Continuing professional development (CPD) for nurses is not a new concept. First offered in 1899 by Columbia University in the United States, CPD for nurses has a long history (Eustace, 2001). Although continuing education as a concept has been around for more than a century, the term CPD has been used only in the past few decades (Eden, 2012). Other terminology that has been used includes continuing education, continuing professional education, continuing nursing education, lifelong learning, and knowledge transition. These terms are used interchangeably with CPD in the literature (Hegney, Tuckett, Parker, & Robert, 2010).
CPD has become an integral part of nurses’ lifelong learning process. In fact, CPD activities form the longest phase of a nurse’s professional education (Chipchase, Johnston, & Long, 2012). Once a nurse has completed the education and training required for entry into practice, it is expected that he or she will not cease his or her education but will continue to undertake new learning experiences for the rest of his or her career.
CPD in Australia
The Royal College of Nursing, Australia, now the Australian College of Nursing, first discussed mandatory continuing education for nurses in 1996. Hamilton (1996) stimulated discussion about the need to make CPD mandatory. Hamilton argued that CPD enhances the provision of services, changes an individual’s knowledge and skills base, benefits the profession and the community, and protects against outmoded practices.
The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA, 2010) defined CPD as “the means by which members of the profession maintain, improve, and broaden their knowledge, expertise and competence, and develop the personal and professional qualities required throughout their professional lives” (p. 1). However, the NMBA does not define what CPD is to be undertaken. The individual nurse needs to determine his or her developmental needs and seek out the CPD that addresses those needs and is relevant to his or her practice. Consideration needs to be given to the health care location and setting, characteristics of the patient population cared for, focus of care provided, complexity and autonomy of practice, and the access to resources (NMBA, 2010).
Barriers to Undertaking CPD
Many barriers to CPD have been noted in the literature (Hegney et al., 2010; James & Francis, 2011; Kubsch, Henniges, Lorenzoni, Eckardt, & Oleniczak, 2003; Smith, 2004), including:
- Unsuitable conference dates.
- Lack of time or personal commitment.
- Location and distance to travel.
- Past experience of inadequate CPD.
- Lack of support or guidance from the manager or employer.
- Staff shortages.
- Lack of interest in the topics.
- Lack of available CPD activities, especially in rural areas.
In those studies, time has been noted as the biggest barrier to CPD. Time can include the length of the activity, being able to arrange time off work to attend, and time away from family commitments, especially if there are young children or other family members who need care.
Money is another factor highlighted as a barrier to CPD. This can include the cost of undertaking a course of study, conference registration fees, accommodations, meals, travel, and giving up paid work to attend an event.
For nurses working in a rural setting, it can be even more difficult to travel to CPD activities. The expense of travel may make it difficult to attend appropriate activities, and the nurse may need to settle for those offering less pertinent content. In addition, the added travel time can result in longer absences from work so that others may need to undertake extra duties to ensure there is no gap in service.
Other barriers that have been identified include available programs being taught in languages different from the nurse’s primary language, lack of information regarding CPD opportunities, lack of computer or Internet access, CPD activities being oversubscribed, and poor attitude of nurses about their work (Banning & Stafford, 2008; Baxter et al., 2013; Gould, Drey, & Berridge, 2007; Pool, Poell, & ten Cate, 2013; Tilleczek, Pong, & Caty, 2005; Yfantis, Tiniakou, & Yfanti, 2010).
Funding CPD in Australia
Because nurses in Australia are mandated to undertake CPD, the various state and territory governments have incorporated different levels of entitlement for CPD leave and pay awards for nurses. This is either in the form of paid time off, a monetary reward, or both (Table). These benefits are available only to those nurses who work in the public service. Those who work in the private sector will not necessarily receive these benefits. These benefits are also only provided for permanent employees, with provision for part-time staff on a pro rata basis. Those who are employed on a casual basis or on temporary contracts may not be entitled to these benefits at all.
Public Service Pay Awards for Continuing Professional Development (CPD)
This provision of entitlements gives nurses access to funds for their CPD activities or allocated time off, encouraging them to fulfill their CPD needs. A weakness of this system is that these entitlements are allocated on a pro rata basis for part-time staff and may not be allocated for casual or temporary staff. All nurses are required to undertake the same amount of CPD, regardless of their employment status.
However, for nurses who must pay for their own CPD, the Australian Taxation System provides some assistance. An employee in Australia may claim a tax deduction for work-related self-education expense if the CPD has a sufficient connection to their current employment (Australian Taxation Office, 2013). This tax deduction could help make the undertaking of CPD cost neutral.
CPD for nursing has a long established history. In Australia, CPD has been mandatory for nurses since 2010 and nurses must undertake 30 hours of CPD per year. Many barriers to CPD have been identified, with money and time being the most prominent. The majority of states and territories in Australia have made provisions for public employees to help mitigate these costs. Further mitigation of costs can be made via the Australian Taxation Office.
Despite many barriers, CPD has many benefits. Nurses need to balance these benefits and barriers skillfully throughout their careers to help them provide the best care to their patients.
- Australian Taxation Office. (2013). Self-education expenses. Retrieved from https://www.ato.gov.au/Individuals/Income-and-deductions/
- Banning, M. & Stafford, M. (2008). A hermeneutic phenomenological study of community nurses’ CPD. British Journal of Community Nursing, 13, 178–182. doi:10.12968/bjcn.2008.13.4.29027 [CrossRef]
- Baxter, P., DiCenso, A., Donald, F., Martin-Misener, R., Opsteen, J. & Chambers, T. (2013). Continuing education for primary health care nurse practitioners in Ontario, Canada. Nurse Education Today, 33, 353–357. doi:10.1016/j.nedt.2012.07.018 [CrossRef]
- Chipchase, L.S., Johnston, V. & Long, P.D. (2012). Continuing professional development: The missing link. Manual Therapy, 17, 89–91. doi:10.1016/j.math.2011.09.004 [CrossRef]
- Eden, M. (2012). Continuing professional development: What can be learned from the medical arena?Shadows: The New Zealand Journal of Medical Radiation Technology, 55(2), 27–30.
- Eustace, L. (2001). Mandatory continuing education: Past, present, and future trends and issues. The Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing, 32, 133–137.
- Gould, D., Drey, N. & Berridge, E.-J. (2007). Nurses’ experiences of continuing professional development. Nurse Education Today, 27, 602–609. doi:10.1016/j.nedt.2006.08.021 [CrossRef]
- Hamilton, H. (1996). Mandatory continuing education for nurses. Deakin, Australian Capital Territory, Australia: Royal College of Nursing, Australia.
- Hegney, D., Tuckett, A., Parker, D. & Robert, E. (2010). Access to and support for continuing professional education amongst Queensland nurses: 2004 and 2007. Nurse Education Today, 30, 142–149. doi:10.1016/j.nedt.2009.06.015 [CrossRef]
- James, A. & Francis, K. (2011). Mandatory continuing professional education: What is the progress?Collegian, 18, 131–136. doi:10.1016/j.colegn.2011.03.001 [CrossRef]
- Kubsch, S., Henniges, A., Lorenzoni, N., Eckardt, S. & Oleniczak, S. (2003). Factors influencing accruement of contact hours for nurses. The Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing, 34, 205–212.
- Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia. (2010). Continuing professional development registration standard. Retrieved from http://www.nursingmidwiferyboard.gov.au/Registration-Standards.aspx
- Pool, I., Poell, R. & ten Cate, O. (2013). Nurses’ and managers’ perceptions of continuing professional development for older and younger nurses: A focus group study. International Journal of Nursing Studies, 50, 34–43. doi:10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2012.08.009 [CrossRef]
- Smith, J. (2004). Exploring the efficacy of continuing education mandates. JONA’S Healthcare Law, Ethics, and Regulation, 6 (1), 22–31. doi:10.1097/00128488-200403000-00006 [CrossRef]
- Tilleczek, K., Pong, R. & Caty, S. (2005). Innovations and issues in the delivery of continuing education to nurse practitioners in rural and northern communities. Canadian Journal of Nursing Research, 37, 146–162.
- Yfantis, A., Tiniakou, I. & Yfanti, E. (2010). Nurses’ attitudes regarding continuing professional development in a district hospital of Greece. Health Science Journal, 4, 193–200.
Public Service Pay Awards for Continuing Professional Development (CPD)
|State||Paid Time for CPD per Year||Monetary Award per Year||Year of Agreement|
|New South Wales||At manger’s discretion, maximum of 10 rostered shifts in 2 years||$36 to $65 per week depending on education qualification (i.e., doctorate qualification = $65)||2014|
|Northern Territories||No||$590 for the first 3 years of service, then $1,768 per year||2014|
|Tasmania||No||$309; $3,090 if rural and remote||2014|
|Western Australia||2 days, 3 days if in remote area||No||2013|
|Queensland||3 days||$1,545 to $2,575, depending on location of role||2012|