. A number of RVNs said they were unaware the requirement to complete CPD remained in place if they were on the register but on maternity leave, for example. Other reasons given were working abroad, not working in a practice as a veterinary nurse and not being in a role that required them to undertake Schedule 3 procedures.

Clearly, there is a misconception among some that taking a career break to raise children, or working part-time, means they do not have to meet the requirements. However, it is just as important, if not more so, these veterinary nurses keep abreast of the latest developments in the profession, maintain their level of competence and continue to update both clinical and nonclinical skills.

What constitutes CPD?

Partaking in CPD should not just be seen as an obligation or box-ticking exercise – it is good practice and common sense. By maintaining and improving skills and gaining greater experience, you can provide a better service to patients and clients. We are not prescriptive about CPD and recognise it is made up of a range of activities.

A common misconception about CPD is it is expensive – requiring attendance at conferences and seminars, participation in online learning courses and postgraduate qualifications. Although these are key learning activities, what counts as CPD will depend on your individual learning needs and so could include low-cost activities such as reading the latest veterinary research papers or watching webinars. Such activities can also easily fit around your family life.

However, private learning needs to be part of a documented learning plan with notes on what has been learned and achieved during these activities. Notes should include the subject matter, the type of learning undertaken to improve your knowledge and skills and the outcome of your learning – for example, a change to the way you undertake a procedure or approach a problem. If the learning is of a more ad hoc nature, and is not properly documented, then it can only account for up to five hours per year on average on your CPD record.

Ultimately, CPD depends on the individual and it is up to you to decide what activities best fulfil your learning needs. However, you should be able to demonstrate learning, so if an activity such as mentoring is simply part of your job, it cannot be considered CPD.

Keeping a record

In addition to meeting the minimum CPD requirements, it is also your responsibility to keep an accurate and up-to-date record of your learning. The code also states RVNs are required to provide the college with their CPD records when asked.

The RCVS has traditionally used hardcopy CPD record cards for logging activities. Recently, however, this process has become much easier and more user-friendly with the introduction of the online Professional Development Record (PDR) – a secure record where you can log the details of your CPD activities.

The PDR also allows you to upload and store documents, photographs, presentations, scanned certificates and notes relevant to your learning, as well as develop a personal development plan to set and monitor objectives.

Although CPD records are not requested on an annual basis, they are monitored during the auditing of veterinary nursing course providers and during inspection visits to practices enrolled on the RCVS Practice Standards Scheme. If a complaint is made about your professional conduct, CPD records may also be taken into account as part of the disciplinary process. Furthermore, we undertake some random sampling of CPD records – as previously mentioned – to monitor participation.

Further information

To find examples of CPD activities, along with notes and guidance about recording them, visit

To sign up to the PDR for veterinary nurses, go online at

If you wish to discuss any aspect of CPD, including the PDR, or any concerns you might have about meeting the minimum requirements, telephone the veterinary nursing department on 020 7202 0788 or email