Continued Professional Development (CPD)

The link between continuing professional development (CPD) and evidence-based practice (EBP) is very clear. CPD is a necessary component for the successful application of evidence-based practice (1). CPD is used to describe the process of systematic maintenance, improvement and broadening of knowledge and skills (2). The following passage is from Core Standards of CSP (3). “CPD is the educational process by which physiotherapists and associate members maintain and develop their skills, knowledge and competency in order to provide safe and effective practice”. CPD also involves identifying areas of skill and/or knowledge that need updating or extending, planning, implementing and identifying learning outcomes (2). Journals are acknowledged as crucial sources of evidence-based information and vital to CPD as research literature is continually changing.

Journals enable the therapist to keep up-to-date, whereas, the drawback with textbooks is staying current (4). Failure to keep up-to-date may lead to decay in professional knowledge and expertise, resulting in outmoded or ineffective practice (5). However, not all journal articles should be implemented, the decision depends on the research quality, particularly with respect to validity, reliability, relevance and applicability (6). CPD can be achieved by engaging in a variety of activities e.g. attending courses and conferences, delivering presentations, the critical reading of journals, sourcing from electronic data-bases, reflective-practice etc.

Evidence Based Practice in the clinical setting

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Reflective Practice

Reflective-practice is recognised as an integral part of EBP and CPD and represents a vital component in professional and personal development. Facilitation of reflection and the development of reflective abilities are acknowledged to be an important component of education. By reflecting on events in day-to-day practice, then recognising areas of difficulty or gaps in knowledge, the clinician identifies specific learning needs. The reflective process allows clinicians to question and analyse their experiences and actions as a means of developing their knowledge, skills, and behaviour, to enhance clinical practice (7). Reflection takes place after the event, it is a process of thought, and leads to a new interpretation of the experience providing food for further thought (8). Reflective-practice is used extensively as an educational tool for both students and adults across many professions i.e. physiotherapy (9), sports therapy (10), occupational therapy (11) nursing (7) and medicine (12).


The concept of ‘reflection’ is also central to portfolio development which is a collection of information used to summarise what has been learned from prior experiences and opportunities (13). To develop reflective skills, Holey and Cook (14) suggest we ask ourselves questions e.g. Do I communicate well with my patients? Do my patients understand what I am explaining to them? Am I a good listener? Am I applying EBP? Is my treatment effective, and how do I know objectively? Do I monitor effectiveness? Do I respect my patients? Finally, how am I going to correct deficiencies?

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  1. Bury T, & Mead J. (1998). Evidence-based healthcare: a practical guide for therapists. Butterworth Heinemann.

  2. Roberts S. (2004). Continuing professional development: what the future might hold. Journal of Sportex Medicine, 19:14-163.

  3. The Chartered Society of Physiotherapists (CSP) (2005). Core Standards of Practice.

  4. Steves R, & Hootman JM. (2004). Evidence-based medicine: what is it and how does it apply to athletic training? Journal of Athletic Training, 39(1):83-87.

  5. Alsop A. (1997). Evidence-based practice and continuing professional development. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 60(11): 503-550.

  6. Bleakley C, MacAuley D, McDonough S. (2004). Are sports medicine journals relevant and applicable to practitioners and athletes? British Journal of Sports Medicine,  38:541-548.

  7. Barnett M. (2005). Caring for a patient with COPD; a reflective account. Journal of Nursing Standard, 19(36):41-46.

  8. Grant A, & Dornant TL. (2001). What is a learning portfolio? Journal of Diabetic Medicine, 18:1-4.

  9. Donaghy ME, & Morss K. (1999). Guided reflection: A framework to facilitate and assess reflective practice within the discipline of physiotherapy. Physiotherapy Theory & Practice, 16:3-14.

  10. The Society of Sports Therapists’ Codes of Professional Conduct. Competences and scope of practice for sports therapy 2005.

  11. Bannigan K. (2000). To serve better: Addressing poor performance in occupational therapy. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 63(11): 523-528.

  12. Wyatt JC, & Sullivan F. (2005). Keeping up: learning in the workplace. British Medical Journal, 331:1129-1132.

  13. Cayne JV. (1995). Portfolios: a developmental influence? Journal of Advanced Nursing, 21:395-405.

  14. Holey E, & Cook E. (2003). Evidence-based therapeutic massage. A practical guide for therapists. 2nd edition. Churchill Livingstone.