Significant changes to the optometry continued professional development (CPD) registration requirements, introduced by Optometry Board Australia (OBA), come into effect on 1 December 2020. On the whole, this new self-directed learning approach to CPD will broaden the definition of what is counted as CPD and offer practitioners more flexibility to undertake learning activities in a style that suits them. So what do you need to do to prepare?
As of 1 December 2020, to maintain registration, you’ll need to accumulate your required CPD hours within a 12 month period and these units will be allocated based on the amount of time you spend on particular activities rather than the current points system.
According to Ian Bluntish, Chair of OBA, the old system was largely based on a model implemented years ago by the Association and focussed on developing the profession of optometry, by focussing on building a deeper level of practitioner knowledge. This new system will focus on individual development, in an evidence-based manner, aimed at protecting the public.
It will also bring optometry into closer alignment with other regulated health professions – the majority of which have annual, time-based, CPD requirements.
The OBA has said that CPD that can be counted … ‘seeks to improve patient outcomes and experiences, draws on best available evidence that is supported by research where possible, improves your competence and keeps you up-to-date, and builds on your existing knowledge
“The genesis of registration standards is embedded in national law – each profession is required to develop professional education standards along with other standards (professional indemnity insurance etc.) and this is all based and predicated on protection of public,” he said at Optometry Australia’s (OA) recent conference, Optometry Virtually Connected.
Mr Bluntish said the new requirements had been determined following completion of an extensive consultation process and as a consequence of Australia’s Health Ministers looking for consistency across professions, and an evidence base for it to be sustainable.
Additionally, he said the requirements were developed with contemporaneous adult learning principles in mind to underpin the highest standard of professional development.
In planning their learning for any year, optometrists will be required to consider what aspects of their skill set they need to focus on further developing, how they will undertake that learning, and then reflect on how specific CPD activities they have undertaken helped address their learning goals. In the latter stage of reflection, they will be expected to identify any gaps in their learning to be filled – with an ultimate objective of providing a better, more consistent service to the community.
In reflecting on your learning plan, Mr Bluntish said, “You may find it hasn’t met the needs you had – so (then you can determine) what you need to do next to fill that gap. It comes down to having a plan that is much more active than the past.”
LEARNING PLAN TOOL
OA has developed a new CPD Learning Plan tool that will assist members in this process. Simon Hanna, OA Professional Development and Clinical Policy Manager, says the tool has been designed “to help practitioners consider their learning goals for the upcoming year, guide them in populating their plan with quality-assured and relevant CPD activities, and allow them to reflect on each activity.
“This dynamic tool can be used in advance to plan a practitioner’s CPD year but also updated and edited throughout the year to add new activities. It will also serve as their CPD record in an event of an audit.”
Optometry practitioners are not expected to submit their learning history at the end of each CPD year, however they are required to keep completed learning plans and associated notes for five years.
Members of OA using the online plan will automatically have their individual learning plans and CPD record kept up-todate, and available in the event of an audit.
DIVERSITY OF OPTIONS
For many practitioners, the outbreak of COVID-19 has inadvertently ‘jump-started’ a more diverse approach to acquiring knowledge that will easily align with the new requirements.
Recognising that face-to-face meetings are more difficult, and in some cases impossible to deliver, CPD providers made available a plethora of education resources, seemingly overnight. Additionally, the OBA relaxed it’s requirements for faceto- face learning for the current CPD period. Practitioners have lapped up the opportunity to gain points via online courses, interactive conferences, webinars and panel discussions, as well as more traditional print based CPD. Additionally, practitioners have engaged in small group activities, activities within practices including clinical audits, and talking with other practitioners about what they do and the outcomes.
“Practitioners are doing professional development without realising it – things they do within their practice almost on a daily basis form part of the definition of professional development,” said Mr Bluntish. “This new scheme lets you reflect on these activities, record them and, in doing so, provide evidence of how these activities have contributed to your professional development as well as to the health and safety of the community.”
He continued, “The opportunities and diversity of professional development opportunities available are so vast that even if you’re on leave you can be online participating in an activity – acquiring sufficient points shouldn’t present a problem”.
Mr Hanna agreed that the diversity of accredited education activities is one of the “strong positives” in the changes that have been made.
“The definition of what is counted as CPD has broadened and there is more flexibility for practitioners to undertake learning activities in a style that suits them. This means that smaller group activities, like reviewing case studies and interactive discussions with colleagues, may be part of what is considered acceptable, as well as reading articles, and more formal activities like attending webcasts or conferences. The changes also encourage optometrists to focus on their specific learning and development needs, and target their education activities to those,” he said.
While the changes support a greater diversity of activity types, when it comes to interactive activities there is room for some confusion as the OBA has not provided a specific definition.
“The OBA has said that CPD that can be counted is that which ‘seeks to improve patient outcomes and experiences, draws on best available evidence that is supported by research where possible, improves your competence and keeps you up-to-date, and builds on your existing knowledge’,” Mr Hanna explained. “This can include small group activities or focused discussions between two practitioners. CPD hours for these activities will be calculated on a time-based system, as with all other CPD – the time spent on the activity is what is recorded. The OBA has advised that optometrists need to record details of such activities, such as who was involved in a case study discussion, and keep their notes, as evidence of the activity, as well as completing their reflection on the activity.”
To ensure online and/or face-to-face CPD activities being delivered are of high quality, OA will soon launch its new CPD quality assurance program. This will offer CPD providers the opportunity to have their CPD activities assessed and, if quality-assured, promoted on the Association’s Institute of Excellence CPD calendar. Additionally, OA is developing quality assurance guidelines for CPD providers wishing to promote their activities to optometrists on the Institute of Excellence platform, and to promote their CPD as quality-assured.
the rationale behind moving from CPD points to hours was to overcome confusion and complication associated with the allocation of points for different activities
“As part of these guidelines, guidance will be given on how many words constitute one hours’ worth of learning. However, ultimately it rests with the optometrist to ensure an appropriate unit of time is recorded for each activity,” Mr Hanna explained.
For optometrists, he said, this CPD quality assurance program will make it easy to identify quality education offerings. For OA members, these activities will also be allocated to the CPD records and learning plans of attendees, once complete.
ASSESSMENTS TO CONTINUE
Assessments, which have always been optional components of CPD programs, will continue to be included in courses at the discretion of the provider.
“In the current CPD system, undertaking assessment provides practitioners with extra CPD points for that module or course. With the changes commencing 1 December 2020, assessment questions may continue to be provided as part of educational modules or courses, at the discretion of the provider, as part of the learning experience. Time taken to complete the questions would contribute to the length of the CPD activity undertaken. As an example, a print article may take an estimated hour to read, and assessment questions may take an additional 15 minutes to complete and review,” Mr Hanna explained.
Mr Bluntish said the rationale behind moving from CPD points to hours was to overcome confusion and complication associated with the allocation of points for different activities. “Now each practitioner is going to be assessed on how much activity they’re doing so points became redundant. This also makes it consistent across professions which makes it a simpler process when the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) conducts random audits each year,” he explained.
From 1 December 2020, all optometrists except those with student or non-practising registration must fulfil their CPD requirements every year – even if you don’t work with patients, and your work is in a non-clinical environment. Possible sources of CPD include your professional association, online learning resources (such as mieducation.com), your workplace, industry newsletters and other communications, your professional colleagues, peer reviewed journals, Cochrane publications, and other online research databases.
The Optometry Board will only consider an exemption to this rule in exceptional circumstances (e.g. significant illness or injury, family bereavement or extended carer’s leave) that prevent you from practising and completing your CPD. Mr Bluntish encourages anyone with concerns about meeting their CPD requirements to request an exemption with supporting evidence as early as possible.
The Optometry Board and Optometry Australia can provide more guidance on meeting your CPD requirements, along with tools and templates for developing your learning plan and CPD portfolio.